Growing up, there was a burn that ran through our garden.

It came through the park, under the road, then skirted a wall that ran the length of our property. This wall got shorter towards the foot of the garden until it levelled out at a stone patio.

The day we moved in, my dad bought garden furniture, a table and four chairs, which he set on the patio and invited us to join him.

It was cold, covered by a thick canopy of leaves, but he cracked a beer and told us that this was the reason he’d bought the place: so that he could sit each evening and listen to the burn.

It didn’t bother him that, in this shaded recess, we were at the same height as the exhausts on the cars driving past. Cold and smoky though it was, it was his oasis.

He gave me a sip of his beer, the first time I’d tasted alcohol, and laughed as I pretended to enjoy it. Then he took the bottle cap, turned it upside down, and released it into the water.

It bobbed away from us, carried by the burn until it got lost among the trees, where it either got snagged on some foliage or emerged into the sunlight of the golf course. If it was lucky, it would have wound its way past the bunkers and greens, until it  disappeared under the main road and spilled out into the Moray Firth.

My dad’s love for that spot was infectious. Each day, after school, we would rush to the foot of the garden and spread out our toys: creating elaborate action scenes with six-inch figures and buckets of soldiers.

The burn became a moat, a river, or a sea, depending on where the action took place, and in time the toys became CDs, magazines and girls. One of the girls became my wife and, shortly afterwards, the patio became the site of the memorial.

Today, while I waited for the new owners to arrive so I could hand over dad’s keys, I opened a beer, took a sip, and placed the cap upside down in the water.

For a second, I thought it might sink, but then it got caught by the flow and disappeared among the trees. I like to think it emerged into sunlight.

Photo by Vishal Banik on Unsplash


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