Photo by Jinen Shah on Unsplash
Your first car catches heat like a tin roof, white clouds snag on the barbed wire of vapour trails against a background of powder blue. A forklift lurches past. The pig-shed stench is thick with gold under ash canopies and powerlines. ‘Why don’t you get down Tottenham, boy? Get us a new TV!’ It’s August, 2011. The yardman laughs. You finish off a can and plug an aux cable into the stereo. You spin the wheel of your iPod, then car, then speed off into the rest of your life.
At rest, like a crocodile’s snout emerging from calm water: contour feathers or plated scales the colour of brown schist. In flight, graceful as a hawk, fantail expanding and retracting like an F14. Song a high-pitched pneumatic drill, gape as wide as a striking snake. Patrolled the heath at dusk. Made twigs snap like a campfire. Not seen round here for a hundred years.
No doubt a new owner will have turned it into a ‘snug’ – white paint over bare brick beanbags, a Smart TV, the soft glow-worms of fairly lights. But I remember the first step into the dark – the half hollowed-out, half muted clop of your heel on a wooden staircase. Then the scent of damp soil, the pockmarked drapes of cobwebs. And everything left down there ending up bloated, crusted and sewage-brown like metal salvaged from the ocean floor. Passage booby-trapped with rusty nails and broken glass, that we picked through to the lime green, open air blush of an apple tree. Way before all that, my grandad’s work bench dominates the space like a cold slab in a morgue. But there’s the warmth of body heat when he drags his saw through a length of oak and raises a fine, Sahara-coloured dust. Next to him’s my father at five years old who’s come into that place of work and wants to stay. He receives an offcut, a small hammer and so, becomes absorbed in happy imprecision as he tap, tap, taps on panel pins. All this remembered or imagined on the threshold of my father’s office one weekend I’m at home and he turns and smiles before I even knock.