She stands there, on the platform with her back to the waiting train, waving at us. She’s wearing a bright, beaming smile and a summer dress with colour combinations last seen in a late ’70’s edition of Glamour magazine. She’s holding an old tote bag filled with leaflets of knitting patterns and a crossword book. There’s probably a Damart catalogue in there too and a single-journey ticket. Her recent pain and suffering cannot mask a lifetime of love written in the lines on her face. People dash to-and-fro in front and behind her but they’re blurry, diaphanous, she’s visible through them all. The sun is high and the train tracks sparkle as they gently curve away into a hazy distance, the platform wavers.
There’s an announcement from the tannoy but it’s about as discernible as any voice can be when forced out through tinny little speakers. Despite not being able to make out any words, the discordant tone is unambiguous, the train is leaving soon.
She has to be on it.
My smile starts to falter. We’re all there behind the ticket barriers, frantically waving back at her. There’s all the busy hubbub of a major city train station: pigeons fly haphazardly overhead, the station clock is telling a time but the numbers don’t follow in order. The letters on the old-fashioned Departure boards clatter as they rapidly flick through the alphabet, A to Z and round again, never settling.
Over the general noise, she’s shouting, “Have you put out the recycle bin?” and quite possibly, “Have you set the video to record ‘Celebrity Crosswits’?” but she can’t hear our desperate replies. Tears are beginning to fall from her eyes, they’re streaming from ours. Reality is asserting itself, bringing a growing sense of urgency, it borders on panic. Time moves forwards but sometimes it moves back, it spins out of control. There might be all the time in the world, there might be none left. All of it is borrowed.
Amongst all this wavering uncertainty, the waiting train is a solid, gleaming, modern marvel, many carriages long with many people already on board, animatedly visible through the windows. She will soon be too, safe and comfortable in its welcoming care.
There’s a cheery, small six-petalled yellow flower with a deeper yellow centre stencilled onto the train for its logo. That deeper yellow is a trumpet, the flower is a daffodil. The silver lettering on the side reads, “Marie Curie Diamond”. The very same daffodils that are already flowering in the garden, their green leaves having long-since broken through the frozen surface of the winter soil. I’ll be there, watching wondrously at the swathe of beacon-yellow that sweeps across the main border, a host of Marie Curie Diamond daffodils cheering in early spring.
The show will be beautiful, but it’s too late, the platform is empty, the train has gone.
So I’ll never get to show her how beautiful it is. All I’ll have left are memories, an aching void, and perhaps an old recording of ‘Celebrity Crosswits’.
But as the Garden opens for the National Garden Scheme (NGS) this year, eager visitors will come and be able to experience what she wasn’t able to and in going about the garden, enjoying tea and cake and buying plants and cards, the money raised will go to the NGS and onwards to supporting Marie Curie and the train she now travels on.
And there is the irony, the tragedy and the hope, in daffodils, in the garden, in charity and in the final departure of a most dear loved one.
Marie Curie is the UK’s leading end of life charity. It provides frontline nursing and hospice care, a free support line and a wealth of information and support on all aspects of dying, death and bereavement.
Marie Curie Diamond is a British-bred daffodil, named to celebrate the diamond anniversary of Marie Curie Cancer Care.
National Garden Scheme gives visitors unique access to over 3,500 exceptional private gardens in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands, and raises impressive amounts of money for nursing and health charities through admissions, teas and cake.
The National Garden Scheme donated £450,000 to Marie Curie in 2022 alone through its Open Gardens scheme, which the Garden at 13 Broom Acres is now a part of, opening to the public for the first time in 2023.
The main border in the Garden is densely planted with a large carpet of mixed-variety daffodils, of which a quarter are Marie Curie Diamond.
Prue Foster, now a star in the night sky