A long long time ago, on a housing estate on the outskirts of Leeds, lived a woman who owned just one felt-tip pen. She owned many more things, but owned just the one felt-tip pen. And it was blue. She also had a husband, and a son and daughter, and a liking of science fiction. Every Saturday she would sit down with her family and watch BBC1 from when the vidiprinter whirred away on Grandstand, to whenever she felt tired enough to go to bed. The highlight of the evening though would be be the program about the mad man with a box. A box that was white on the inside, and had a console that was covered in buttons and screens and mad dials. Upstairs, in the small bedroom at the front of her house, was a small cupboard that was white on the inside. Downstairs, in the kitchen, was a drawer that contained just one felt-tip pen. It contained many more things, but contained just the one felt-tip pen. And it was blue. The cupboard upstairs had a louvered door, which would let in just enough light to see. The base of the cupboard had a 45° slope and then a horizontal section, and that horizontal section was just about big enough for a four year old boy to sit and face the slope. Every week the woman would sit down to watch the program about the mad man with a box, and each week her four year old boy would watch this mad man with a scarf franticly running around the consule in his box looking at mad dials and pushing buttons. It was only a matter of time before that boy would discover the only felt-tip pen in the house, and that it could be used to draw on the white emulsion of the slope. It was only a matter of time before that boy would draw the maddest dials that anyone ever did see, all over that slope, creating a consule of his own. I don’t know how long it took for the woman, my mum, to discover what I’d done. Or how long she let me get away with it. I remember being so upset on the day when I discovered that it had been painted over, and just as upset when we moved when I discovered that that same little room at the front of the house didn’t have a cupboard with a slope.
Looking back, this teaches me three things;
The importance of a childs imagination.
Being a Yorkshire man, what a good story this will make when I have children of my own. “When I were a lad, all I had to keep myself occupied were a cupboard and a felt-tip pen.” Sadly though, I’m well aware of the one-upmanship of a Yorkshire man, “A cupboard? You were lucky. All we had were a shoebox and a butchers pencil that had been sharpened so much that it were that small that we could barely pick it oop.”
And finally, where my fascination with science fiction – and specifically time-travel – comes from.