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Yesterday I visited Kew gardens for the first time and while wandering through the glasshouses I was met, unexpectedly, with a great sense of nostalgia. I was taken right back to the gardens I played in as a child in Jeddah! Giant Neems, Acacias, Rhododendrons, Palms and the smell of dates fallen and fermenting in the sun, the little banana tree by our back gate, small shiny brown seeds popping out of pods and me scraping those seeds up to add to a mud pie.

If I was ever to write an autobiography I would set the whole thing in gardens and gardens alone, luckily I don’t actually intend on ever writing this personal history through gardens but I have dug out an old poem I wrote in honour of our garden in Jeddah.

Garden Wall
You were there when we arrived
Dressed in dead rhododendron and dust
You held our tree house on two sides
Shedding layers like a weak wafer
You left crumb piles on the beds bellow.

You were there, still, when we left
Dressed in full bougainvillea and
Home to several strays
Your holes, perfect ant’s nests.

That day we wondered,
If we had asked you, would you have followed?
Garden wall? And now
If I was to call on you, would you come?
If I was to call out ‘Wall, make me a garden’

Would you find whatever it was that I loved
And hold us in your concrete hug,
Garden wall.

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Rahima Fitzwilliam Hall

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