Friday, 17 December 2010

Catching cobwebs

I caught a snippet of a conversation on the radio or television today and it suddenly bought back a childhood memory I never realized I had forgotten. Someone said "catching cobwebs" and in a heartbeat I suddenly recalled breaking a brittle twig off a branch, bending it right over though it always made half-a-hexagon and not an arch, and using it like a dream-catcher to scoop up cobwebs from the gorse and other bushes on the wild land between the abandoned wartime allotments and the brickworks.

In this same wilderness, we would pluck the broad green leaves of the rushes and weave them into mats; in weather like this we would break icicles off the willow boughs and eat them like frozen sweets; we would crush handfuls of Sweet Gale leaves in our pockets and the aroma in the dusty fluffy dessicated leaves would still linger, months on.

When we were thirsty in summer, we would break open a fat stem of what we called French Rhubarb (Japanese Knotweed) as it stored water at each joint, and we even ate the tender tips when sufficiently hungry. Usually though we would scrump from a neglected orchard - I can remember not eating plums for years after eating so many I gave myself the collywobbles. An abandoned 3 acre apple orchard fed us for weeks. The abandoned allotments provided strawberries, raspberries and currents in abundance. In the spring of the year we ate "bread and cheese" which was what we called the young Hawthorn leaves. In June we would be sucking on the bottom of the Honeysuckle blossoms for the sweet nectar they held.

One clear starry night when it had snowed, we got out tin trays and sleds, and scorched down the pathway between the gorse bushes, past the Sweet Gale and the summer camps, to land laughing in the bracken. Happy times.


  1. Beautiful.

    My instant sled was a wooden bread tray from the bakery delivery van. With care you could get three on it, although two was better.

    It was great to land laughing so hard you could barely get a breath.

  2. Keep it up by the way. You're slowly getting me - and I suspect you - in the mood!


  3. Al - I'm glad it's helping you and bringing back some happy memories. I was feeling much more cheery this afternoon, until a family spat, and then I needed to cheer myself up - hence this post.

    I put the decorations up this morning and we dressed the tree, which was lovely.

  4. thx for a post that made me smile. "collywobbles" indeed!

  5. Can you imagine not growing up in a country place? What on earth do town children do?
    I don't recognize all the wild bits you had for nibbles--we had wild berries, "sour grass" [which I think is a form of sorrel] the mint which grew by the brook.
    I think we do often attempt to write ourselves into a better frame of mind. The ups and downs of family interaction take a considerable toll.

  6. As a youngster my sled of choice was a council bin bag, compact, light and super fast lol.

  7. I did many of those same things as a childat Flamborough, but didn't do the cobweb thing. My first 5 years were spent in Finchley before we moved to Flamborough. To this day just looking at photos of cities and city parks brings back 'caged' feelings. They call Carlsbad a city but it is so well laid out and spacious, with true green parks, waterfalls and of course the lagoons, that I can't call it a city. Most of the blogs I visit are written by people from farmlands and villages.