My most powerful early memories are all colourful. An almost radioactive, neon yellow drinking glass with a helter-skelter curly straw around the edges. The pale yellowy-brown of a pine dresser. Heaped mown grass. Particularly vivid is a recollection of a special place, and the couple who live there. Descending down stone steps in to a bowl of green, grey and blue, and a man who loomed (literally) in to my vision. My father’s friend Ian is very, very tall, ad his wife Anne has dark and twinkly eyes. They live in a beautiful Mill in the Corvedale, Shropshire, and I can picture their home so vividly, even though I have only seen it twice. Ian, Ann and their Mill left an indelible impression upon me.
On my first visit as a sprog in short trousers I recall a burbling stream at the foot of the garden, and trees encircling the grey stone of the Mill. It was summertime and I felt fascinated by having to go down steps to reach the house (my parents had a driveway). It felt like stepping in to another world. A beautiful, world. Years later as an awkward teenager I recall falling in love with a window overlooking the garden, throwing pale sunlight on to a comfy chair bedecked with binoculars and birdspotting guide. Being very impressed by a room inhabited by two guitars and a woodburner (still my idea of heaven). More than anything though I remember the kitchen. A magician’s cave of equipment, pots, jars and creations. It was clearly the throbbing heart of the place, and Ann moved around it with both grace and mastery.
The Mill has forged a very special place in my heart. In these times of transience and uncertainty it represents for me a place of roots and calmness. A place of history, lavished with love and attention by a couple who clearly, deeply love their home and the landscape that it is nestled in to. They are both skilled and knowledgeable foragers of local produce, and are walking, talking encyclopedias of food and drink making. Anything from Oriental dishes to Oakleaf wine; hearty stews to Marmalade Muffins. I am in awe of knowledge like this.
It was and is one of the greatest pleasures that I have had as an adult reader to drink in Ian and Ann’s book White Railings. Part Autobiography, part kaleidoscope of culinary creativity, it crystallises all of my memories about a special place. It resonates with the part of me that seeks to put down roots, and to both embrace and be embraced by a community. It is a beautiful book , and I look forward to reading it with my son when he is a little older. I may have only visited that wonderful Mill twice, but those experiences have lingered with me. I am drawn to places of history, especially those that had a previous historical purpose. I love to be near to natural, running water. The older I become, the more I crave peace and tranquility. Ian and Ann showed me exactly what these things are, when I was exactly the right age to experience them. I shall be forever thankful.
© Tom Tide 2016