Childhood Part Three – Broomlands




Years ago, I wrote down these childhood memories.  It was a time when I thought I had forgotten everything.  I started at age eleven, when I built a raft and sailed it on the pond, and worked backwards into time with whatever image arose next from my subconscious. It made me a “geological map”. It was a healing and integrating work.

This post is about when I was 8 – 10 years old.

The landscapes which developed my art and my in-built spiritual path – we moved house a number of times –  are of primary interest to me.  So it is the land and the flavour of the inner world I focus on here, rather than the taste of my mother’s cooking.  She gave me a lot of creative freedom.  The reach of childhood is so vast, that I can only touch on a few inches, here, and in the earlier Parts One and Two.


Nymph, circa 1957

Nymph, circa 1957


We moved from Cornwall when I was nearly eight, to a farm in Surrey between a bluebell wood and a string of big sand-quarries.  Broomlands Farm is near Limpsfield Common.

In Cornwall, our “geological backdrop” was the white china-clay pyramids near St Austell – we saw them constantly from our house, changing colour to silver along the skyline – and the granite by the sea.  In Surrey it was sandstone:  the quarries were our playground, russet and old gold, amid the constant scratching sound of the miners.

Limpsfield Common began at a place I called “Treasure Wood” which sprawled into the distance as far as the eye could see.   The Treasure Wood was a place where fields and agricultural control were arrested by a heather-like tide of magic.   My mother did not allow me to go there on my own.   She let me go for my long solitary wanders within the radius of four roads roughly encompassing our farm under the North Downs.

GALLERY – most of these photos were taken on recent revisits to my old home.


Our house was quite large and gracious in proportion, of mellow red brick with a rose garden in front,  a hen-yard by the bluebell woods at the back,  a long paddock to one side with a couple of tall dark conifers,  and the back door where the boots were kept.  The ridge of the North Downs was about a mile away, and the patterns of bracken and blazed out trails along it became a familiar seasonal script.  In front, between our garden and the quarry, was another paddock where bullocks tethered to posts trod gramophone records of earth around them in their grazing.

The prospect, looking down onto Broomlands,  was beautiful,  particularly when the azure of the sky fell down into the bluebell woods with radiance among the young trees in May;   but my father says this was for him a farm without a soul.  Perhaps it was the quarries in front,  great gashes in the land,  with lorries scratching by.  Or perhaps it was the farm men – he was the farm manager – none of them were skilled or bred to it.  We stayed there, as at Ventonwyn in Cornwall,  for two years.

Cupid and Psyche

Cupid and Psyche


Here, under peer pressure from my new school, I became “a boy”.  I gave up my beloved dresses overnight.  I wore shorts and aertex shirts, and dirtied my knees.  My romantic passion rekindled with horses.  I saved up all my pennies to buy pony books by the Pullein-Thompsons and Pat Smythe, and longed fiercely to ride. At Broomlands there were at last riding lessons, firstly at Miss Aylemore’s Stables in Limpsfield, which were rather smart – six shillings for half an hour –  then with Miss Rogers in Edenbridge, at the far end of Treasure Wood.

Miss Rogers was a little old lady, a lean and white-haired horse-lover, like a small brown nut.  She wasn’t bossy like they were at Miss Aylemore’s, and she took her pupils on long, enchanted rides over the Chart common.  Her small chestnut ponies were new to me, and heaven to ride.  None of them were lazy.  They frisked along the woodland paths, they were eager fellow spirits.   I remember magical canters over small hills, the thud of hooves, the rockings and droppings along mud paths and bending along the ponys’ necks through glades of low branches.

At home I fostered lambs who had lost their mothers.  One of these tiny ones was called The Brigadier.  I don’t know if The Brigadier survived:  he made a noble effort.  Their bodies are thin, firm-fleeced,  damp and warm,  their thick black legs stand splayed with knobbles,  their smell and bleat is heart-tuggingly sharp, like their baby hooves,  and you can put your finger in their ardent sucking mouths instead of into yours, when you are getting too old for it.

12 matilda's escape 57


I kept pace with my parents’ love for music.  My piano lessons began at age 8, with Mrs Bickersteth, the vicar’s wife in Oxted.  She taught me the staves and the notes:  Eat Good Bread Dear Father are the lines –  and F A C E  are the spaces between.  Her husband became later on, the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

I heard music always at home. I heard them learn piecemeal to play string quartets; night after night I woke to the “mummy-and-daddy noise” of Beethoven’s Rasoumovsky No.One, in slow motion, note by note like a scrubbing brush.

In bed at night, the soul wrenching realisation would come that I was asleep through the music they played downstairs,  I’d missed it,  I’d betrayed it by not being there.   I got out of bed and sat on the stairs to listen.  There was a terrible urgency in this.  I tried to memorize the tempo of each piece they played, and sometimes even the key,  so as to repeat it to them in the morning.   Sometimes I had perfect pitch.

Music has come with wrenching pathos through my dreams and woken me,  and I realised I’d been dead to it.  I’m chilly and sleepy,  yet I can’t go to back to bed,  or I will miss it.  I’ll miss the joy they are having.   I’m outside, looking in – the jealousy of the outsider who has lost the trail – the jealousy of the child who is sent to bed too early; and the determination with which, on our family drives into the hills or in train journeys through Scotland,  I would force myself to be aware of each particle of the scenery.  If I didn’t, I was unworthy of it, and had missed it – the desolation whenever in my heart of hearts I twigged I was not really interested, it had closed its face and voice to me.

The great deities of my parents were landscape and music.  If I did not admire these with all my heart and soul, I considered myself a philistine.  Quince and Simon were not interested – Quince couldn’t see, and Simon didn’t enjoy long walks.  I flew into a rage with their indifference, being at the same time smug.  We squabbled and bickered with relentless violence in the back of the car until Daddy exploded into a bomb or a mood.  Rage and hate there is, when one is shut out of the house.

 * *

GALLERY –  I obtained a copy of “My War” recently from a bookshop in Cornwall:  
the drawings here are part of the opening sequence.

Mummy was friendly with an abstract-painter called Stephen Szegedy-Szuts.   He and his wife Gwynnedd lived at Caunce Head near The Lizard in Cornwall, and they were magic persons.  I do not know if we knew them first in Cornwall, or later during the Surrey or Somerset periods, when we must have driven there for holidays with them.

Stephen had a halo of white hair, many wrinkles, and spoke in a sing-song soothing way.  He was old and mottled, and a wonderfully agile rock-climber.  He took Quince and me down the gully to the sea, and swam with us around the rocks like a seal.  He coaxed us shivering into the deep stony water among the big waves.  Then we climbed back up the gully to his kitchen, where he fed us every morning with a spoonful of: “When you have a cold,  always eat honey”  out of a large jar.  “In Hungary every child eats honey.  This is special honey from the acacia tree.  This is why they grow up strong and beautiful.”   He was, like many grownups, bossy.

Stephen told us tales of the winding Tisza river.   He had made and bound a book of his line drawings, called “My War”.  He drew in a funny biting way, like Gaudier,  and like the way he laughed.  “My War” was a tragedy, an artist’s poignant stand against “the killing”.  It had a fierce yet gentle earth-brown pungency, crisp on the page, like Jim’s pot-pourri or like rubbed red geranium leaves.

“In Hungary,” he told us, “ we have big fields of poppies and cornflowers, but no sea or rocky coast, because Hungary is quite surrounded by other countries …”  His house was untidy and overgrown with fruit trees.  We slept in his studio at night, we lay on the floor among an eery cabal of “unthought”  paintings.   They were strong guardian-spirits, and rather startling.  They saw in the dark:  he meditated, he emptied his mind to paint:  he painted what flew in and rested there.

GALLERY – these images from “My War” are online.
I don’t know for sure whether the painting – on the same site – is his.
I couldn’t find any of Stephen’s abstract works.  


(And now I have the book “My War” itself!  It is astonishing how familiar to me and close to my memory the drawings actually are.  I felt them in my being.  Then I got the book, with its thick textured pages – a copy which belonged to John Fowles –  and I can see them for real.)

Stephen’s wife Gwynnedd had rosy cheeks and flat straight hair. She dragged herself heavily around the house because she had arthritis in her hip,  and was always in pain.  She smiled, but you could hear the pain in her voice.   She seemed shy and slow.  She was eclipsed by Stephen’s personality.  They drove a very old car, with a boot which opened up into a little seat behind.  It was called a “dickie”.  They put Quince and Simon and me in the dickie when they took us for drives.

We had a book at home by Kate Seredy, called The Good Master.   It was the story of a very naughty little girl from Budapest, who went to live on her uncle’s farm in the puszta.   It was about how she learned to live in the country, and to love her new family.   At first she was immensely naughty.  She climbed on the kitchen rafters, and threw smoked sausages down at her foster-parents.  She asked where the phone was, and where the taxicabs were.  Her new foster-brother Jancsi thought these were swear-words, and was shocked.

There were descriptions as the story went on, of the decorated Easter eggs and the lovely clothes they wore,  the petticoats,  high boots, and wide white pleated trousers to ride in, the high grass in the meadows,  the poplars,  the geraniums, the shepherd Pista who told stories,  the embroidered featherbeds where they slept.   They had herds of wonderful wild horses, and the little girl learned to ride.

My mother had a book of the Tisza Tales, an old 1930s edition,  with colour paintings in it by Willi Pogany.   I now have both these books.

goose girl & mermaid

goose girl & mermaid


After Stephen died,  Gwynnedd had an operation and replaced her hip.  Suddenly she came out of eclipse and became a powerful person.  She tidied the house, got a new car, drove around all over Cornwall, and never stopped talking.  She said Stephen was a genius.  She kept My War and the paintings in his studio as a museum I think, because in later years I went back there to visit her, and saw them.  These buried memories just surface now, about the Szegedy Szuts.  I’m putting them here because it seems to be somewhere in our life between Cornwall and Broomlands.  I think I was just learning to swim.  Gwynnedd was eclipsed by Stephen, and then she began to shine.

Peter – my father – says he went to see Gwynnedd and to renew their acquaintance, just before she died,  around 1980.   She was now bedridden, but dignified, collected and lively.  She smoked steadily in bed, but didn’t set the house on fire.  In her youth she had been a very pretty music-hall artiste, she sang and kicked her legs about,  which our family considered rather shocking.  When Stephen married her, she did all the driving, he perched on her shoulder;  but after she became lame, he did all the washing up.

* *


A painting by Willy Pogany

A painting by Willy Pogany

Memories are bright leaves floating.  They enrich the NOW, for they are roots.  You have memories somewhere like these, or better still.

The sensation unsought of boundary loss, is near to myself.  It would come in my sleep, and sometimes arise and throb as daylight.  I’m a bed of something thick, enormous, red, black, yet colourless and unsounded.  It contains in my fingers, each a foot thick, its own shrill musical note of sound.  It is soft, yet massive like a valley or a round box.  It cannot be recalled, but from time to time over the years,  its echo comes unsought and stops, finds  and fills me.

It is found in the Broomlands landscape, a trace of it.  It vibrates with the gargoyle visions of Daddy’s war, that still sometimes came,  which exploded into a hundred grotesque red grimaces spluttering and flickering,  splitting the second – opening into vistas of golden palaces.   Yet instantaneously, it was gentle, old  and patient.   It only touches the border of awareness.  Its discovery makes me go still, so it is grace.  It comes unsignalled and then fades.

GALLERY – drawings from my “Art Not-Doing” series in 1987.
I had intended here, the red flower one which is about the breath and sensation;
but these were with it in my photo-file, and form a good sequence.

It is me.  I am not.  I am taken over.  It is huge, fat, warm and sharp.  It grinds, like my teeth.  The echo now comforts me, like something always known to me;  a smile within myself.  It has big hills and is the core of the valley.  It stops the clock.  Brave golden clock.  Blow, blow, dandelion seeds away.  A-tishoo.

brave golden clocks 1987

brave golden clocks 1987


My father’s parents lived at Fairmile in Chipstead.  It was at the edge of London, and not far away.  Mummy called their house  “The World’s Great Snare”.  When we went to stay with Granny and Granpa, we were told to mind we didn’t fall through the spaces of the upstairs landing to the floor of the panelled hall,  far below,  or we’d get killed.

Under the slippery wooden stairs they had a broom cupboard.  Inside the broom cupboard,  in my dreams at night,  more stairs descended,  dark and musty,  to a cellar underneath, hidden within the intensity of Granny and Granpa’s house,  and how careful you must be.  I came out into a long back garden with drystone walls around it.   It was full of blood.   It was full of dead beasts and bodies and white meat and blood and poor sore bottoms.  When Mummy had a baby she had a poor sore bottom.

I stood in the garden.  I had to find my way through.  She stood in the next garden by a wall, I could see her,  she called me.  Beyond her were the open hills and sky.  She wanted me to walk, to come for long walks with her.  I tried, but I could only move so,  so,  so slowly.

Other sensations were the discomfort of “jane”.    This would flood me with some force, and I cannot find it now,  I have to dowse … tentatively …  towards a once familiar misery,  whose imprint seems to have faded from my cells.  Alienation would enter,  a distaste for everything “important” that defines me,  and in which I am trapped.   I am named and placed, and sick.   It is acutely disagreeable, like being scolded and spanked.  It is acutely at odds,  as if I am a separate and phony entity encircled by the real world.  Perhaps it is like being deaf.  I vaguely remember –  yes –  a sense of dislocation.  Things are slanted, striated against me.  And I am too much.

I was fascinated by cruelty – to animals and to Queens.  I wrote stories of suffering Queens, who came back, lifetime after lifetime to the sad Karma of their own increasing beauty:   “She strived against progress.”  Many times I drew John Knox stabbing Mary Queen of Scots with swords, which disturbed my teacher at school – those sketches disappeared!

The inner world of a child is violent, erotic and aware.  The parents’ war memories are processed psychically; long fingers of history and the world’s shadow reach down the long leafy lane to Broomlands.  There is no “sheltered upbringing” in the collective subconscious.


I walked behind Daddy in the field when we went to look at the sheep.   I put my feet in his prints, in grass, mud or snow.  This annoyed him and he asked me to walk up front beside him.

I became a boy for three or four years.  I wanted to be a jack-tar in a clipper sailing ship when I grew up, and I wished I could have the beautiful muscles of men.  I obtained a pile of illustrated magazines called Shipping Wonders of the World about the great schooners that used to ply the oceans of the world. For a while, they were wonderful in my inner life.

I reared a large lamb called Laddie whose mother rejected him.   We played together when he was full-size; I was his human friend,  he came to no one else.   Then he went to the slaughterhouse with the other yearlings.  This did not distress me, because it was the way of things.  I wished I might be the one to eat him.  I wanted Laddie to pass right through my body, into the lavatory and back into the earth.  My fair-haired friend up the road, Felicity, who did not live on a farm, was disgusted at this idea.

I found it difficult to make friends.   My ideas about life were often indigestible to them, and I was a misfit at school.   But once made, I kept them.   I had a friend called Marion Black who lived very grandly at Compton Chase on top of the North Downs, and kept ponies of her own.  She told me one day at school that she didn’t want to take sides any more with the ones who bullied, teased and mimicked me.  She said “I want to help you”  – like a girl in a school story:  I suspect her mother told her to.  We became close, and went riding together.

Young dancers in treasure wood

Young dancers in treasure wood

We knew the Winnicotts – they were old friends of Jim and Helen Ede, my mother’s parents  – and went to stay with Alice in her seaside cottage in Newquay, West Wales.  She had generously – we were told – left Donald so that he could go to live with Clare in London.  Mummy told us, “Alice is very, very vague.”  She lived on a cliff right over the driving waves, put out her tongue when she talked, and wore droopy cardigans.  She wasn’t a real grownup.  The sea-mist came right into her terraced cottage and put out the fire.  Quince liked the childish songs she sang, but I didn’t very much.

19 sketching at Newquay


Mummy gave Quince and me our first rock-climbing lessons in rocky amphitheatres which began where the little road along the cliff ended.  I think Simon must have been too little to come on this holiday.    I  sketched pebbles and  rocks on the beach with Mummy’s fountain pen.   We helped Alice with the groceries.  Alice’s fierce sister Pauline Taylor wore a jacket and tie and jodhpurs, lived inland, and kept a Palomino pony stud farm.  I was smitten with these beautiful dark golden ponies, the colour of burnt toffee with their white manes and tails.  I already loved them desperately, and longed to ride.

I’m having an argument with Mummy just now about this.  She says I had already begun to have riding lessons at Miss Aylemore’s in Limpsfield,  but it seems to me that at eight years old, the desire burned within;  the photo in her album, of that small girl in jeans holding by the end of a drooping rope, a dozing Palomino stallion, trembles with an awkward pride as yet unfulfilled;  the pony’s back is bare.

Newquay in Wales is a grey and weatherbeaten place of great charm.  I returned there often in my dreams, thirty years later.  The pebble beaches were now mighty chambers of dark rock dramas, some of them crumbling into the battering sea.  In slumbering harbour pools, I must have been a fish,  because in a dream in 1988,  at a time of breaking inward,  I was hooked with a line through my nose,  and pulled out from the water onto land.  It was very painful.  This always struck me as remarkable.  Fish are our dreams, they live in the deep.  The Companions of the Light in the upper worlds play the line;  they hook us sharply, to awaken into a higher element.  At first, like being born,  we cannot breathe,  for the air,  the hook, is too sharp,  it burns.  And why there?   Why at Newquay in Wales?

There was no more humiliating sight – also in Newquay – than that of two old people sitting in the front of a long old car with its nose pointing uphill on a steep street in Wales – I was eight – and looking patiently out of it while they press its starter again and again.  Sometimes it whines and they have to wait for a while.  This makes me sick.  It makes the blood pour out of my backside.  I want to smash it and them inside it to pieces.  It is the most horrifying and meaningless thing that I know.  It is monstrous and shouldn’t be allowed.  It is obscene.

Mummy and Daddy did all they could to help me with my fear of cars not starting.  I knew the starter was a little horn, which connected electrically to the spark-plugs.  When you pulled or pressed it, it made this sound.  That’s all.  But my rationale couldn’t reach the sick reality.  I think there was always a joy of relief and self-assurance when it started without any trouble.   Is this why I don’t drive a car, to this day? – I took my test three times but didn’t pass.   Inside the car – the in-carnation – there is for me, a loss of independence.


These mermaids – one on each side of the paper – were drawn shortly after we came to Broomlands.   They appear to have been a gift to Mrs Willis, my primary school teacher in Cornwall – but I guess my mother didn’t put them in the post …


The farm buildings and abandoned implements at Broomlands were a child’s paradise for games, climbing and exploration.  By now I was fired up by Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to hunt for secret passages.  We got inside the corn-drier through the grid, and crawled up the narrow, curved canal, down which the hot air blew when they switched it on.  By a miracle, this never happened when we were in it.  I often shudder now, to think of it.

We had to put on special old sandpit clothes to go in the great quarries near our house,, and take them off outside,  because the heavy yellow element stained,  it  permeated our fingernails and hair and everything we touched.  Sometimes we set off landslides down the quarry cliffs and ran all the way to the bottom with the plunging fall of sand.  We made a long, long slide where the sand had hardened.  Again and again we flew down it on our sore and tattered behinds.  Steep, rock-hard and perilous it was, till the weather changed and softened it again to wet dust and mud.  We came indoors, dark yellow from building labyrinths of interlocking tunnel systems, letting our hands meet under and over.

bedrock scourings


My brother Simon was mad about lorries, bulldozers and long-longs.  He intoned their  holy names – Foden,  Atkinson,  Seddon, Dodge,  with the starry-eyed reverence I had for queens;  he knew all their cabs and drivers.  Some of the lorries were very old, rattly and raucous, with snub noses and bitter eyes.   They trundled up and down through the quarries all day long for Simon’s delight,  except on Sundays when they slept.  Bulldozers squatted in the pit like prehistoric monsters.  They slowly and throatily moved mountains and tracked caterpillar-trails across waste land.  When it rained, the gashes filled with long puddles and reflected the sky.  Simon loved anything on wheels that went brrrrrrmmmmm.

Simon had toy lorries and trucks, which worked hard all day.  In bed at night he sometimes sat with his eyes wide and shining, because he saw an angel.  Once, in a great strange bed in a different house, he was found crawling around at the bottom of it and crying: “I can’t find my place for sleeping.”  When life was difficult, or when he needed to be alone, he would go to his bed to booddup.  He rocked on all fours rhythmically, throwing his head forward against the cot bars.  The sound of his boodduping filled the house with a sense of peace.  When he wrote letters to Jim and Mam he told them about the lorries and then said  “I am very tired.  I’m going to boodup now.  Love from Simon.”  He found writing difficult and may have been dyslexic.  He had a lanky striped friend with floppy limbs, greyish head and ears, and bright button eyes,  called Blue Bunny.

the friends

Quince had her large doll called Judy and a friend called Big Teddy with golden fur.  But she could pick up a stick or a bunch of grass or piece of wire anywhere and turn it into a doll or creature, to people her long Tragic Stories, as I called them.  She  chewed grass stems to make hair for a girl,  and bent a piece of wire into legs for a boy.  She walked around all day, eyes and puddocks (chubby hands) busy with her wide world.  It was only discovered years later,  that she was short-sighted.  She hardly ever stopped talking, and when Mummy couldn’t stand it any more,  she made Quince sit on a stool in the kitchen and try very hard to say nothing at all for three whole minutes – sometimes she got through half a minute.

Quince liked eating sloes, unripe gooseberries and other strange sour things.  When she was very little, she made me shout with laughter by putting them in her bottom and pretending to be an Old Woman.  Mummy came up in a fury to scold us for not being asleep in our beds.  She took one look at Quince and burst out laughing herself.

When I wasn’t quarreling with Quince – we fought a lot – I listened to the Tragic Stories,  enthralled.  They were very dramatic indeed, and mostly about school; about friendships, abandoned children and betrayals.  Perhaps they gave me a reprieve from my Queens.

We had hens in the back yard at Broomlands, and kept cats.  We had a herd of dairy cows who were milked by machine.  When it was very hot, Mummy hosed us in the yard, along with the cow-pats. The cowman was called Mr Heritage, and his wife in the cottage down the lane, gave us jelly babies.  In the bluebell woods behind the house lived many frightened pheasants and a game keeper.

the pits, growing over

I went for long walks at dawn, through the woods – where I began to imagine Granpa Adams watching me after he died.

My dawn and sunset walks were mystic journeys.  Sometimes I crossed the boundary of the four roads.  I ventured up onto the rough slopes of the ever-tempting North Downs, to walk those paths that blazed at me from afar.  Or I would explore the whole string of the sand-quarries, easting my way along abandoned clover fields between them.

There was no point in farming these little isthmuses of land.  Here the quarries themselves were silent craters, scantily furring over with grass and willowherb.  Their creeks gleamed through the bushes.  This land is ever a warm land.  It is golden with summer and the slow buzz of insects.  It is intense with the wonder of the explorer who must go just a little bit further, and the lateness of the hour is approaching violet.  Unknown sandy paths entice my quest along secret cliffs to a ridge, a fence beyond which I must not go,  or I’ll be late home and Mummy will worry about strangers and bad men from London.

There are black cranes and dredgers and ugly buildings of corrugated iron, majestically dark against the flaming sky.  Why was the sky on fire?  Why did the sun seem to set in the east?  A horse canters along those gloaming fields.  There might be plains of soft exposed dry mud as far as the eye can see, like the tale of Rapunzel and the wandering prince.  I am taken to dreamland.  Worlds from different patches of time seem to merge and cohabit, and one leads on to another. I came home and told Mummy “I walked six miles.”  But it was probably no further than two.

This is actually a drawing of someone I loved.  But it is a view from the woods near Grubstreet, Limpsfield, down onto Broomlands and the quarries

“Woodland, 1986”. This is actually a drawing of someone I loved. But it is a view from the woods near Grubstreet, Limpsfield, down onto Broomlands and the quarries


In springtime the blue sky fell to the ground.   The misty radiance of the bluebells pooled around the slender trunks of white  birches.    I got into trouble with Granny – Mother Adams – during her visit I rushed off on a walk or to see my friend Felicity.  Granny was in the car, just leaving, and she said “I am most offended.”  I had not realised she could be angry, but now I saw she was bound to be.  I had done wrong, and I didn’t know what to say. ‘Sorry’ was not enough.

Living now near Fairmile and the Surrey Tribe, we saw quite a lot of them.   Daddy said they all spent too much time indoors watching television, eating white bread, and breeding like rabbits.   His sister Betty had a brood of six, in an enormous property called “The Cottage” at Biggin Hill.   Her husband Jack was disgracefully rich –  he had a thousand pounds and drove a large Bentley  Daddy proposed we should drive past “The Cottage” in our car and call out at their gate, “You’re a Jolly Unhealthy Lot.”  My parents were obsessed with garden vegetables and healthy ways of living, but suffered quite a lot themselves, from colds,  septic cuts,  bad backs and smouldering marital turbulence.

Daddy took some of my projects with my friends at school seriously.  With Deborah Nelson, Marion Black and Sarah Fraenkel,  a “Nature Club” was formed.  “You’d rather be a girl,” they jeered at me when they first came to tea and I had put on my best dress;  I turned into a boy overnight.  We never wore dresses, and we enjoyed tough boyish games.  We conceived our ultimate dare – to walk from end to end of the long railway tunnel through the Downs just north of Oxted Station.  We would lie down between the railway lines if a train came and we couldn’t find a manhole – wearing farm sacks to protect us if someone in the train went to the lavatory overhead.  Daddy supported our plans,  and made helpful suggestions –  to my private dismay and terror.  I was scared of the noise the trains would make.  Daddy was a great tease, and our great initiation at the last minute only, did not materialise.

with marion & friends in broomlands

Sarah Fraenkel and I played an easier game by ourselves, in the school playing-field:   “Let’s climb up each other and disappear!”  We tried as hard as we could, but fell into heaps of helpless laughter.  At the bottom of the playing-field was a mulberry tree where silkworms were studied.    The headmistress was called Miss Pace.   She was a small wrinkled person in brown;  she sang hymns in a quavery treble,  wore a wig, and was  strict but warmhearted.

I earned pocket money to buy pony books,  by scything thistles,  and by walking over the fields and across Limpsfield Common to school,  instead of taking the bus.   I saved a penny-ha’penny each way.

The book I wanted was called We Rode to the Sea.  It was a thriller about children, ponies and thieves in Scotland, the most beautiful country in the world,  and where the most tragic of queens had lived and suffered.  We had books at home about the hills, the lochs,  the skies, the glens and the gneiss.

Loch Quoich

A geological wall map of Great Britain hung in our house, with every sediment a different colour.  We saw the underlying shapes of everywhere we had lived.  Floating splotches and dots of the interweaving rock revealed our well travelled land.   The Yorkshire Moors were an amoeba of ancient pale yellow upon slanting primary-coloured striations.  As a Capricorn child, I am at home upon these shapes.  As a painter in later years,  I would potter absorbedly along a chance brush-stroke;  next to another colour it  brightened,  and I’d get lost in tiny places of wonder,  in the dreamy litany of the pre-cambrian and mesozoic strata that sleep under the fur of heather, field and forest,  and their sudden openings, faults, or “extrusions”.

Glen Trool, from Buchan Burn

Glen Trool, from Buchan Burn

High lochan on Eigg - April 2000

High lochan on Eigg – April 2000

I was proud of my great romance.  The language of the Scots became my passion, the lilting geology of the Highlands.  I had a book of tartans.

At school we had to present a lecture:  I chose Scotland as my subject,  and described each picture of beautiful wild moorland in the book.  The teacher told me I used the word “very beautiful”  too many times.

Most of the children at school had rich parents – the last word in lipstick, pencil skirts and high heels – who collected them in large shiny cars with fine sleek faces.   Mummy and Daddy now drove a secondhand pre-war Rover with a long black bonnet and a tiny starter button.   It didn’t always start well, and I didn’t trust it.

Quince became in those days lame.  She had “cramp” in her right hip. She talked about her leg, how it hurt.  I sometimes felt it too.  Once after riding with Marion in her paddock on the north downs, I walked back to Broomlands, and the empathic cramp in my hip was so painful I barely made it back home;  Mummy came out in the Rover to look for me.

And ice I remember.  Ice in white sighing slabs and pools among the ruts by the sandpit.   What a lot of friendly local boys there suddenly were.  We slid, fell and skated the light fantastic winter sky.  When the year warmed, our games changed,  we became hunters and quarry,  the hare would set off with a bag full of torn-up paper and lay false trails, spoor and signals all across that land,  across the sandquarries and over the fields.   It was our last spring at Broomlands.

oaks in treasure wood

oaks in treasure wood

Daddy was anti-blood sports.   He quarreled with his boss, Major Leverson Gore of Titsy Estate, who wanted to foxhunt across the land and past our house.  In fact it was the hunters’ tradition to stop for lunch at our house itself ;  we arranged to be away on holiday when this was due.  Major Leverson Gore was at first a genial squire, and invited farmer Peter Adams and his young family to Titsy, outraging his mother with whom he lived.

Peter had a curious effect on his employers.  They were drawn to him, and he clearly kept a school tie somewhere, but they couldn’t decide which side of the salt to place us, at table.   Relations with Major Leverson Gore deteriorated sharply over the blood sports issue, and we moved to Somerset.  At the eleventh hour of our notice to quit, Peter got a successful job interview, and found our new home – a rambling manor near the Quantock hills, owned by Showerings, the Babycham people.   Here we settled down.


In the Treasure wood
are silver beech and golden oak.
Violin and cello, half quartet
sawing Rasumovsky* back and forth,
they carried on their backs the wood for the kitchen oven
to warm unmothered lambs inside.

Decoding “In Parenthesis” by David Jones
they reared brats, shut up the hens,
fed men and braying beasts,
dug garden, quarrelled, hurt their backs and
bashed their hands, picked
primroses, brewed marmalade and
drove to the winter sea for Christmas.

In their wood
with Eliot and Dylan Thomas,
Krishnamurti’s “pathless land”

*Beethoven’s Rasumovsky No 1 quartet – their practice ground after our bedtime





My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

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All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012-2013. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address

1 thought on “Childhood Part Three – Broomlands

  1. Pingback: The Solstice of Each Day | janeadamsart

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