Saturday 28 March 2020

Timothy Crumble and His Brother, Benji

The first story in a series of seven, for the National Trust’s Bodnant Garden, in North Wales

by Anne Forrest

homemade lemonade

Timothy Crumble had been visiting Bodnant Garden since he was a
            ‘In fact’, Timothy’s mum said, ‘You’ve been coming to Bodnant Garden since before you were born – we used to come to Bodnant when you were still in my tummy!’
            ‘I don’t remember that.’ Timothy Crumble said, ‘Not at all.’
            ‘And now’, said Timothy’s dad, ‘We’re taking your new baby brother to visit Bodnant. Aren’t we, Benji?’ he said this into the baby’s basket.
            Timothy’s brother, Benji, was fast asleep in his Moses basket and did not hear their father.  Beside, Timothy was a bit fed up with this new addition to his family.  He had been quite happy when it was just Mum, Dad and Timothy. 
            ‘Let’s get going, then. We’ll be there in less than half an hour,’ said his mother. ‘Timothy, do you remember us telling you about your first visit to Bodnant? You lay in your pram under your red and white cover and with your head on your red and white pillow and you could not take your gaze away from the tall trees above you as we pushed you along the pathway. Your wide open eyes followed the shimmering sunlight as it sparkled through the leafy branches.  You watched the light dancing its way down to say Hello to you.  Do you remember that, Timothy?’
            ‘No,’ Timothy Crumble said.  ‘Not at all!’
            ‘Oh, but you must. You chuckled and gurgled at the light and tried to reach up and catch the sunbeams,’ laughed his mother. ‘And when you could talk, you said the twinkling lights looked like stars playing in the treetops.’
            Timothy scowled.  He didn’t want to share his memories with his new baby brother, Benji.  They were his memories.

They climbed into the car.  What a lot of stuff they packed for this new baby – why, Timothy only needed his rucksack filled with a bottle of water, a few biscuits, a notepad for jotting things down and pencils of all colours in case he wanted to create a picture.
            ‘We have to take all Benji’s paraphernalia,’ explained his mum.’ He’ll need his nappy changing and he’ll want his feed.’
‘Aren’t we going to the café?’ asked Timothy, askance.  ‘We always have a cake at the café.’               
 ‘Of course we’ll go to the café,’ his mum answered. ‘We’ll still have our treat once we’ve finished our walk, but Benji can’t eat cake. He’ll want his bottle.’
            ‘Whew!’ said Timothy Crumble under his breath.  He couldn’t imagine not having a Bodnant cake after their walk.
            The car left the driveway and as they set off, Timothy’s mum and then his dad, kept reminding Timothy of his favourite places in Bodnant Garden.
            ‘Hey, what about the time when we three tried to hold hands and wrap ourselves around the huge oak tree just in front of the Ha-Ha, and mum became dizzy just looking up!  And when mum asked if you’d like to sit on the topmost branches and look all around you like a king in his castle, you said, ‘Yes, yes, please, and can I wear a cloak and a crown?’ You made us laugh a lot that day, Timothy.’
            ‘Hmph!’ was all Timothy replied.      
‘You must remember the Ha-Ha?’     
‘No, I don’t.  Not at all!’  
‘Don’t you remember Dad falling into the Ha-Ha when he got too near – you had such a surprise when he disappeared before your eyes – surely you remember that happening, Timothy.  Especially when he popped up again.’
            ‘You must remember the gardener coming up to Dad and telling him that he should not go too near the Ha-Ha?’
            ‘I’m afraid I don’t’, said Timothy loftily.
            ‘Oh, dear,’ said his mum.  ‘Your brain isn’t working very well
today, is it?’
            ‘No, it’s not.  Not at all.’
In his mind, though, Timothy couldn’t help remembering the day they’d formed a chain as they three held hands and tried to wrap themselves around the huge wide trunk of the big oak tree, and of the bright sunshine twinkling above him as he laughed up into the high branches. And he did remember the Ha-Ha: of course he remembered it! His dad had told him that a Ha-Ha was a trench dug out of the ground to separate the big lawn from the park without having to plant a hedge or build a fence.  A hedge or fence would have spoiled the view, you see, his father had explained, so they split the land into two by digging a trench!
            The Crumble family travelled in silence for a while and then Timothy’s dad tried again. ‘And what about all the other trees at Bodnant Garden, there are some very rare ones including the Giant Redwood. You remember us telling you that the Garden’s Great Redwood is the tallest tree in the whole of Britain, don’t you, and that Bodnant have quite a few of them in the Dell?  They were planted about a hundred and fifty years ago, Timothy.  Can you imagine as far back as one hundred and fifty years?’
‘No, I can’t imagine that at all!’  he replied.  ‘Nor can I remember
even a little bit of that tale!’
‘Oh, dear,’ said his mum, and trying again, she said.  ‘And what about your most favourite place – the Laburnum Arch!  How you loved that cool, shady tunnel hanging with streamers of beautiful yellow flowers. Do you remember saying the flowers looked like yellow rain as they hung above you, Timothy?’
            Timothy didn’t answer, but he did remember standing under the
long tassels of yellow rain which, in the breeze, swung and swayed until
the flowers looked as if they dripped golden honey.  He remembered
that the long tassels cast a dappled light all over him.
            ‘Surely, you remember the Arch, Timothy?’
            ‘No, I don’t think I do.’
            Mr and Mrs Crumble hoped Timothy would cheer up once they
arrived at Bodnant.
This was the first time the Crumble family had visited Bodnant
since the new tunnel had been built under the road.  Under the road!  So
that everyone could enter the Garden safely.  Timothy felt he had to race
through the new tunnel to come out into the familiar space near the
shop.  On the way, he saw one of the gardeners, Graeme, working on the
flower bed against the wall, Graeme pulled up bright green weeds and
piled them high into his wheelbarrow.
‘Hello, Timothy Crumble,’ he called out.  ‘Nice to see you again.
Hey, what’s this.  A new baby?  Is it a boy or a girl?’
            Timothy didn’t seem to hear the gardener ask about the new baby.  He just called over his shoulder, ‘Hello, Graeme.’
            ‘Wait for us,’ said his dad.
‘Yes,’ pleaded his mum. ‘Wait for Benji, Timothy.’
Timothy’s dad manoeuvred the pram through the doorway and showed their Family Ticket to the lady in the foyer.  Timothy and Benji’s granddad had bought them a Family Ticket again, so that they could all visit the Garden as many times as they wished.  ‘Good old granddad!  Aren’t we lucky, boys?’ said their Mum to Timothy and the baby who was just waking up.  ‘Would you like to push Benji in his pram, Timothy?’
Timothy Crumble had suddenly cheered up, he put his hands around the pram’s handle and pushed it towards the famous Laburnum Arch, he edged the pram so that baby Benji was right under the golden flowers which hung like yellow rain.  Timothy saw Benji’s face light up as if a sunbeam had kissed it.  ‘You’ve gone a sunshiny yellow!’ said Timothy to his brother and he laughed as the baby tried to reach out and touch the shimmering sunlight.  ‘Look! Benji’s trying to catch the sunbeams!’ announced Timothy, proudly. ‘Isn’t he a clever boy!’  He then showed his brother the way the branches formed a golden arch of flowers above their heads.  
They moved on and when they got to the massive oak tree, Timothy wanted to hold hands again and try to stretch their arms right around the tree’s wide, wide girth.  ‘Let’s get Benji out of his pram and hold his hands, too!’
‘Yes, let’s.’  So Benji was taken out of his pram and between them all, they tried to reach around the tree, balancing Benji and holding his small arms out as wide as they’d go.
‘Oh, no!’  Timothy said, disappointed.  ‘We’ll never do it.  We’ll
have to wait until Benji and I are bigger!  Never mind, Benji, it was a good try.’
Benji was placed safely back into his pram, and Timothy whispered to him.  ‘When you do get bigger, Benji, do you think you’d like to sit on the topmost branches and look all around as if you were a king in his castle, and wear a cloak and a crown?’  He then said, ‘Dad, will you fall into the Ha-Ha while Benji isn’t looking, and pop up again? Please, please!’
‘I’m afraid not, Timothy, I shouldn’t have gone too near it last time.  Ha-Has are not for falling into, not unless I want to get a telling-off again by one of the gardeners!’
But Timothy and his mum turned the pram to face the field with the Ha-Ha sliced through it, and told Benji all about the time dad went too near, fell in, then looked as is he was buried up to his neck when he re-appeared.   Everybody laughed aloud, Timothy louder than anyone else! 
Eventually, they moved on and Timothy asked, ‘Can we take Benji down into the Dell to see the Giant Redwood trees, I want him to know that one is the tallest tree in Britain, and that they were planted over one hundred and fifty years ago!  Do you think he’ll remember all this information?  Do you think he’ll be able to imagine as far back as one hundred and fifty years?’
‘I’m sure he will if you tell him, Timothy.  I’m sure he’ll remember all the information you’ve given him this afternoon, and because of that, who knows how his imagination will grow!’

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