“There you are, Tom, if you want something to do in the summer holidays you can clean out the garage. It would be a fantastic help and we’d obviously pay you.”
What an offer. And Tom reacted exactly as you’d expect him to react. He went up to his bedroom and spent the summer designing Formula 1 cars. Which explains why Jane delivered him to Brackley last week – and why there are parts of the Amazon jungle that have been visited more recently than the back of our garage.
Bluntly, it’s full. It’s full of junk and it’s needed emptying for years.
But it’s a Herculean task. In fact, it may be more than that…
‘Slay the hydra? No problem. Capture the three-headed hound that guards the gates of the underworld? Do it before breakfast. But clear out your garage…’ Sucks in breath, shakes head, imitates garage mechanic talking about your first car. ‘Sorry, pal, you’ll have to find yourself another demigod.’
But there’s more than one way to skin a cat (if you’re allowed to write that these days…) Or to empty a garage. Step forward, Ben. Exams finally finished, Duke of Edinburgh expedition completed, blisters healed. And just the young man for the job.
“There you are, Ben, if you want something to do in the summer holidays you can clean out the garage. It would be a fantastic help and we’d obviously pay you.”
Yes! A bite.
“Thirty pounds,” his mother offers.
Thirty quid? Has she gone mad? “Actually, darling,” I say, “It’s worth at least forty.” Between you and me it’s worth a hundred but children need to learn negotiating skills.
“Yes. Why not?”
Strike while iron is hot and all that. A verbal contract is agreed. Hands are metaphorically shaken.
And the boy is a whirlwind. A revelation. The pile on the lawn increased daily. Half a bike, a discarded carpet, the box for the computer screen Jessica threw a ruler at nine years ago. Guns, swords, and look – Tom’s cloak. The one he wore for the three months he spent as a cavalier thanks to Children of the New Forest. Ah, happy days…
“Tom, it’s tea-time.”
“No! The king’s majesty rides forth!”
“Well before he does that could the king’s majesty just eat his fish fingers?”
So that was that. What was once in the garage was now on the lawn. And my role in life was simple. Take the vast majority of it to the tip. Or recycling facility as we must learn to call it.
Sadly the heatwave had given way to the end of the world. But I couldn’t let Ben down. Time to man up and get wet.
I liked the tip in the old days. Now it’s a police state. Flout the authority of Tipman at your peril.
“Neon strip light?”
“Stack it in the corner, mate.”
“Rusty golf clubs?”
“Scrap metal, mate.”
“Knackered old hoover?”
“That’d be a small appliance, wouldn’t it?” Ominous glare. “Mate.”
I stifled an anarchic temptation to wait until Tipman was distracted, sling it all in ‘landfill’ and drive away as quickly as possible…
Back at home Ben was the hero. “Awesome, Ben. You’ve boldly gone where no man has gone before. Well, not for ten years anywhere.”
“To be honest, Dad I was disappointed. All I found at the back was an old table and tins of paint.”
“What did you expect?”
“Something exciting. A long lost family secret. Maybe you were secretly keeping a fourth child in the garage. The Child in the Iron Mask or something.”
I could just see it. ‘Iron mask? No problem. Scrap metal, mate…’