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  • Writer's pictureKate Clarke


Updated: Nov 14, 2022

As soon as they came into season Terry would buy gladiolus - for me, for the house, for those audacious colours, but mostly because they made him think about his grandad, George.

With their long lines, perfect poise, their blood reds and velvety purples they always made me think of Cyd Charisse blazing her way through an MGM musical in some Edith Head or Irene Sharaff creation, split from ankle to hip. God, she was eye-catching.

Terry's grandad was a gardener who only grew flowers. Gladiolus and dahlias, too, with their flawless, waxy forms that are far too perfect to my eye.

He shared the garden in Lyndhurst Road with Terry's Dad, Joe, who grew vegetables.

I always found it quite touching when Terry said that George only ever grew flowers. I'm sure I'm reading too much into this, but there's something about a war-rattled soldier - a Grenadier Guard and one of the so-called Old Contemptibles, coming home with the Mons Star and settling into a peaceful domestic life of growing beautiful, frivolous, impractical things, cycling to and from work every day, holidaying in Weymouth and doting on his grandson, which he did. George and his wife had lost a baby boy of their own and they treated young Terry like a prince.

I went home to Reading this weekend. I visited St Michael's, as Terry always did when we went to the hometown to stay with my mum. I had a chat with George and Ada, as Terry always did. I told them their grandson never lost his sweetness over the years.

See thus room?

Come on in

There's ten coats of paint

Ten layers of wallpaper.

You may see a Grenadier's uniform

An old soldier polish up the Mons Star.

In the hidden history

Of fireworks on November the Fifth

And walking the dogs in the river mist

All in seventh heaven now

Terry Clarke - Hidden History

Ada, Terry, George at Portland, Dorset (With The Eagle comic)

I've seen the dolls of halloween

on a taxi driver's lap

Calyspo rhythm in his fingers

at a red light: tap, tap tap.

September's girls had dresses

The same shade as gladiolas

They were running from the schoolyard

Sipping on a cherry cola

Terry Clarke - Manhattan Blues

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