Television is often criticised for damaging children's minds, corrupting young brains, the source of all eville and wrong in society. Whilst it is true we perhaps watch too much television or spend too long sat in front of a computer screen, it is an injustice to think television cannot be educational or inspirational.
The other day I visited Dyffryn Gardens, a stately home in the Vale of Glamorgan with vast, beautiful gardens. The house is a typical Edwardian structure, a superb building to gaze at (if you enjoy architecture as much as I do). The gardens are a wonder, even to a gardening/flower ignoramous such as myself. Each section with a different theme, almost like outdoor rooms - my favourite, for example, is the Pompeii styled garden, with it's Roman-esque pillars and layout.
My parents used to take us to Dyffryn Gardens regularly when we were growing up, but I had not been there for years. Returning there was a sudden passage back to my childhood, reminiscent of Sunday afternoons; the exhiliration of running around on the grass of the gardens, elaborately ridiculous games with my sisters; the sensation of slight sadness that only Sundays seem to be draped in - that the weekend was on the wane, that the shackles of school beckoned, and that fun freedom was to be banished soon.
But most of all, I was struck with the memory of a tv show. Back in the 1980s, Children's BBC had a wealth of wonderful tv programmes, and the adaptations of books were most definitely my favourites. Two of my favourite books growing up as a child, were also adapted into enchanting TV series. These books were Tom's Midnight Garden written by Phillipa Pearce, and Helen Cresswell's Moondial. Both wonderful books and the two subsequent tv shows had a profounding effect on me as a child, and have stayed with me ever since.
Both stories involve supernatural, other-worldly occurances; both look at themes of time, of the past and history. These storylines captured my imagination, and possibly influenced my later interests.
But it was Moondial that I loved the most. A ghost story, a dark tale, where bad things happen in the world. It is a rather mature storyline, and rather sinister undertones. And I don't just mean the spooky music. I feel forever indebted to Helen Cresswell's superb writing.
Dyffryn Gardens reminded me of the house and gardens in the story. Every time we visited I used to pretend I was in the story, dreaming up my own ghosts and images of the past. The statues were the ghosts, whom would come alive if I stared at them long enough. I adored the pretence, the being the characters; all so much more interesting and exciting than myself. As most children do, I used to pray and dream that this other world would pay me a visit. I would stand at the gardens' sundial and pretend it was the moondial in the book, imagining the landscape spinning me into the past.
I saw the tv version before I read the book. The programme introduced me to a whole new world of the supernatural, of darkness. It led me to read the novel, which I devoured eagerly. Ever since, I have loved these dark themes. It was the forefather of my love for David Lynchian perspectives, that has influenced my view on the world through writing and photography.
All these memories came flooding back when I re-visited the estate. The walls are cleaner now, the gardens tidier; there's a visitor centre all shiny and new, but the mystic spark of the gardens is still there, the dreamy connotations amidst the creeping ivy and array of bony hand-tree branches, that something special existed beyond the mundane reality. Like in Tom's Midnight Garden, as I thought about my childhood, I was struck by the sad reality of time passing, of us all falling into the inevitable. And I was left to ponder the influence some fantastic television storytelling had on me, as I walked amongst the statues whose stony eyes stalked my movements, still dreaming of that something beautifully magical whispering amongst the leaves.
My photographs of Dyffryn Gardens