Monday, April 18, 2011

P is for Privet


The first friend I ever had was also my strangest friend. And, believe me there's lots of competition.

Walking round the condos tonight with my daughter, playing our favorite game of counting frogs, I realized that America doesn't have many privet hedges.

While England's suburbia comprises swathes of green and iron gates set in hedges, America has white picket fences.

Back where I grew up in suburban Birmingham we didn't have much. Our flying saucers were old tires and my play car was an old iron bath my grandfather had put wheels on, much to the consternation of an elderly neighbor who had the bruises to testify to the weight of the thing.

But heck - we were rich in privet hedges back then.

That's how I met Gregory Spencer; I came out of my house one day and saw his torso sticking out of the hedge, his face buried among the tiny leaves.

At first I was annoyed. Brits are taught to be territorial about their privet hedges from an early age.

He withdrew his head, looking rather startled and told me he was eating the hedge. Would I like to do lunch?

I tried a few of the bitter leaves but they weren't entirely to my taste.

"Tell you what," I told him. "There's a big old Mountain Ash tree in the garden. Maybe you'd like to partake.'

I don't think I actually said partake. I didn't know that word then. Still the tree was my absolute favorite. We'd climb it and jump into the neighbor's garden, ostensibly to piss her off.

The boy, who identified himself as Gregory Spencer started to salivate as soon as he saw the tree. In no time at all we were stripping bark off it with our teeth and devouring the trunk.

In hindsight I wondered why my parents didn't stop us. But come to think of it my parents didn't stop us doing much. For instance all of our holiday pictures from Spain feature me wearing a bucket on my head. I was convinced it was as cool as hell and I looked like a Knight of the Round Table, whereas in fact I looked like a dorky kid with a bucket on his head.

Any rate Gregory became my first firm friend and we'd hang out in the woods and do the sort of things kids do, mainly eating tree bark and hedges.

Eventally as all great childhood friendships do, ours soured. Those leaves ceased to be so succulent. It may have been the time Gregory got his hand caught in the chain of my bicycle.

Or perhaps it was the time my mother disparaged Greg's chain smoking, hard nosed mother and I told him: "My Mum says your Mum's a cow."

Unfortunately Greg relayed this information to his mother and I was called into a Spanish inquisition like forum in his living room, complete with comfy cushions, to be asked: "Did your mum call me a cow?"

Strangely enough my memory of these distant days behind the hedges of suburbia are fleeting like the sun slipping in and out clouds. Some are vivid and others are obscured. I can't even remember the answer I gave to Gregory's mother, although our friendship didn't last.

Still it's funny to recall those days and good to invite my blog friends into my privet world.

13 comments:

  1. Some places here have them, but they are considered "rich" areas seldom seen by people like us.

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  2. Your childhood stories are the best. You should write a book. :)

    Good to know the bark didn't do any health damages (or did it?!) and you stopped wearing the bucket. Lol.

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  3. Great story. So, do you have any of those pix from Spain with the bucket? :)

    I love privet hedges, despite the nasty berries. I don't know why we don't see more of them in the US, they're far more appealing than fences.

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  4. No privets here, some green places do have them I guess..we are more into potted plants than hedges (no trimming required)..only concrete jungle where I have lived...
    At any rate you had an interesting childhood, better than taking mattresses and pillows down for boat and oars :)

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  5. What a wonderful story.

    I'm stopping by from the A-Z Challenge and I'm glad I did.

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  6. Very entertaining post, David.

    "My Mum says your Mum's a cow." ha ha ha ha!

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  7. What a lovely story. You have a lovely writing voice. I'm dropping in from Michelle Teacress's blog and am your newest follower. Nice to meet you.

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  8. Gotcha oilfield, not where I come from, tho. Thanks VR, err um, possibly, yes, but they are back home in a family album so I couldn't possibly post. Well it wasn't on my street, Scots. Interesting Rek - whereabouts do you live?
    Thanks for stopping by G - I will check yours. Hey Daisy glad you got a giggle out of it. Thaks for following Kittie. Will check out your blog shortly.

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  9. Honestly, 'privet' seems such a naughty word.

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  10. Thank you, and I'm honoured to be invited into your privet world. ;-)) Wonderful childhood story, I love how easy it was back then to make friends and just to lose them too. I had that happen a lot. *le sigh*

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  11. Ooo, how I wish we had some lovely Privet hedges here!

    Love the childhood story, especially the munching of the Mountain Ash bark... lucky it wasn't the Southern Prickly Ash (toothache tree) or you would have had trouble keeping your numb tongue in your mouth... :-)

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  12. I have just installed iStripper, and now I can watch the best virtual strippers on my desktop.

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