I am the fly in the Amber,
The exception that proves the rule.
Tho’ I mayn’t knock nails in the Council’s walls,
I plug them with handy tool.
I am growing grass on the garden plot,
Where the others grow lettuce and peas.
The rest of them wash on Monday;
I wash when I please.
Oh! the neighbours are kind, and the house is good,
The rent is small and the garden large.
Apple trees stand in an ordered square,
The paths are smooth and the view is fair,
Surely there’s nothing to wish for there.
Well, I’d like a bath-room, however small,
But what I really want, most of all,
Is an evergreen hedge that is six feet tall,
Growing all round my garden plot,
That I can wander behind,
And dig, or laze in contented ease,
Sowing my seeds just when I please,
Breaking the rules at my own sweet will
With no one to give me advice.
M.H. June 1944
‘Council Houses’ was written in the month after May and daughter Jean had moved into ‘Council House No 3’ on Skegness Road on 10th May (see 3rd June 1944). The poem alludes to unwanted gardening advice from new neighbours (see 4th June 1944). The move from their home at ‘Lenton Lodge’ in Anderby Road was necessitated by the death of May’s husband Will on 29th March (see 15th April 1944).
The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.
Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?