As I was growing up in Plzeň I was surrounded by home-made produce, thanks to my Grandma. She was one of those women who could make something out of nothing – whether in cooking, clothes-making or knitting, you name it – she could do it.
She had the patience to teach me to crochet. I well remember my first efforts – I couldn’t get my head round the idea that to make a chain didn’t mean I could somehow stitch it together and I’d have the finished article!
Grandad was a very keen gardener, but it was much more difficult in those times; I can’t remember any specialist seed shops or DIY stores. Gardeners just exchanged seeds amongst themselves, I think.
Grandad had a plot of land outside our town. He bought it in the 30s with a view to building a house for all three families on it – for him and Grandma, my Aunt ‘s family and ours. The house never happened, but I well remember going there and enjoying the fruit and vegetables and the flowers, and just being there without a care in the world.
He grew the best strawberries I have ever tasted, but never bothered with growing carrots. He said they were too difficult and he couldn’t beat the dreaded carrot fly.
He had a number of fruit trees: plums, apples, cherries and a lot of currant bushes. Quite unusually he also had blackcurrants – they weren’t at all well-known – and Grandma made delicious jam and cordials for the winter out of them.
I don’t know where he got all his gardening know-how from, but as he had grown up in the country it must have been second nature to him.
When I’m working on my allotment now I think a lot about him and also about my Grandma. Because my Mum went back to work when I was little, I spent my formative years with Grandma and Grandad. My life has gone full circle now and I use all the knowledge the two of them passed on to me.