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Topiary for beginners

The story so far.

Here is Albert Trimmings and his cat Ned.

Albert, a widower of some 20 years lives in Bradley, a Northern town. Sadly, Madge his wife , and childhood sweetheart died of a strange case of the cholic, after eating a bag of wine gums, too fast. Albert and family members had tried to tell her for years to slow down, but would she listen ?. No ! And she tragically suffered the consequences ! One minute she was there, The next minute she was lying on the floor, holding her tummy and murmering the words, " red and and green ", and something about her spleen "

The coroners verdict, which was more of a guess, reckoned that the combination of the red, raspberry one and green, apple flavoured wine gums eaten at the same time and with such huge velocity had done for her ! His recommendation to the wine gum industry was that they should put a warning on the paper bags, holding the gums ! Advising the speed to chew and the safe colour combinations to be used for a healthy eating experience !

Too late for Madge, sadly !

Anyway, Albert had spent all his working life, from leaving elementary school, working at the local power station.

Once a year the gaffers at the power station organised a charabanc holiday for the workers. Madge when she was alive would accompany Albert on these exciting trips. Albert, although retired, and no longer working for the company was still allowed to go along and looked forward to the charabanc trips, and thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful venues and places they visited.

Sometimes his sister Alda, would come along too. She lived around the corner from him. In fact you can see Alda's rather 'risque' undies on the washing line to the right of the picture, swaying in the wind . 

Alda, when she was a girl was a bit of a 'wanderer', absconding from school, and getting in to trouble. She had a bit of a reputation and was often found at school, behind the bike sheds with some boy, or other !

The boys of the district used to joke that on Christmas day, if you were lucky to be invited, to the house, you could have a Christmas meal, turkey, and Alda Trimmings !

Well, this year, Albert was very excited about the works, charabanc holiday !

The gaffers had organised, at great cost !  A tour of North Lancashire UCP tripe shops ! with organised tastings !

He hadn't slept for weeks ! He was so excited !

Even Ned the cat, licked his lips at the prospect of Albert bringing some complimentary tripe samples home. He had positively purred at the prospect, till it hurt !

So off Albert went,and Alda looked after Ned, while he was away.

Between tripe tasting locations, the charabanc driver  decided to take a detour and told the works outing that they were in for a 'bit of culture'. Subsequently, he took them to Brassington Hall, a stately home, owned by Lord and Lady Poncenbury-Shufflebottom - Smythe.

Albert was entranced by the hall, it's surroundings, and especially, the garden. So much so, that he bought himself a book from the gift shop, and a postcard to give to Alda.

The Brassington Hall tour guide had taken them to see the 'Italianate' bit of the garden, with it's clipped trees and bushes. Albert was awe-inspired and knew what he was going to do , once he got back home, to Bradley !

And this is why he bought the book.

The book was called, 'Topiary for beginners', by Ivor Hollybush. A best seller ! Not to be confused with ' Topiary for Gorillas' by Arthur Sycamore ! In fact so limited was the reading clientele for that book, that only a few were bought by zoos around the World.In fact,  London Zoo purchased one for a birthday present to give to Guy the gorilla , thinking it might relieve some of the boredom, endlessly eating bananas and 'seeing' to the 'lady' gorillas, but in fact, he took one look at it, sniffed it, tore it apart  and literally digested it !   Oh and a couple of the books were sold in remote areas of African Congo !

Meanwhile Albert, as soon as he got home, grabbed the garden shears from off the hook in the outhouse and set to work. and in between cups of tea and rich tea biscuits, he created his garden masterpiece ! Transforming his privet hedge into a homage to his Northern roots. A symbol that represented and epitomised the pride at being a northern, working class, proud, man.


Every home had a set of ceramic ducks over the mantlepiece !

He took a picture of it with his box brownie camera and sent it to the author Ivor Hollybush, and was thrilled to get a letter back from the author congratulating him on his endeavours, saying he was a 'natural' and a 'one off' !

And here he is, posing for the Bradley Advertiser, with proud cat Ned by his feet. Even the Mayor of Bradley came along with other civic dignitaries to admire Albert's hedge and bask in the reflective glory of Albert's new found fame. Also, Percy Throwup, the celebrity gardener, invited him to speak on his wireless program . Alda was so proud !

And that's where we leave Albert Trimmings, Alda, his sister and Ned the cat.

( by the way, Albert has now acquired from the local library, a copy of  ' Advanced Topiary and Unusual Clematis training'  by Ivy Buckett. He's going to have a go at the hedge in the back garden. He keeps muttering something about ' ferrets' ! )

Good luck Albert !

I was born  and brought up in Ardwick, Manchester,  in a working class family, and yes ! .................. I do have a set of three flying ducks.

Here they are.

They were made by Summerbank Pottery in Staffordshire. Probably between 1940 - 1959.

I wouldn't part with them.

I remember as a boy watching Coronation Street on the black and white TV, and there was Stan and Hilda Ogden, some of the main characters, with a set of ducks on the wall over the fireplace. The joke was that one of the ducks was always askew ! In fact I remember, as a boy, watching them filming an episode in Bennet Street Ardwick, where I lived . It was like Hollywood coming to our street in Ardwick !

I hope you liked the story of Albert, Ned and Alda.

Take care


Keep the ducks flying !

( by the way, I know people from around the World look at this site and may be wondering what a charabanc is ?

It's an old fashioned bus/coach. It is pronounced ........     sharabang  ) 

I just read an article where I believe , Collins Dictionary have removed the word..........and the word aerodrome.      Sacrilege !

UCP tripe shops existed in many Northern towns and cities. There were trays of different coloured tripe, black puddings etc in the window, but very often there was a cafe at the back of the shop. 

At the end of Bennet Street, in the early 60's, towards Hyde Road, was Ellis's cake and pie shop. To this day I haven't had a better meat and potato pie, than Ellis's ! They also sold Manchester tart. ( a traditional English baked tart. It had a shortcrust pastry shell, spread  with raspberry jam, then covered in custard and topped with desiccated, coconut and topped with a cherry. )

But for now, present day, Holland's, meat and potato pies............................. Bliss !

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