A short story by Joe Devlin. Pictures by David Mackintosh.
A lone bespectacled spectator stands on the Victorian veranda, his paunch pushing into the surrounding waist high wrought iron fencing, it provides him with an elevated view of the football game taking place on the field below. His gaze shifts, he studies the red brick wall to the left of the pitch, it seems to go on forever from his vantage point, stretching further than the eye can see over the undulating terrain. It is lined with rhododendron trees, laurel bushes and silver birch, fly agaric land. Graffiti daubed upon it in both yellow and white paint, indecipherable from this spot without the aid of a scope. Have a shot, his focus returns to match.
Two more figures emerge from the huge ward doors and join him on the platform. One in drawstring striped pyjamas and slippers, the other in a three piece blue suit and buffed brown brogues, both are smoking. They all applaud the first goal, a neat finish from the left of the box into the bottom corner from twelve yards out. A much welcomed respite from the monotony indoors.
Outside the clock tower people mill around the car boot sale, a man with shoulder length grey hair in a vest and shorts picks up a plastic pirate cutlass, swishing it through the air a few times before replacing it on the table top. Balloons tied around the arch sway and bob in the light breeze, half the stalls fall under the shadow cast by the building.
A huge Tesco now stands on the ground that was once a rugby pitch and one of the many unofficial entrances to this uncharted territory. Through long grasses, the intersecting routes – new frontiers to explore beyond this point. Nothing quite prepares anyone for such a seismic shift in the landscape. Countless journeys shared, seldom with a particular destination in mind at the outset.
Behind the store, you can still cut through to find two pathways that lead to walks, one towards the lodge, and the other to the ordered ornamental gardens. A couple of men, in matching brown suits and grubby white shirts, can often be found at this spot quietly supping bottles of cider and watching the bird life, their backs turned squarely on the bustling shoppers who swarm about the supermarket car park. You’d see figures appear, out of the dark grove whilst walking among the horse chestnuts, with conkers like polished stones upon the ground. It acted as an escape for them. The zombie silhouettes in gowns, this a place to rove, triggers – moments thought forgotten. The dusk Daubenton walk, skimming centimetres above the still lake, or lying down on the grassed plateau in your company both come to mind.
Content to Gather is the first collaborative project between Joe Devlin and David Mackintosh. It takes the form of a book published by Aye-Aye Books with writing from Devlin, drawings by Mackintosh and an afterword by Martin Holman. Limited to 500 copies. Design by Daren Newman. Priced at £10. Buy a copy here.