Once upon a time there were four little children…

Like Trigger’s Broom our Swinging Sittee is not now the same as it originally was. Used for many years, it was repaired, patched up, painted and cherished before it finally bit the dust and made space for an entirley new version.

The space it occupies however, has been a constant in our lives. Currently at the bottom of the garden, sheltered by a large oak tree on each side and a holly bush behind, it is a sanctuary and a peaceful oasis. It’s in the dip but allows a full view of the house and garden and in summer it catches the last rays of the sun as it goes down between the two houses on the hill opposite. The fact that it wasn’t always there, in that place, is irrelevant. Its previous location held the same qualities of comfort and security, the space it occupied effectively no different.

The original garden chair was bought for our previous house. An impulse purchase that we never regretted. A stylish three seater with a high back, canopy and cushions. It was a ‘Goldilocks’ chair, the proportions perfect, the seat just the right depth, the arms just the right height and it had room for two adult bottoms and three little ones and the occasional bear. It was well made of honey coloured, seasoned pine and we got it for a song in the Autumn garden centre sale.

The older two immediately named our new chair “The Swinging Sittee”. I placed it at the end of the patio behind the Chumbly House (a wartime bomb shelter I’d converted into a playhouse) where Flop the rabbit lived. Here it would catch the sun, have a view of the garden and be sheltered from the harsher winds.

In good weather it was in constant use, sat on for stories, lain down on at the end of a day’s work or relaxed upon with a G&T when the kids had been put to bed. We’d swing gently as we nattered the day to a close, happy and secure in our haven.

As the Welsh weather gradually wore away the varnish and mouldered the cushions the Sittee changed. It got shabbier but remained strong, the canopy tore in the wind and I resorted to painting the wood in an effort at preservation. It worked for a while and we relocated it to our present house with a larger garden.

It found its new position at the bottom of the sloping lawn as if the space had been waiting for it. I couldn’t imagine it had ever been anywhere else. It seemed to have developed its own gravity; as soon as my wife and I sat on it in the early evening one or two of the kids would be magnetically drawn to join us, then another until we were all sat on, or around.

After a little while my wife would trundle back up to the house to organise tea and I’d make up stories to keep the children occupied. “Once upon a time there were four little children and one day they set off in their car with their mummy and daddy to go to Bristol Zoo…” I’d get to the end with “…and do you know what they were called?” it always amused me to see the realisation cross the little ones’ faces that the story had been about them the whole time.

Time passed, the children grew and the Swinging Sittee deteriorated. Despite a major DIY overhaul that saw its fabric become more filler than wood it became increasingly apparent that the chair had had its day. A carpenter friend thought he might be able to salvage parts of it and took it away.

We found a replacement soon after. A more expensive hardwood version that had sinuous curves and a cantilever canopy construction that looked great but truthfully was not as comfortable or as pleasing. It had also lost the ‘child magnet’ quality, or perhaps it was just that they were getting older and less inclined to gravitate towards us.

The new chair has by now grown into its space, kept the secrets of many a hushed chat on a summer’s evening and become the trusted centre of our outdoor lives.

I pressure wash the algae and bird shit off each spring, tighten all the bolts and oil the metal fittings. The wood has silvered with age and developed a beautiful soft fuzz that is nice to the touch. As it is in full evening sunshine, I made a couple of shades that fit on the ends of the wide arms to keep our drinks cool in the sweet summertimes that we so look forward to.

It is sheltered and dry beneath the canopies of the oaks, even in heavy summer rain and I love to sit there, often with the cat, watching the garden soak up the water and breathe in the heavy damp air, enjoying the enforced rest. Watching the world change.

As a childminder, my wife now tells stories and sings to other people’s children at the bottom of the garden. I like to think that one day ours will bring theirs to the Swinging Sittee and tell them the little stories that anchor us in a history of ourselves.

All this, and Welsh too.

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