The Past Tense Of Youth: Innocence

schlossgartenI was born the daughter of Edward Hartley the 4th Earl of Carnavon and  home was Greylin Castle in Cumberland North west of England.    My parents had christened me Emmily  but everyone called me Emma and I was spoiled rotten.  I had grown up in a beautiful world of social etiquette complete with nanny’s, maids and butlers.  Life had been a virtual fairytale  lived in a comfortable cocoon of sublime innocence.  I had two sisters Laura and Mary who were both older than I was and tended to stick together most of the time.  I remember feeling quite lonely and being the daughter an Earl and a cabinet minister to boot wasn’t always easy as he was hardly ever there.  My parents were very much in love but my father was often away and my mother missed him greatly.  They had met in a far off country called Albania where they had danced together at an embassy ball.  My mother was a great beauty and the daughter of an Albanian diplomat. My father had fallen in love with her right there and then and after a whirlwind romance they were married.

My father was apparently well revered by the Albanians and even more so when it was known that he was courting my mother who was one of their own.   He had been a champion of the Albanian cause  and had been instrumental in the drawing up of a treaty on  their behalf  in London in the year of 1913. Coincidentally this was also the year of my birth.   I had found out about the Albanian connection when at the age of  exactly 10 years old I had gatecrashed one of father’s dinner parties in the great Hall anxious to meet the Duke of Atholl who was to be an honoured dinner guest.  

The Duke, who was a decorated military hero,mentioned that he had been offered the throne of that country.  A throne which my father had also been offered but had turned down. This had set tongues wagging and Albania was the main topic of conversation for much of the evening with my father reminiscing and telling stories of his adventures including a recount of the night he met and fell in love with my mother. It would be many years later that I would learn the significance of this memory and the role it would play in my life.

when my parents were together they made a striking couple.  I remember them dancing together on the patio at dusk after the party was over, when I was suppose to be in bed asleep,to the cavernous sounds of the gramophone.  Bathed in the silver strands weaved by the moon as if they were the only two in the world.  One day I would find a love like that.  Ah but my love would come from a far off land and my life would be one of mystery and intrigue.  Of that I was certain.

My mother pined for my father when he was away but was kept busy with a grand manor to manage and all the servants to organise. This meant that she often did not have time for us and we were very much left to our own devices.  Because my sisters were never around I spent much of my time reading or wondering about the grounds.  My very favourite place was the garden.

When my mother had time to spare she too would spend some time in the garden generally late afternoon or early evening.  I often watched my mother sitting there alone from my bedroom window and tried to commune with her telepathically.  I admired her serenity and tried to emulate it.  When I was in the garden, however, I found it impossible to be serene.  So much happened there right in front of my eyes.  Bees pollinated the flowers, worms moved under the dirt and butterflies spoke to me of freedom.  There in the garden my world came to life.  I would sit there for hours alternately reading my fairy tale romances and living them in my head whilst revelling in the splendour of the flowerbeds.

Such was my blissful childhood.   If only such innocence could last forever but even I would have to grow up sometime.  My advanced reading skills and imaginative fervour stood me in good stead for a university education.  Well actually I think it had more to do with my family credentials than my intellectual capabilities.  Anyway like my father before me I was educated at Oxford and in the year of 1935  I graduated with  an English/history degree.  My father decided that we should celebrate my great achievement with a holiday to Australia of all places.  My sisters had both married by this time and I at the fresh age of just 22 was ready to face the world beyond.  The sky was the limit.  The moon and the stars would be mine.

© Renee Dallow ( Hybiscus Bloom ) 11/9/2014





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