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