The insects had been killed on the way to the miniature model village. Victims of circumstance, splatted upon the car windscreen by forces incomprehensible to them. It was raining now too. Pinhead domes, light-carriers from the grey sky, coming to rest amongst the splayed limbs of the recently deceased. The drizzle: the death on the country road north.
He changed the CD for the sixth time as they approached a hill. She presumed that he had a song for such an occasion – an appropriate tune for travelling up a hill in a car that did not like travelling up hills, on the way towards a miniature model village.
The car rolled on through fields of rape, set blazing by a sun newly emerged and buoyed on the heavy scent of beeswax. He rested his hand on her knee, content, like the horizon cupping the crest of another hill. He opened the window a little further, letting the sound of the world rush in and scattering trumpet solos to the breeze.
The miniature village was a simple pleasure, although it teetered constantly on the edge of being pleasurable and at its heart lay a great complexity. You see, there was a miniature of the miniature village in the miniature village in the village and inside that was the miniature once more. There was no song for this. There was no end to it either. The two of them couldn’t make out from where they stood if there was a further miniature. This would have involved leaning over the safety chains to peer closer at the scene – disobeying the rules so prominently displayed, enraging the turnstile man in his kiosk.
An older American woman with an appropriate voice says: “Tell me, is this the only miniature village in the Cotswolds?” The turnstile man looks up momentarily from the CCTV screen and answers her.
“Hey Gerry, this is the only miniature village in the Cotswolds. Well how’s about that.”
Elsewhere, a man is encouraging his son to do something naughty. Something that involves breaking the rules of the miniature village.The boy, who walks with the kinetic intensity of one who has only just learned to walk, looks deeply unsettled by the prospect. His moral compass, it appears, already steady. Still his dad wants him to step over the chains to get closer to the model buildings. He wants his son to play the giant, peering into a tiny window of a tiny house.
The miniature village has seen this scenario play out many times. Dads who ordinarily value rules, intensely so, yet also appreciate photographic posterity – wrestling with these two irreconcilable forces. There is nothing new here. It is as old as the miniature village itself.
The turnstile man taps twice on the CCTV screen with the base of his fountain pen. The action is a warning to the father and the son who are doing what should not be done. It is also an attempt to correct any potential glitch that could explain the appearance of such blatant rule flouting. He waits for five seconds, taking measured breaths before looking once more at the screen. He then places the pen calmly into his shirt pocket, dusts the crumbs of torn tickets from his lap and stands.
He makes his way slowly but purposefully towards the door, removing the key from his trouser pocket as he walks. He unlocks the door and returns the key to his pocket. He then steps outside and feels how he has always felt inside the miniature village. Like a giant. Like a god. Not at what he is about to do, not for what the terms and conditions give him the right to do, but at how big he feels. He towers over these streets. He is four times the height of these houses, twice as high as the tallest church. It was the same feeling that had dizzied him as a child when his father had first taken him here – a sense of near invincibility.
A feeling that, as it happened, very soon disappeared as his father with Box Brownie at the ready, encouraged him to hop over the chain and take up position behind the miniature New Inn public house. The descent had happened so slowly as his shoe (with more than ample, and perhaps a little too much, growing space) caught on the chain. His hands had gone out in front of him instinctively but it was his forehead that had done the real damage. It had smashed 73 miniature slate tiles to smithereens, sent a chimney stack tumbling to the garden below and managed to successfully remove nine courses of tiny Cotswolds stone brickwork. A knee took out a post box whereas a pudgy left-hand decimated an outbuilding.
The tears stung more than his wounds and stained his face for days to come. On the way to school each day, he had to pass the entrance to the model village where a ‘Closed for Restoration’ sign hung so solemnly, causing his eyes to once more fill.
The turnstile man blinked away the memory, took one more breath and then removed the whistle from his pocket and pressed it firmly to his lower lip. At this moment, the son of the father with his camera poised stepped back across the chain and stumbled speedily towards his mother. The turnstile man put the whistle back into his pocket. Took a deep breath and then returned to his seat. His eyes stared once again at the screen, his heartbeat pounding in his head.