My earliest known antecedent was an Anglican minister during the English Civil War. We therefore grew up believing we were descended from Roundheads – a touch simplistic, but we were children. Our infant school was a Catholic one, which fell under the jurisdiction of three parishes, and so there was often a priest popping up in some class, or another. Once we had one of them in our class, talking about ancestors. Of course being children, no one knew much about their forebears beyond their grandparents. But I did, and volunteered that my ancestors were Roundheads. The priest took this to mean that they were Puritan, statue-smashing, Papist immolators – which was not a good thing. He didn’t exactly lose his temper, but gave me a fair amount of shit about it.

In hindsight I can joke that I was lucky just to get only verbal abuse from a priest, but I still think he was a wanker for doing it, even if he did have a steel plate in his head. Yes, that’s right he had a piece of metal in his napper, which was always cited as the reason why he was a bit crazy. Personally, I had always thought he was just a twat – although it would be a few years until I learned the word to describe my distain. Luckily my view of the priesthood was formed by a saintly Sicilian, who we saw much more of.  Now he was a true follower of Christ.

I hadn’t thought of old tin’ead, until last night. It may sound odd, but it was prompted by memories of little posies of flowers, their stalks wrapped in tinfoil.

Let me explain. I guess for many people in this country when they think of religion and flowers their minds go to WI battle-axes and busybodies warring over doing the flowers for Church. But that was never part of my upbringing. Instead I remember how we were always encouraged to bring in whatever flowers we could, to put in front of one of the statues of the Virgin Mary – there were about three, even though it was a small school. There was also a Sacred Heart of Jesus statue that stood in the dinner hall, which I always thought was crazy and exciting, because Our Lord’s flaming heart looked, to my young eyes, like a medieval hand grenade.

Even as a child I recall feeling that these votive gifts of little, mismatched, often bedraggled posies, with stems far too short, picked by small children, for baby Jesus’ mummy were touching. And I remember being allowed to take in a small bunch of sweet peas, their stems wrapped first in damp tissue paper and then foil. My teacher, who I loved dearly, sniffed them deeply and smiled.

All this recollection was sparked by the scent, as I snipped flowers from only the second lot of sweet peas I have ever grown.

It was a warm memory, despite Father Tin’ead clanking around in the background.

Coming indoors I waved my fistfull of scent and ghosts in front of the OH, “Mmmmm, they smell of my grandma”.

It would have taken too long to explain what they reminded me of, but I do wonder if everybody has a sweetpea based memory?

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