Saturday 18 April 2015

The Inner Child at the RBG

Today is Seraphic Singles Saturday, but I want to talk about Inner Children. Everyone has an Inner Child, or should. Your Inner Child is the part of you that still likes to jump in puddles and/or piles of leaves, write stories, draw pictures, bake brownies, knead bread and squidge minced beef between your fingers while you are making hamburgers. Your Inner Child is also the part of you that make you popular with children: she likes to buy and wrap toys, do kooky dances, sing kooky songs and even tell kooky stories on demand.

If you totally ignore your Inner Child, and just do Grown Up Things all the time, bad stuff happens. You spend too much watching or reading stuff no responsible adult would let a child read. You stay up too late. You get cranky. You eat too much or not enough. You might even drink too much booze and not enough water. And you expect other people to entertain you, even if that's just the people on TV. You might even think a man is the solution to your feeling cranky and uncared for, and feel discontented with the one you have, or feel worse that you don't have one in the first place. 

Julia Cameron's The Artist Way adds that you might also be blocked creatively or artistically and invites those following her program to go on "weekly artist dates" with their "inner artist" who is, naturally, their Inner Child. And if you particularly like children, and miss having children of your own, it can be enormously comforting to talk to the Inner Child within and listen to what she says in return. It's kind of make-believe, and it's kind of not. Meanwhile, in terms of life, even married life, there are some things other people just cannot do for you. If you are always uncomfortable doing things "alone", then you are...well, not really free. 

Artist's dates cost something in time, but they don't have to cost much in money. One of the really nice things about art galleries and museums in Edinburgh is that many of them are free. (Donations gratefully accepted, of course.) Libraries are also free, and if they don't stock the book your Inner Child terribly wants, well, children's books are not that expensive, especially in used book shops. If your Inner Child wants to ramble in an old cemetery (and we have rather exciting ones in Edinburgh), cemeteries also have free admission. And sometimes you will discover that all your Inner Child really wants to do is sit in a café, draw a picture and colour it in.  

So far the Inner Child and I have gone to the Museum of Childhood (okay), bought and read Dancing Shoes (excellent) the Dovecot (closed too early), the Rice-Talbot Museum (weird and grown-up), the Edinburgh Museum (very cool, especially the poor dead Viking in the floor) and even the hipster café to draw a Madonna and Child. (We still have finish them and colour them in.) And yesterday we had perhaps our most successful artist date so far, which was to the Royal Botanical Gardens, even though I couldn't find the bus and got lost on the way.

"This isn't very clever, is it?" asked the Inner Child.

"No," I admitted. "But cleverness is not always the most important thing. Sometimes the most important thing is perseverance."

"Is that why there are so many trashy novels?" asked the Inner Child.

"Absolutely," I said. "The most important thing when writing is not being clever but finishing the piece of writing. If you finish, you can go back and clean it up. But if you never finish, it's not really anything except practice for the next thing. Meanwhile, you should have some idea of where you are going before you start to go there. For example, I know the Botanics is farther away than Stockbridge, but not so far away as Leith."

And within the hour, we had found it, and discovered that it was FREE unless you wanted to see inside the greenhouses. I didn't want to see the greenhouses because I had a special treat for the Inner Child, quite apart from the lemonade I ordered at once in the restaurant. Meanwhile, I pulled Harry Potter out of my bag, so as to have something to read while I rested.

"I'm sorry it's in Polish," I said to the Inner Child, who hates school.

"It's okay because it's Harry Potter," said the Inner Child. "Besides I understand what is going on now. It's Tom Riddle and he's pulled Harry into the past and Harry is listening to his conversation with the old headmaster."

"Um, yes."

"See? I don't hate all school. I just hate it when school ignores ME. Okay, well, I also hate it when it's really hard, but I don't mind later when it's easier. ROFL."

We paid for the lemonade.

"And now," I said, "we will go to the super-artistic bit."

"That is the part I can't figure out," said the Inner Child. "I mean I like flowers, I guess, especially when I remember what they are called, but this is supposed to be an Artist Date. Where's the art?"

"Horticulture is an art in itself," I said. "Gardeners design flower gardens and they even make new kinds of flowers by breeding them. But meanwhile there is something very special in the Queen Mother's Memorial Gardens--if I remember correctly, that is."

Off we went in the direction of the Queen Mother's Memorial Garden. It was a sunny day, but not really warm. Mild, at best. I was a little sorry I hadn't worn a proper coat and jolly glad I had brought a warm shawl. The flowers, shrubs and trees on the way to the Memorial Garden all had signs attached or planted among them to tell people what they were. That was very cool.

And then there was the Queen Mother's Memorial Garden, featuring a clever, if currently leafless, bog myrtle maze of interlocking "E"s, and four corners corresponding to the four corners of the Earth the Queen Mum had travelled around. And behind the maze was a little stone hut flanked by young olive trees planted in terracotta buckets.

"It's a SHELL HOUSE," shrieked the Inner Child.

You see, the Historical House once had a beautiful shell house, a little stone hut all inlaid with shells and semi-precious stones. The outside was similarly decorated, and it was a lovely little thing until the 1950s when trespassers began to vandalize it, stealing the shells and the semi-precious stones, and knocking in the stones. Now our shell house is an utter ruin, and when as part of a school project children put a papier-maché mermaid into it, someone jumped in and set fire to her. 

The grounds of the Historical House have had a rough time since the Second World War. 

Anyway, I read years ago that the designer of the shell house in the Queen Mother's Memorial Garden had studied our shell house (and presumably photos of it before it was destroyed) before making one for the RBG. Thus, the Inner Child and I got to see for the first time how nice ours must have been. This one had polished wooden window seats with church-like windows behind and a bronze medallion of the Queen Mother (born Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later Queen Consort of George VI) set in stone. The walls were covered in scallop shells of matching sizes, mussels, whelks and pebbles. The ceiling was covered in a pattern of pine cones, some quite huge.

Naturally the Inner Child was delighted by the whole thing, including the incomprehensible and almost worshipful affection of the UK (and Canada up until about 1980) for the Queen Mother during the last 80 years of her life, leading to this pretty temple. The Inner Child even insisted that I pick up the shiny red candy wrapper polluting the stone floor. Then we went to see what all the flowering plants  around were called. The ones we liked best were the berberis "Apricot Queen" and the berberis "Orange King", the magnolia stellata "Royal Star" and all the various narcissi.

"Oh look, Outer Adult", said the Inner Child with bliss. "There's a great door pruned into that enormous hedge."

We went through it to look at the Alpine Section, and after admiring the brilliant red and yellow tulips and various narcissi and muscari. Then we wandered towards the duck pond, admiring the various different rhododendrons and the wonderful primulas. There were ducks in the pond, and human babies wailing beside it in their prams, being soothed in English or Polish, depending on the babies. There were also many interesting trees, including six giant sequoias near the "Rocky Mountain" section. And the last very pretty tree we noticed was a shapely "Kazakh Pear" covered in lovely white blossoms.

"Can we go to the gift shop?"

"Yes, of course," said I, as this was after all, the Inner Child's weekly treat. However, we didn't buy anything until we found ourselves in Stockbridge, whereupon we bought bread and tonic water for B.A. and Seminarian Pretend Son and a coffee and mazarin for ourselves.

The Inner Child was almost beside herself with bliss. We had seen a snow-white heron on the way, too, skimming over the Water of Leith.

While I was in the Botanics, I thought it was a shame I hadn't paid more attention to the natural world when I was a child. I was in in all the time--being a Brownie, Girl Guide and Pathfinder--but my usual outdoor activity was day-dreaming, constant day-dreaming. Of course, the day-dreaming was very often about coming back to Britain, where I had lived  as a very small child and idolized as an older one.  So possibly the Royal Botanical Gardens would NOT have been wasted on me as a child!

At any rate, the Inner Child really loved our trip to the RBG, and I think we shall go at least once a month in the spring, summer and fall, to see what is new. Maybe we will even take B.A., but we rather doubt it as he is not so much into cultivated flowers. He does like wildflowers, however, which shows he has a soul.


  1. The drawing of the child you posted here reminded me of something: the fact that I was so struck by how much you resembled Princess Merida (?) in the Pixar cartoon film Brave. (Not that the drawing resembles the princess, it just set that train of thought in motion.) It's usually risky to say that anyone looks like anyone else, but in this case both the personality of the princess, as far as I could gather from the clips because I never saw the movie, and her appearance, were so startlingly like you - given the cartoon form - that I could have sworn you'd sat for the film as a model. Perhaps dozens of people have told you this already? Anyway, I hope you don't mind my mentioning it.

    I always like your Inner Child posts, especially when She writes them, but the ones written by your outer adult are also lots of fun.

    Alias Clio

  2. Amusingly enough, when my younger nephew and my niece first saw the princess in "Brave", they thought she was me. Hee hee hee! I really should see it myself.


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