Posted by: lialeendertz | November 14, 2011

Silver poplars

Mahjong nights in Dorset

We went to Dorset at half term, and spent our days dodging showers and searching for ammonites and our evenings trying to work out how to play Mahjong in front of the log burner. On the way back home we called in on my nana. Nana is a natural performer: she sang for the troops during the second world war and still goes about singing to the ‘old people’ in homes. It means she has the ability to make my children sit still and listen to her. So when she told them this story – body and face entirely animated, voice full of drama – they sat, fascinated and silent:

‘Once some thieves went to a beautiful big house and stole all the family silver. They ran into the woods to try to hide the loot in the branches but all the trees shook their branches so that the thieves couldnt climb up. All except the poplar. The thieves climbed up the poplar and hid the silver in the branches and ran away. Soon the police ran into the woods looking for the silver. They couldn’t find it, and so they ordered all the trees to put their branches up into the air. Knives and forks and spoons came clattering down from the poplar’s branches, and landed on the ground below. The poplar’s punishment was to hold its arms up in the air for ever more. That is why they grow that way to this day, and why they are known as silver poplars.’

I suspect my kids will recognise silver poplars.



  1. A lovely story!!

  2. Please tell Nana that I’m going to tell that story to my daughter…sublime – thank you! x

  3. How lovely. It might even make me resist the temptation to say it has been TWO MONTHS since you last blogged for heaven’s sake!

    Oh, dear. No it didn’t.

    By the way, did you see the Why Willows Weep book for the Woodland Trust. They should have asked your Nana to write a chapter.

  4. Lia,
    What a wonderful family time you all had…and a clever witty story by your Nana…special memorable stories for your children.
    In the Summer, my dear friend Nicole and I got together for lunch,I was accompanied by my mum (86) and my friend with her Pa-in-law (91) both are quite deaf but bright as buttons like your Nana.
    We swapped relatives and listened intently as we enjoyed spicy carrot soup and bread.
    After lunch, my ‘lovely man’ squeezed my hand with tears in his eyes and said ‘Thank you so much for listening it means everything to me’
    It is wonderful to know that people are making the effort to stop and listen to family.
    So just to say….you guys are just as special as your Nana…in these busy times that we live in!

    Pauline X

  5. My parents and uncle and aunt used to play mahjong on a regular basis when I was a kid. All I remember is that they used to say things like ‘fourwinds’ and there seemed to be a lot of wall building. It always fascinated me.

    I love your Nana’s story I will look at popular trees differently now – who would have thought they were so immoral

  6. John – Thank you

    Laetitia – I will. She’ll be delighted, actually.

    Dawn – Yeah well, you’re so square with your ‘regularly updated blog’. This is just the way I roll…

    Pauline – How nice. I hadnt thought about it like that. Very hard not to be entertained around nana though.

    Helen – There’s lots of mysterious stuff about being the south wind etc…I think once you’ve got the hang of it it’s quite straightforward but we didnt, quite. Fun trying, and beautiful tiles.

  7. Grans tell the best stories. That’s helped me recognise silver poplars for sure.

    My gran told the scariest stories. My favourite was the one about the witch who masquerades as the grandmother of two orphaned sisters, and she ends up eating one of them. The older sister survives and feigns ignorance, and takes revenge by somehow chucking the witch down a well. Sort of like a darker version of Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. I’m going to ask for a re-telling this weekend!

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