Life with the Harleys

Doing the Round with Nurse Harley

Beneath one of the windows in my grandparent’s house is a large bed of Lily of the Valley. The leaves are smooth, shiny and green with tips just bending over.   Among these leaves little white flowers hang from gently curling stems, swaying in the breeze wafting their perfume under my nose.
I lay down on the grass, damp from the dew and prickly on my bare spindly legs that stick out from under my short pleated skirt. I bury my little upturned nose in the flowers and breathe deeply. The perfume reminds me of my mother’s hair when it has just been washed. Holding one of the dainty flowers in my small hand, I can see the crinkly edge of its petals overlapping each other. I pretend it is a fairy's dress discarded while she is washing in the dew that has collected on the smooth green leaves. I picture other fairies hiding beneath these leaves, frightened that they will be crushed under the weight of my small, grubby hands.   My daydreams are broken by my grandmother’s call asking where I am. Reluctantly, I get to my feet; brush the grass of my knees, dimpled by the rough tufts left by the mower. I tell the fairies that I will be back to see them soon, and go into the house.
‘Nanny, where are you,’ I shout.  
‘In the bedroom, I won’t be long,’
Being an impatient child, I played with the cat, had a look for goodies in the larder, and finally sat in her rocking chair banging it against the wall as I threw myself back into it.
Are you ready, Farthing Face?’
‘Where are we going? I said jumping out of the chair so fast it kept swinging back and fore.   You’ve got your nurses outfit on can we go visiting?’
‘Yes, but you know the rules, only speak when you are spoken to, don’t ask for anything and say goodbye politely when we leave.’
‘Okay, can I carry your bag as usual?’
She handed her bag to me, took my hand and off we went to see her patients.   I always felt so proud when I walked beside her.   She had long grey hair swept up on...