|View from my garden in Littleborough|
Four men sat around a small metal table at the far end of the beer-garden. The night sky was clear, like a black blanket hanging over them, sprinkled with fiercely bright pinpricks. They could hear a weir gushing beyond an outer wall.
‘Do you need more light?’ the landlord asked as he poked his head around the pub doorway. Light trickled across tables but they didn’t quite reach the men. Shadowed half-faces looked back at him.
‘No, it’s fine. It reminds me of when I was a kid and camped out in my cousin’s back garden. We sat for hours, watching the night,’ Matthias replied. He, like his friends, saw the novelty of feeling secluded from everyday concerns. A cloak of darkness meant that they didn’t have to talk about anything in particular. Their imagination could roam free. It had been a strange day, hot and clinging. Now it was cooler, fresher but the wish to do nothing but snooze in a chair still lingered.
Just as the landlord pondered why they’d prefer to sit outside a pub filled with the sounds of enjoyment, a roar of laughter pierced the silence. Then, he felt envious of the men. His wouldn’t have the luxury of just sitting still for a while, away from chatter, clinking glasses and the squeak the till made every time its drawer opened. Reluctantly he returned to his duties and pulled the door closed behind him.
Roger, one of the four seated, exhaled hard and crossed his eyes to see if he could see his breath, but he couldn’t. It was so pleasant being part of the night that his friends just sat and gazed up at the sky. ‘This is like camping out,’ he remarked. His mouth fell open when he leaned his head back fully to admire the magnificent night. ‘And it’s so quiet.’ He smiled contentedly, his head on one side as he listened to the weir babbling. ‘You’d think we’d hear more cars.’
‘A lot of places are shut mid-week so the roads will be quiet.’ Ronnie arched his neck to see if he could see his street in the distance but could only make out a string of orbs along the main road leading to it. ‘It’s like this when I’m in my shed at night, peaceful and totally apart from everything. My shed always reminds me of a den me and my mates built on The Wreck.’
‘What’s The Wreck?’ Not being born and raised in this neck of the woods he was intrigued.
‘That’s what we called scrubby land at the back of houses. We spent every night of summer there. It was a brilliant den inspired by Star Trek...the one with Shatner and Nemoy.’ He snorted with amusement. ‘We built it in a hollow between four trees and used every old TV, radio and gadget we could get our hands on to make a circular control panel. The front bit was my grandfather’s broken stereogram. It looked like a sideboard but when you opened it up there was a record deck and controls inside. The radio speaker was at the front with a wonderful array of knobs. We had an armchair in the middle of the den and upright chairs in front of the panel. In our imagination we could go anywhere...discover new planets, have away-trips, battle aliens....be whoever we wanted.’
‘Who were you Ronnie?’ Roger was envious.
‘I wanted to be Bones but my mates always wanted me to be Scotty because whenever we battled aliens bits came off the control panel and I was the only who could repair it. I had a utility belt that held a tobacco tin. I’d stuck buttons on its lid then used it to scan people.’ Ronnie threw back his head and laughed. It ignited his friends then Ronnie laughed afresh. He had to catch his breath to share another old memory.
‘The Riley boys were a rival gang of Klingons. They attacked one night, wanting our den. They’d used elastic bands to strap flattened egg boxes to their foreheads.’ Ronnie roared until he wheezed, tears filled his eyes. Mutual affection pulsed through the men as their imaginations soared. They were surrounded by an expanse of space and stars.
Roger sprawled with his head touching the back of his chair, his fluid body stretched to accept night’s cleansing caress. ‘Never had you down as a Trekkie,’ he said to the air then smiled at Ronnie who took a moment to discern through darkness whether Roger was being sarcastic.
‘I’m not, now. They were different times. People were different. Nowadays a den would be deemed fly-tipping. Kids don’t play out anymore. War and car theft on game-stations replaced Star Trek.’ The men became silent for a while.
‘Have you still got your tobacco tin?’
‘Yeah, right here.’ Ronnie reached into his inside pocket.
‘Does it transport people? I fancy an away-mission.’ Ronnie’s friends laughed but inwardly each of them yearned for the innocence of their childhood memories.
Ronnie raised the tin to his mouth, ‘Four to beam-up.’