In two days’ time it will be my mother’s birthday. She was born in 1912, before the First World War, and she died in 2007, aged 95. Her mother was 100 when she died, so I think there are some pretty good longevity genes on the female side.
The male side, however, is too hasty to leave this world, and, as well as this, it seems likely that my MS came from them. My dad’s grandfather died of it in 1913. Bad news for me, but good news for my sister!
Mum didn’t grow roses. We didn’t live in that kind of neighbourhood. If you had a bit of spare ground, you didn’t grow flowers on it – you paved it over and stuck a car on it. But she loved pictures of roses, and walking round the rose gardens in town on a warm, summer evening, or in the cool of the twilight after a hot day.
If she had a personal flower, the rose was it. It symbolised the month of her birth, back in the village where she grew up, where the buttercups carpeted the meadows and the river ran slow.
When she died, my wife and I bought a rose bush in her memory. It had to be old-fashioned, because, after all, she was getting on a bit, and it had to be beautiful, because she would have liked to look at it, and it had to have a strong scent, because my blindness wanted that, and because, whenever we drove her out into the countryside, she would suddenly wind the window down and exclaim with delight at the various smells.
“Ooh”, she would say, “smell the limes (or honeysuckle, or hawthorn, or ‘keck’ (Leicestershire for hedge parsley).
So we searched for the right one, through catalogues and over clayey fields, until eventually we found the right one. Crimson Glory.
It is an old, ill-disciplined climber, which would appeal to Mum’s mischievousness. Even in the residential home she would scrump apples! As its name suggests, it is crimson and glorious. The scent is strong and heavy. The advertising says that one open flower will fill a garden with its scent. This is pushing it a bit – it would have to be a very small garden – but when it does flower it does so profusely.
The clinching argument for it, though, is that it nearly always starts to flower on Mum’s birthday! It’s like she is coming back to visit. I miss her.