When I lived in London there were constant reminders of my mum and her family who lived for generations in central London. From my bedroom window, tiny on the distant horizon the BT Tower was visible and this totem transported me back to memories of Auntie Lil's spotless kitchen in Camden Town, where the tower loomed large beyond the window, and of Uncle Fred who lived a stones throw from the tower off Oxford Street. At Leytonstone tube the central line could have taken me to my mum's house and Epping Forest where reminders abound. Taking or not taking these journeys wasn't the point, the associations and memories were sparked, keeping Doreen and my London ancestors current in my thoughts.
Moving to Derbyshire has removed this layer if association. This land holds no family connection, and this fact has left me adrift somedays while I sit with complicated feelings. When packing up my Leytonstone flat I had the foresight to include my precious storybooks from childhood. Immediately after moving to Derbyshire I reread these books, wishing to reconnect with my mum and wondering about my adult reading of these tales with a birds eye view of childhood.
One story, The Woodcutter's Daughter by Allison Uttley stood out, it was eerily familiar, as if trying to grasp fragments of a dream. It tells the story of Cherry-blossom who lives in a forest, a girl who sews by the fire, who mends and makes. When my mum read us these stories she slept in the room with us, and looking back I realise she was using us as protection, my dad was an alcoholic and mum suffered domestic violence. That was the backdrop to Uttley's fairytales in our house.
After re-reading the stories I was intrigued by the author, and tapped her name into the search bar and much to my astonishment discovered Alison was born just a few miles from where I now live. The seed of a project idea began to form and I walked to her birthplace last week.
My childhood memories are tainted and complex and I want to explore my associations with The Woodcutter's Daughter and bedtime story telling within my placement at Derby University. I've taken a deep breath and recognise my courage in being transparent about this starting point, and it feels right.
Wood End, Cromford
Birthplace of Alison Uttley
Path along the boundary of Castle Top Farm
Castle Top Farm
Short cut at the farm boundary
Steep wood at the farm boundary