Out t’back

The gardens were at a distance from the house across a communal back yard.  Around t’back were all the back entrances to the houses on Tong Lane.  Theirs was the only house on Market Street which opened onto this bleak yard.  The butcher’s shop was over a fence and the house adjoining the other side was smaller than theirs with only one window at the front.  It filled in the corner of Market Street and Tong Lane without a rear entrance.  The houses on Tong Lane were built on two levels with dwellings on the landing and in the basements.  Grandma’s family owned them and they had been shared between eight members of the family.  However as time went on Grandma had inherited a major share of them; most of her visitors were tenants calling to pay their rent.  In the late 1950s and early 1960s many houses in Lancashire had not been modernised and bathrooms were not universally available in people’s homes.

For this reason there was a communal wash-house across the back from the Tong Lane dwellings.  I remember it as a mysterious building.  I never saw inside it and we were discouraged from watching people going to or from it.  Beyond the wash-house were the gardens or pens as Grandad called them.  He cultivated two of them, which were not adjacent to each other.

One of them was the farthest from the house.  It was completely private from the yard.  A locked wooden door painted green led into it.  The white door knob always struck me as incongruous.  Presumably the door had been surplus to requirements somewhere and moved just as it was.  It was a great privilege to be invited to look at the garden.  There was something almost magical about the moment the door was unlocked and we could see inside.  There was a greenhouse where tomatoes grew.  Grandad also grew potatoes and other vegetables in neat rows either side of a central path.  There were flowers as well, notably Californian poppies and sweet peas.

His other pen was behind a railed fence entered through a matching railed gate, secured by a padlock.  Both were kept in apple pie order.  He had a water butt to collect the rain water for his plants in the greenhouse. He spent most of each afternoon working in his gardens.  It wasn’t only cakes he entered in the annual show!