Cartwheels on the Grass: a story from our archives

girl doing cartwheels


by Angela Pickering

Some of the delights of being a little girl stay with us forever…

Come along, Nan,” said Rosie, tugging at her hand. “Let’s go and practise our cartwheels in the garden.”

Sue found herself rising to her feet as if to comply with her granddaughter’s instructions, when fortunately the voice of reason floated through from the kitchen.

“Mum, don’t you dare!”

Sue smiled. “Your mum’s right, sweetie. I’m too old now for cartwheels. I’ll just watch. I could never do them anyway,” she added under her breath.

Rosie’s ears were shockingly sharp.

“That’s why you need to practise.”

As Sue walked into the garden, her mind was miles and years away.

Navy knickers were the thing at the time

The school playground was that dark grey asphalt-like stuff, and the walls that surrounded it were bare brick. At least six little girls stood on their hands at the wall, feet resting high against it. Some had tucked their dresses into their knickers, but some hadn’t bothered. Navy knickers were the thing at the time, but Sue’s knickers were white.

Maybe that’s why I couldn’t do it, she mused. Everyone else’s knickers were navy; I couldn’t let my white ones show.

Ah, the innocence of those days when all the boys were playing football at the far end of the playground, none sparing a glance for the knicker-festooned wall.

“Knickers,” she muttered aloud.

“Nan,” admonished Rosie, apparently shocked at her bad language.

But Sue had moved on to the all-girls school of her teenage years. The strict games mistress hadn’t liked anyone who couldn’t do a handstand up the gym wall. The navy pants her mum had supplied didn’t help. Time after time she’d tried, the games mistress lending a helping shove at her flailing legs.

“I could do a headstand though, and that saved my bacon,” she mused.

“Can you still, Nan?” asked Rosie.

“Oh, sorry, darling,” said Sue, finally realising that Rosie was expecting some sort of response. “I was remembering.”

“From when you were young? And can you stand on your head?”

“I don’t think so,” Sue replied, with a chuckle. “That might be one step too far.”

A shout of disbelief came from the open window

Rosie sighed. “Just cartwheels, then,” she said and proceeded to execute one.

“Golly, that was good,” said Sue. “You’ve improved a lot since last time.”

“I know,” returned Rosie. “Your turn.”

“Your Mummy said I mustn’t.” A momentary feeling of guilt, at shifting the blame, made Sue’s cheeks feel fiery.

Rosie sighed again. “We must always do as Mummy says,” she said.

As Sue nodded, she wondered why she had to do as her daughter had said. Had they swapped places without her noticing? Was she now the child?

“And yet, I am her mummy and she should do as I say, shouldn’t she?”

Rosie giggled at this tiny rebellion.

Sue collapsed, laughing

Sue lifted her arms in the air and sprang onto her hands. A shout of disbelief came from the open window.


Sue collapsed onto her back and laughed. “A bit more of a ‘bunny hop’ than a cartwheel,” she gasped.

“I saw your knickers, Nan,” said Rosie, who was also laughing. “But you didn’t get your legs high enough.” She demonstrated, sharing her expertise with this amateur. “Have another go.”

Sue watched a pair of trousered legs approach through the grass. “I think Nan’s done quite enough,” said a male voice. “I did rather enjoy it, though.”

There was a look in her husband’s eye as he helped her to her feet.

“Still can’t do it, then?” He smiled.

“At least you were watching this time.”

“Oh, I was always watching,” he said. “You were always more fun than football.”

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Karen Byrom

My coffee mug says "professional bookworm" which sums me up really! As commissioning fiction editor on the magazine, I love sharing my reading experience of the latest books, debut authors and more with you all, and would like to hear from you about your favourite books and authors! Email me