The linden trees are in bloom and the air is thick with their sickly sweet scent. At night they ooze sap and drip it like spoonfuls of treacle onto the car’s shiny paintwork, leaving it tacky and rough to the touch.
There once grew a linden tree outside my childhood home in France. The honey-jasmine smell is a poignant memory. I not only remember the smell, so familiar, but the soundtrack of a thousand bees crowding, competing for nectar.
This tree, like so many others, was a haven for wildlife as well as for us humans. We would sit under her shade and waste the afternoons away… Adults with wine, kids hanging from the suspended tyre.
Many childhood days were spent elevated from the ground in amongst the branches. Cherry trees in June. Purple stains from lips to finger tips. Tummy rumbles in the nights.
An old chestnut tree that hugged the river bank in August. A scramble of grazed knees and splinters in feet, leading us hurriedly across the bow from which we would swing in anticipation of the icy cold splash below.
Like a sheet of perfect glass suddenly shattered by the crashing of children’s bodies against its quickening surface, echoed by cries of delight, as our friends and us would repeat the the cycle of climb and drop, climb and drop.
A lost childhood hiding in trees or in ruins of what once must have been stately homes, but now faded and broken stones. The remnants of an old staircase or a rotten door leading underground, to a dark and damp abandoned wine cellar. Musky blackness holds the space for all creatures of the imagination, until the eyes adjust and a stolen lighter illuminates the salt crystals that cling to the concave ceiling like miniatures glistening stalactites.
We would wander like a band of vagabonds. Sporting fantasies of a Tom Sawyeresque existence. Our daylight hours occupied primarily with avoiding the attention of adults. “Staying out of trouble” to us, meant staying out of the way, out of sight.
Come sundown, However we were rarely out of earshot. The magical hour when so often their laughter had transgressed into argument.
Peaks in volume, that had equated an outburst of applause earlier in the day, now had an edge to them. Humour seemingly vacant from the crepuscular hours.
We would shy away from the uncomfortable sound. Escaping into an alternative universe…
Now the smell of the linden tree a distant memory, replaced with the burning smell of citronella… pungent in the air.