Memorial to Francis Bullen Cruickshanks died 1944
After realising who I was, she told me the stories she remembered icluding the ones in the poem Travelling. I never met my Uncle Frankie (Francis Bullen Cruickshanks), he was killed in World War II, but she remembered him as a boy, leaving the village
in his early teens and returning on a bicyle from England to tell everyone he ws rich (he had come into his inheritance on his 21st birthday), and that he was joining the Gordon Highlanders. Her story of him confirmed other people's tales of him as the handsome,
life and soul of the party that my father never quite forgave for getting himself killed.
Neither did I meet my grandfather who died in 1947 but she remembered the Pipe Sergeant Major marching round the village playing his pipes followed by the local
children, of whom she had been one, like some sort of latter day Pied Piper of Hamelin. She then took us to the house which was unoccupied and we went into the garden and showed me where my grandmother used to sit. She also remembered my grandmother playing
the piano - she could play by ear having obviously inherited the family talent. In the garden, there was a little orchard of fruit trees. Agnes explained how each one had been planted for each of the four children who were alive at that time and there was
also a flowering plum for her as she had been Aunty Hannah's best friend. I will never forget that day. It was like opening the door into another world and this is the second poem I wrote about it,
The summer house, as they called
was, when we found it
something of a disappointment.
Neither large nor small, no-one lived
in its square, empty rooms. A friend
of the family met us by the wooden gate
to show us round, to translate. She recalled
in the garden - most especially
how my now foolish, fretful eccentric aunt
had been the most beautiful, dimpled, sunny
smiling child that she had ever seen.
'That is where they put her swing'. I stared
at an unyielding tangle of
trees and bushes,
all unkempt, unable quite to comprehend.
'They're still here,' she said.
'Those trees were named for them
and there was one for me.' I saw
apple, pear, wild plum, almond, still bearing fruit
in this late
season, wearing their best clothes,
remembering games of hide and seek,
treasure hunts and blind man's buff and then
I realised how wise my grandmother had been
to plant this flowering orchard
for she had known that I would seek
one day, Tentatively I touched smooth
sunburned bark of an apple bough,
took fruit it proffered. The texture
felt like the smooth skin of a well - loved hand.
I stood among the trees, surrounded
by the spirits of my