Words from a Garden
Thoughts & ideas prompted by  visit to the Gibberd Garden
written by
Rose Gotley

A temple of the imagination.

 

Is it a folly? Is it a dream house? Is it a temple to a pagan Deity?

 

I stand in front of a small stone structure. Two pillars rise to a flat relief set in the centre of a wall. It depicts artisans at work. One seems to be a scribe, the other a potter. Two more pillars hold up a staircase winding its way to a chamber above.

 

Before ascending the steps, I see a tiled courtyard leading to a door. I wonder if an altar is hidden behind it? I open the door slowly and peer into a room. How wrong I was! It was but a shed sheltering some garden chairs.

 

I count thirteen steps climbing upstairs to the room above. In the middle stands a stone table, two wooden benches and a sculpture that looks like the flames of a fire. Two of the six pillars around the small enclosure are covered in twisted ivy. Tiles of different patterns and colours cover the floor.

 

Why does this remind me of a moment in my life when I decided to find my roots? About ten years ago this urge took me back to a small town in Moravia. I had never been there before but with the help of an English speaking Czech lady I found my grandparents house, still known as the ‘Jew’s House.’

 

After the Nazi atrocities I did not expect to find any Jewish traces. Imagine my feeling when entering a square. There stood the old synagogue, in the process of being converted into a library.

 

The engravings on the small stone building in the Gibberd garden brought back the memory of the Hebrew lettering above the portals of the synagogue In my mind’s eye I could see the procession of my grandparents followed by their five children walking through those same doorways on Sabbath and High Holidays.

 

My heart felt glad and sad at the same time. Although my feelings, when I came upon the folly were not as personal and vivid as gazing at the old synagogue, yet tears welled up in my eyes just like in Moravia.

 

Perhaps that small temple set in the middle of an English garden has more meaning than we know.

 

SIR FREDRICK’S CASTLE

 

We were told to investigate the garden, so here I was walking down the sodden grassland towards the river. I noticed the buttercups in the grass and my shoes squelched as I tried to find a proper path away from the damp.

 

I saw a castle shaped structure to the right of me and looked for the quickest route to allow me to explore it.

 

A willow spread its branches across the grass on the other side of the path and I ducked to avoid raindrops falling on my head from its delicate leaves.

 

I found a bridge, which lead over the moat and a mildly flowing stream. The trees were mirrored on its surface, disturbed only by a small whirlpool under a tree behind me. Flanked by trees of varying hues of green and white blossoms the path led me to a drawbridge. I stepped on to terra firma and was faced by the pseudo castle.

 

The water in the moat was a sluggish brown covered in part by green plants of varying sizes and shapes. Round stones steps lead me to the base of the castle. Walking carefully the nine steps, I counted about forty rounded stone slabs at the base. The structure grows upwards to three smaller rows shaping up to two different sizes of wooden planks. Proudly, at the top waved the St. George’s flag.

 

Looking up at the pseudo castle, I wondered if Sir Frederick imagined that his garden came magically to life at midnight? Toy soldiers would be fighting bloody battles on the ramparts only watched by the moon and creatures of the night.

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