Dulltown, Europe: Today’s 17th c. expletive, apparently a favourite of King James I, is God’s wounds! He was also occasionally heard to utter, ‘A pox on all and sundry!’
When I was a little lad I once drew a treasure map.
Perhaps I had been reading that rather scary, rather bloody and violent book Treasure Island by RLS that someone had bought me for Christmas? Mine wasn’t an ‘island type’ treasure map, with palm trees, a nice volcano, fish poking their heads up out of the sea in the inlets, and whales spouting and grinning in the open waters, and the great god Neptune, his cheeks puffed out, producing the prevailing wind from top left. No, mine was a map of the neighbouring streets where I lived here in Dulltown.
I can’t really recall the details after all these years, but I’m sure it did correspond reasonably with the layout of the roads, the houses and their little front gardens; it even showed the gaps between the houses where someone called A. Hitler had bombed us, before my time, several years earlier.
In the garden of the house opposite to mine the map showed a large ‘X’, which marked the spot, the spot where the treasure was hidden.
When I’d finished drawing it, I carefully ripped off the four straight edges of the paper so that they became ragged and uneven – who ever heard of a treasure map with neat straight edges? I remember singeing some of these edges brown over the gas ring on the cooker for added authenticity; I had to quickly blow it out a couple of times when it showed signs of completely bursting into flames though. I think I might have tried staining the paper with cold tea from the teapot to give it a nice brownish tinge too.
When it was done, and I was satisfied with the look of the thing, I took a few low value and foreign coins, and other odds and ends, perhaps one or two steel and shiny brass washers, maybe a metal button off an old uniform (did it have an anchor on it?) and placed them all in a small grey cardboard box, and making sure no one was watching, buried it in the soil just inside the broken front fence of the garden opposite.
The next time I saw the gang of kids that I used to hang around with in the street I said something like, ‘Hey, look! I’ve found an ancient treasure map…’
A few of them glanced at it and then carried on kicking a well-scuffed and deflated leather football around the grey dust of the bomb site. Later on in the day I tried to engage the interest of a couple of my pals, ‘You see, it shows our street, that’s your house there, there’s our house, that’s Mrs Bidder’s shop round the corner, that’s the prefab where the man with one leg lives, this is the bombed chapel on the corner, etc…’
Maybe my cartography skills weren’t up to the job, or my pals just weren’t prepared to get into the spirit of the thing, but really my whole plan fell pretty flat. That evening after tea I went out and dug up my box of valuables.
Still, I think it was all worth doing – and I really enjoyed drawing my map… Wish I still had it…