Saturday, March 05, 2011

The tale of a swing-seat

Isn’t it odd what we set our hearts on, even if it’s totally unsuited to our circumstances? As I mentioned in my last post, DH and I have lived for many years in an old farmhouse high in the Welsh hills, with an unkempt apology for a garden, no appreciable lawn, and not a neighbouring house in sight. And yet what did I yearn for?  A swing-seat, that’s what, the kind of garden equipment that cries out for a barbered lawn or neat patio, neither of which this place has ever had or is ever likely to have.

Ten years ago we left our house in the tender hands of tenants and moved into the huge Edwardian vicarage which went with my new post as vicar of three small rural parishes, a few miles away across the valley. Lawn we then had aplenty, a full tennis-court’s worth in fact, but I was so busy that I hardly ever had time even to look at it, let alone think about putting a swing-seat on it for my rare leisure moments.

It wasn’t until I moved to Oxfordshire three years later, to a part-time post that carried with it a nice, modern house in a small village, that we acquired the kind of garden that could reasonably be graced with a swing-seat. On leaving my previous parishes I’d been given a gift of money as a farewell-present, so what better way to remember the kindness and generosity of my former parishioners than to treat myself to something I had dreamed of for so long.

Thus it was that my swing-seat entered my life. We bought it in a garden centre as a kit to take home and assemble, before placing it in our back garden which boasted a small lawn and an even smaller patio. What could be more simple? Just lay out the components on the sitting-room floor, read the instructions and, in next to no time, voilà, my heart’s desire in my very own garden. Several hours, much muttered cursing, and the odd pinched finger or two later, DH and I finally threw down the instructions, which might as well have been left in their original Chinese for all the use they were, and staggered into the garden with the finished product.

But oh, it was worth it! I sat on it, swung a little, and was mentally transported into a timeless (and probably idealised) world of long, leisurely summer afternoons in the garden, with tea on the lawn and a restful read or doze on the swing-seat, all my troubles forgotten or disappeared.

That was the theory and, just occasionally, the practice. More often it became a place for sitting with parishioners to chat or listen to their problems and concerns, and from time to time a plaything for visiting grandsons, or somewhere to cuddle them and read them a story.

Then, quite unexpectedly, it became the place where I could sit with family and friends, as I came to terms with my second cancer diagnosis in seven years and faced a possibly very uncertain future. Sitting and swinging gently as we talked didn’t take away the uncertainty and fear, but it made them more bearable, because they were shared with people who really cared. Later the swing-seat became the place where I could rest and recuperate during the lovely Indian summer days which followed my surgery, until I was well enough to go back to work and the swing-seat was put away in the garage to wait for the return of summer.

Finally, it came back with us when I retired and we returned to Wales. Now that we spend every summer in Normandy, it isn't getting much use here and seems to have entered upon a well-earned retirement of its own.  Perhaps one day DH and I will summon up the courage to take it apart and reassemble it in France. Until then, whenever I see it I’m reminded of how important our dreams are to us, even if they don’t always come true in the way we imagined.


  1. There is something incredibly soothing about swinging isn't there? I just love it and I'm glad your swing seat has played such an important role in your life. It has obviously been much loved and much used.

  2. There's nothing quite like it, Wylye Girl. We really must tackle taking it apart and trust that it wil all go back together in France :-)

  3. We have an inherited one that I love - must be nearly 100 now. It adds the feeling of continuity to the peace of rocking gently. Can't wait for summer.

  4. Oh, you must have a lovely wooden one, Rosie. Lucky you! I couldn't afford wood, so mine definitely won't last 100 years, but it still swings beautifully.

  5. I have a rocking deckchair. Can this count? Att least for the next - as it seems now - five years of my semi-retirement (I don't think I will feel properly retired until The Husband is, too). Once we have remodelled our little Welsh house for permanent full-time living I might consider a swing seat, so long as it doesn't make me spill my G&T.

  6. P-I-T will remember the swing at her childhood home but she may not know that there was a swing almost in the same position over a hundred years ago.

    Her moorland cottage home was then a tea room for walkers. Although probably intended for the children of customers, as well as the little girl that lived there, no doubt many adult customers used the swing also.

    One can imagine them swinging back and forth, taking lungs full of the bracing, smoke-free air, before their walk back to the local mill town and another long week weaving in a in a stifling dusty atmosphere.

    It was said that the town could not be seen from the nearby hills except during Wakes Week when there was no smoke from the many mill chimneys.

  7. Goldenoldenlady, if it moves while you're sitting in it, it counts :-) I have certainly never spilt my drink while swinging in my seat, though I did knock over the teapot once when I put the table too close to the seat!

  8. That's fascinating, PolkaDot! I knew about the valley full of smoke when the mills were working, but had forgotten about the tea-room and the earlier swing. Perhaps I'm programmed by my childhood surroundings to enjoy swinging :-)

  9. Thank-you for visiting me at mine. It is a pleasure to find new readers and things to read. What a lyrical style you have. I always think of swing seats as American: something you should have on your veranda/porch by the front door, sounds like yours needs to go to France!

  10. Nice of you to visit, hausfrau, and glad you like it :-) I know what you mean about swingseats on porches, but to me they are synonymous with tea on the lawn. As I have a better approximation of a lawn in France than here, we really should wrestle it apart and take it.

  11. I have always wanted a nearest to getting one was when one of the local Leclercs had them on offer, but, of course, on charging down there before they could run out I found that the wretched things had never arrived!

    Here, the hammock is king...and I loathe the things.
    A leg is the least one shows on getting out of it in a hurry.

  12. That seems typical of the French supply chain from what I've heard, Fly. If it's any comfort I too loathe hammocks, which feel so insecure and tip me ignominiously onto the ground when I try to get out.


I welcome your comments and will always try to respond to them. Thank you for reading.