You are going to read part of an autobiography in which a gardener talks about this childhood and his love of plants and the countryside. Choose the answer (A, B C or D) which you think fits best according to the text.
It never occurred to me when I was little that gardens were anything less than glamorous places. Grandad’s garden was on the bank of a river and sloped gently down towards the water. You couldn’t reach the river but you could hear the sound of the water and the birds that sang in the trees above. I imagined that all gardens were like this – a place of escape, peace and solitude. Grandad’s plot was nothing out of the ordinary when it came to features. He had nothing as grand as a greenhouse, unlike some of his neighbours. Not that they had proper ‘bought’ greenhouses. Theirs were made from old window frames. Patches of plastic would be tacked in place where a carelessly wielded spade had smashed a pane of glass.
At home, his son, my father, could be quiet and withdrawn. I wouldn’t want to make him sound humourless. He wasn’t. Silly things would amuse him. He had phrases that he liked to use, ‘It’s immaterial to me’ being one of them. ‘I don’t mind’ would have done just as well but he liked the word ‘immaterial’. I realise that, deep down, he was probably disappointed that he hadn’t made more of his life. He left school without qualifications and became apprenticed to a plumber. Plumbing was not something he was passionate about. It was just what he did. He was never particularly ambitious, though there was a moment when he and Mum thought of emigrating to Canada, but it came to nothing. (line 14) Where he came into his own was around the house. He had an ‘eye for the job’. Be it bookshelves or a cupboard – what he could achieve was astonishing.
My parents moved house only once in their entire married life. But my mother made up for this lack of daring when it came to furniture. You would just get used to the shape of one chair when another appeared, but the most dramatic change of all was the arrival of a piano. I always wanted to like it but it did its best to intimidate me. The only thing I did like about it were two brass candlesticks that jutted out from the front. ‘They’re too posh’, my mother said and they disappeared one day while I was at school. There was never any mention of mine being allowed to play it. Instead lessons were booked for my sister. When I asked my mother in later life why I wasn’t given the opportunity, her reply was brief: ‘You’d never have practised’.
Of the three options, moors, woods or river – the river was the one that usually got my vote. On a stretch of the river I was allowed to disappear with my imagination into another world. With a fishing net over my shoulder I could set off in sandals that were last year’s model, with the fronts cut out to accommodate toes that were now right to the end. I’d walk along the river bank looking for a suitable spot where I could take off the painful sandals and leave them with my picnic while I ventured out, tentatively, peering through the water for any fish that I could scoop up with the net and take home. After the first disastrous attempts to keep them alive in the back yard, they were tipped back into the water.
I wanted to leave school as soon as possible but seemed an unlikely prospect until one day my father announced, ‘They’ve got a vacancy for an apprentice gardener in the Parks Department. I thought you might be interested.’ In one brief moment Dad had gone against his better judgement. He might still have preferred it if I became a carpenter. But I like to feel that somewhere inside him was a feeling that things might just turn out for the best. If I stuck at it. Maybe I’m deceiving myself, but I prefer to believe that in his heart, although he hated gardening himself, he’d watched me doing it for long enough and noticed my unfailing passion for all things that grew and flowered and fruited.