Bluebells and Tenterhooks
‘THERE USED TO BE row upon row of tenters in this field,’ said Poppop, wistfully, as we walked hand in hand along the path between the tenterfield and the small wood, on the way back to the house by the River Calder in Dewsbury. ‘The wool blankets we made were fastened on to them with tenterhooks, to dry.’
I wasn’t really interested at the time, though I hope I feigned some semblance of polite curiosity. Perhaps not at the age of 7.
I was far more interested in the wood. It was May, and this little sliver of woodland in amongst the looming mills and blackened stone terraced houses, was clinging to existence by making itself implausibly and invaluably beautiful.
Bluebells were crammed into every woody nook and each grassy cranny. The ever-so-slightly lilacy blue of each delicate flower merged to daub its jewel-like presence onto the awaiting palette of fresh greens and browns with unbecoming extravagance.
Except the effect was anything but unbecoming.
The vibrancy, the fragility, the exuberance… my heart was captured. I wanted to be part of the wood’s celebration of life.
That day, Poppop and I picked handfuls of these precious blossoms, and, much as I hate to admit it now, even picking them was joyous. If you could get a stalk out from the ground without it snapping, just a satisfying ‘fwup’ as it separated from its parent plant, that was a success. If not, though, the sticky white sap of a snapped stalk would coat your fingers, and that too was cause for laughter and games as you tried to stick leaves and petals together with this incredible flower glue.
To this day, bluebells mean happiness to me. I never tire of them. I love their generosity. I wander through woodland, not touching, just soaking in the heavenly blue haze, and remembering the man who first shared this joy with me.
Tenterhooks has a different meaning for me than it had for my dear Poppop. It’s now what I wait on each spring for the arrival of my favourite wild flower.
[Please note: I do not condone the picking of rare wild flowers. At the time this happened, we did not realise the harm of picking bluebells. Now, we know.]