Cherry Blossom (Pollock style) – acrylic drip painting
One of the societies I belong to, The Arts Society of Ulster, recently held it’s annual open exhibition at Merville House. This has become a regular venue for the ASU, however, normally, this exhibition takes place at the end of the summer. It was such a lovely surprise when I rolled up for the opening night (ahem… to receive my Bigger and Strachan Award for portraiture – thought I might just get that in!) to find Merville Garden Village in full cherry blossom bloom. Now it’s not that I didn’t know this place existed – my aunt Helen, my mother’s sister, who used to live with us until I was born, moved into a flat in Merville Garden Village and lived there for 37 years until her death in 1987. We visited her home regularly but cherry blossom time was a must for an extra special visit. We would set off on a Sunday, straight after church, for roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings (lunch was what posh people did!) and we’d stay for tea of home-made victoria sponge, shortbread (best I’ve ever tasted), date bars, fudge, pots of tea and lemonade for us kids. In between these two feasts we would take a dander (stroll) through the estate and down to the glen which lay behind her block of flats. There we were met with the most wonderful aroma and sight of wild garlic – masses of little, white, star-shaped flowers interspersed with bluebells.
I left home in 1969 and during the 70’s and 80’s the said glen became gradually less and less visited by my aunt on account of the sad recent history of our part of Ireland and the fear (rational or not) of what might be found there. So, of course, once my memory had been prompted, I had to take a nostalgic stroll through Merville Garden Village and down to the glen fearing the worst – that the glen might not even exist any more, but to my delight, the wild garlic and the bluebells were as profuse as ever and the cherry blossom lit up the sky. Now it’s a long, long time since I attended any church but if aunt Helen is looking down (she would definitely be in heaven!) I think her heart would soar as mine did yesterday at the sight of Merville Garden Village at Cherry Blossom Time.
Outside auntie’s flat in the mid-60s with young cherry trees
Mum and auntie (right) outside her block of flats
Another interesting fact is that Sir Stanley Spencer, English painter, painted Merville Garden Village in 1951.
Merville Garden Village lies north of Belfast in Newtownabbey off the Belfast Lough Shore Road. If you want to see the cherry blossom you’ll need to hurry – the wind is picking up and it won’t last!