For the last few years, our garden has been home to a shabby giant.
This is a British garden, you understand: none of your unlimited tracts of fertile land with chickens running all over it; none of these acres running down to the creek and gazelles and giraffes craning over the distant perimeter fence. This garden is a small affair with a forest leaning over it, and the giant sat hunched up dominating our patio window view with his shabby dearth of chic.
It being a British house, when you opened the front door you could see all the way to the back patio window where the giant crouched, glowering, his coiffure in disarray, his couture derelict.
Once upon a time he was a gleaming new trampoline, decked out in blue with a high guard to keep caterpulting children at bay, and he lived in the temperate climate of the surfing coast of Cornwall. He belonged to my sister in those far off halcyon days. I remember standing at her Cornish villagey window and watching five small beings boinging up and down, shaking their little cerebellums for all they were worth, glee writ large on their faces.
Ah, those were the days for my gentle giant.
They moved here, to a lovely house on the outskirts of London, to a street where parents were engaged in trampoline wars. This entailed getting a bigger trampoline than the family next door, and the giant simply couldn’t compete. They got a bigger giant: but they offered the smaller one to us.
My brother-in-law put him up in a space on the patio, and the children continued to use him. I think he was happy: or at any rate, purposeful.
But one by one, the springs began to drop off, and the material became ragged and faded. The forest lent our giant a patina of green verdigris. I was so busy I never stopped to consider what visitors thought of the towering one who had made my children happy. But I suppose he became a bit of an eyesore.
On Saturday morning there was no football match for Felix, and so Phil carried a marked air of purpose. He was going out into the garden, he announced: and the giant was coming down.
I gulped. That was a lot of metalwork, which had had a long time to rust, and a lot of fabric which must be soggy and green from the elements.
But Phil took his spanner and marched out. There followed a lot of clanking and knocking, and several times as I was creating a therapeutic pie in the kitchen, he marched past with arms full of debris, shedding sundry moss as he went.
Once the giant was down and stuffed in the car, he couldn’t have offered anyone else a lift. He took up all the space save a small Phil-shaped slot in the driver’s seat. Phil drove him to the tip where he was quizzed by an attendant. “What you got?” he interrogated succinctly.
“I got all pig iron….” Phil rejoined.
The attendant was a bloke of very little brain, and if he recognised any reference he didn’t show it. He just waved Phil over to the metal recycling point. And Phil mused: what will our giant become next? Maybe, just maybe, an even bigger giant to delight even more children.
And now there’s a gaping space in our garden. Funny, how we became accustomed to our giant’s face. The dog had a habit of rocketing out of the back door and heading straight over to scratch his back on the giant’s rasping underside. Today Pavlov would have been proud of him. He shot out to greet his old friend and found him absent.
He had no idea what to do: we watched and I regret to say we chortled asympathetically as he modelled nonplussed out there in a space that shouldn’t exist. He sat down. He scratched. He looked around and did some non-specific sniffing. I walked out to greet him and he would not meet my eyes, but walked past me like an employee who had just been fired.
Maybe in the Spring we will invite a new giant to stay. Until then, the dog will just have to scratch his back somewhere else.