I was seven or eight, I think. Still very small. I was always very small for my age.
We went to the playground together and I wanted to go on the monkey-bars but I’d never been able to get all the way across. I was scared and I didn’t know if I could manage it. You told me not to worry: you were there in case I fell. You held me feet.
As I swung my way across to the other side, I was buoyed by the fact that I was safe. You were holding me. Nothing could go wrong.
And I got across. I’d never done it before but I made it across. Oh, Grandad, I was so proud of myself. Was I proud of you? I can’t remember. It was so long ago. But I hope I was. I should have been.
Then, at the playground again. I was, what, ten? I’m not so good at the timescale sort of thing here.
We saw that in the playground there were drawing pins, scattered around and posing a health risk to anybody nearby. Though we couldn’t know for certain who it was that dropped them we both had our suspicions. The playground was full of teenagers that day. I was scared of them.
Together—although I actually picked more of them up than you, because you couldn’t bend down—we collected them up. Then we went to the corner of the playground and buried them in some earth. For the next couple of days I went there and checked if they were still there. They were.
You know something, Grandad? For years after that—and I do literally mean years—I’ve checked there to see if the pins still shone in the corner. They don’t. After about six months they were gone. But every time I stay with you and head down to the playground I check. I don’t know why.
Just last year, I think, we went to the Alf together. I can’t remember why it is called that but I never went there often. Helena was the one that went on those long walks with you and knew it so well she could make a map in coloured drawing ink…
But we went there that day. I had wanted to for quite some time, but never had the weather for it.
I remember walking down through that grassy patch before the forest starts. There are blackberry bushes on either side, do you remember? This was summer, but I can just about recall from years and years ago how laden these bushes became with berries. I think I picked some when I was little, though I don’t actually like to eat blackberries.
We were walking around the Alf and I insisted on going my own way: taking the difficult way around. You couldn’t follow so you just watched, worrying, as I climbed over fallen trees and went far too close to the river. But I came back to you and we walked around again. Why did I do that? If we went there now I would stay with you as much as I could.
We came out of the woods into a large field. We had been discussing the universe, I remember. Talking about who we think made it and why. Talking about everything that screws my brain. I remember you said that the universe was like numbers. It’s all already there but we haven’t given it names yet. And when we think we’ve got all of them there’s always going to be another one.
But there’ll never be another you.