Scally linked arms as we strolled toward the gardens. A flamboyant array of summer bloom lined the path to the shooting water feature: ‘Wow!’ I gasped. ‘Imagine the time and effort involved here Scally.’ I feasted my senses on the rich, multihued display of every shade; pinks, mauves, reds and white. My delight was enhanced by the delicate scent of my favourite flower: ‘Scally, don’t you simply adore Sweet Pea?’
Scally … Scally… Where did you go?’
Scally bobbed out from behind the trellis with that tacky plastic handbag swinging open on her arm. A vacant, nonplus expression stared back at me: ‘What?’ She said.
‘Scally, you know what!’ Sigh.
That little old lady, standing 4 feet 9 inches small, with a thick and unruly head of once golden curls, would surely be the death of me. She was in her eighties for heaven’s sake: ‘So that’s why you wanted me to bring you to the park.’ I said.
I scrutinised the impish gleam in her eye. Each passing day she was visibly metamorphosing into a leprechaun, with her frail skeletal structure and wafer-thin skin. Veins slithered like fat worms on the back of her tiny hands. Every one of them could be traced, all the way back to a giant’s heart: ‘I’ve paid my taxes.’ She rationalised. ‘It’s a public park, so I’m transferring my share of it.’ Tut! That woman could talk the hind leg off a donkey!
‘Scally, the trowel’s sticking out of your pocket and there’s soil in that … that handbag thing. You’ll get us arrested!’ She didn’t care of course. She may have looked like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, but this sweet little lady was no pushover.
Born into poverty, Scally, by necessity learned to become frugal. What she lacked in inches was recompensed in the ‘canny’ department. On market days she could be seen stalking the traders, sniffing out over ripe fruit and veg before haggling a price reduction. The kids got their quota of vitamin C, albeit a perilous venture resulting in many an hour bog hogging and sore bottoms.
But the oranges were in a class of their own; along with the sugar bowl for dipping.
‘They were sour little beggars.’ Scally chuckled. ‘But I got 10 for one penny.’ And rhubarb pie, a ‘Scally Sweet Special,’ was always a hit, though the sugar/ rhubarb ratio was somewhat lopsided.
‘Small wonder we didn’t explode.’ I giggled. ‘What about your pancakes.’ She threw back her head and cackled like a drunken goose. ‘I thought those snooty relatives were going to flip.’
‘That was the idea.’ She chortled. ‘They flipped better than my pancakes.’ That little Scallywag; small wonder the pet name stuck. She had no time for pretentious clap-trap: ‘Southerners are too posh.’ She said. ‘I served the kind of nosh we eat here. They asked for ‘em; they got ‘em.’ In this case, smothered with gooey treacle.
Yes, Scally had a sweet tooth. It was the only tooth left standing now, which figures. But she had an insatiable appetite for glucose. Scally was never still!
Back at mine for dinner, Scally disappeared mid conversation; nothing unusual. I found her knelt in the garden with a small fork and spoon. I wondered, could this be her take on dining out? Or maybe she was sampling the snails for an Escargot dish; but no, I was wrong.
Scally was planting. From a white handkerchief spread on the grass, she took one seed, puckered her worm lips and kissed it; then popped it into the shallow furrow that she’d dug with the spoon. The process was repeated until the seeds were all gone, when she raked over the soil with the fork.
I was accustomed to having my garden hi-jacked by the interfering little sprite, so thought no more of it. My last harvest produced a fine crop of curly kale within the rose bed.
All Scally mentioned about the green fingered episode was: ‘This is the slow growing type. I’ll be pushing the daisies up before they do!’
Today, twenty years on, I’m standing at the kitchen window, looking out at a magnificent display of heavenly scented Sweet Pea variety in every colour of the rainbow, and more. They’ve run rampant over my herb garden and strangled my lettuce and cucumber.
But they are her – Scally Sweet Pea. My tiny, lively, colourful, mischievous and out of control mother; still peeping through the trellis and poking out her tongue at me!
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