About ten years ago my brother bought an
old farmhouse a couple of miles up the road, out towards Mayland somewhere.
It’s bloody wonderful and fucking massive. It’s almost enough to make me wish
at some point in my life I’d bothered to find myself a job and earned myself
some money. Almost.
In the garden, if you can really call a
load of old fields and yards a garden, there was (and still is) a ruined old
stone barn, or shed or whatever, with just the walls left standing - no roof,
no door (although he’s since put one in), no glass in the windows. The walls
are about four or five feet high, although there’s a couple of bits where
they’ve cracked and broken and fallen in and there’s only maybe two or three
feet of wall still standing. I think maybe a tree must have fallen on it at
some point. Or someone rode a tractor into it.
For some reason, instead of putting empty
bottles in the recycling bin, my brother would come outside and hurl them into
this old barn, steadily building up a mountain of cracked and broken and
smashed up bits of glass. After a year or two of this, one time when I was
round there I asked him why he did it, why he kept on doing it, and his answer
was that he liked the sound of smashing glass. That he had always liked being allowed
to drop bottles in the bottle bank when our dad took us over the tip when we
I’m not sure I ever remember going to the
tip with our dad.
A couple of years ago I was walking the
woods a few miles from where my brother lives, and from the top of the hill you
could see down to where his house was, and the glass all shimmered and sparkled
there in the sun like he had a barn filled with jewels. Or with water.
After that I was always a bit scared some
birds would land in it thinking it was a pond and end up slicing themselves to
shreds. Or I’d remember the time one of our cats almost had her paw sliced off
climbing trough a broken window, and I was endlessly glad every time that I
thought of it that at least my brother didn’t have any cats, and didn’t live
near enough to anyone that did.
But there was always foxes I could worry
about, and badgers too, although I had no idea if badgers could climb walls or
would even want to if they could.
Last year he invited me over for bonfire
night and I when I got there he was up a ladder, wearing some old fireman’s
gear, and pouring petrol over the side of the barn and onto his big pile of
glass. Ten years of glass all piled up there as if it’d had just been waiting
all this time for this. He climbed down the ladder and took it back to the
house, and came back with a big ball of cardboard covered in something that
resembled glue, all thick and yellow and strangely horrifying looking. He lit
it with his lighter and hurled it over the wall and just managed to turn away
in time to shield his eyes from the whoomph of heat as the whole thing burst
It burnt for hours. I have no idea how much
petrol he must have poured in there. I’m surprised the initial fireball didn’t
blow the entire barn up like some sort of Hollywood explosion. I suppose it was
directed upwards rather than out. Although I was stood miles back, cowering in
fear on the far side of the yard, and I could still feel the heat of it for a
second or two as it caught, could feel it pushing me back like a shove to the
Then it settled down and we watched it burn
into the night. At some point the wooden door caught fire and burnt of its
hinges, crashing down suddenly sometime towards midnight, which made my brother
jump so violently he dropped his glass of beer and spilt it all in the dirt.
It’s a shame the glass didn’t break really, for reasons of symbolism, and
The next morning there was a solid river of
glass that had flowed out of the barn and into the yard, the soot burnt black
onto it all, and into it, maybe, too. A ridiculous mess that I have no idea how
he ever cleaned up.
And everything stunk for fucking days.