A line of steel bollards protected the pavement on either side of the entrance to the car park. Between two of the bollards, a wooden bench on steel legs offered a place for weary shoppers to stop to catch their breath, before continuing their way up the street. The bollards had been painted green at some point in the past, but the paint had suffered weathering and knocks, leaving a dull, metallic darkness. Moss and grass grew around both the bollards and the legs of the bench. The wood had once been stained, but had become grey and cracked and without beauty.
Weathering and cracks did not catch the eye of the small boy who came running up to the bench and stepped up onto it. Perhaps three or four years old, he turned and smiled at his father who held out a hand to him.
The boy wanted to jump from the bench to the nearest bollard. Even the most athletic of people would not have attempted such a jump. The tops of the bollards were spherical and there would have been nowhere to land on a firm footing. The boy’s father did not demur from the request, instead placing his arms around the boy he lifted him high into the air before bringing him down so that the boy’s feet just touched the top of the bollard. The leap from bench to bollard was just the start of the flight as the boy was carried aloft to the car park, delighted at his aerial exploits.
There was a moment’s connection with the world of imagination before it fell under the shadow of reason and sternness; a moment’s recall of times when anything seemed possible. The Standard car driven by my father could be transformed into something that had the capacity of a James Bond-vehicle. Household appliances could become devices for resisting alien attacks. Even the most ordinary things could be imbued with a sense of wonder and boundless possibility.
Had someone asked, “can this car become a boat?” or “can this food mixer become a ray gun?” of course, the answer would have been, “no.” Even a small boy knew the physical limitations of ordinary things, and yet there was always the possibility of holding the two dimensions in tension, always the possibility of clinging to the world of imagination.
Somewhere along the way, we lose our capacity to fly.