Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Fred Dibnah - Time Traveller

It's a curious thing, time travel.

Some think it completely impossible. Clearly I have proved those fools wrong. When it happened to me I had no working knowledge of the concept of moving between different points in time. I had just finished my national service and was spending my days endlessly riding the streets of Bolton on my 1927 350 cc AJS motorcycle looking for work as a steeplejack. Special relativity was the last thing on my mind. Actually I was more concerned with finding weathervanes to fix.

In 1962 I was commissioned to repair a chimney at a local brewery in Catterick. It was raining that day. I was getting my ladders out when I saw a flash of light and felt like I was falling. This sensation went on for about ten seconds then I woke up curled in a ball on the floor. I felt like I was mildly hungover and slowly came to me senses. It was much like that bit in the Terminator films when Arnold arrives in a bluey electrical sphere that seems to be made of lightning and the cops don't know how to react. Luckily I wasn't naked but I reckon on watching these films now that Arnie was definitely hungover.

My immediate concern was for my partner Percy Fowler. I had left him reversing the van up to get nearer the stack with a fag in his mouth, swearing. My last recollection was him shouting at a goose. Where was he? I looked round feverishly but Percy was nowhere to be seen. At this point I noticed that I still had my ham sandwich in my hand. Although it was still mid morning I often like to have a quick bite just to see me through to lunch time. I get quite peckish climbing ladders and don't want to go light-headed when I'm 80ft up. I was once up Nelson's column in 1976 and felt a bit wobbly because I hadn't had my toast that morning. I took a nibble.

I looked up at my surroundings. Where was I? The sky was blue. But the buildings were wrong. Everything was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. I stood up and noticed that the floor wasn't Lancashire gravel but some kind of crystals, like tiny transparent stones pressed together to make the hardest substance imaginable. There was no cigarette butts or dog shit. I puffed on my pipe, gave the ground a quick kick and realised that it was a lot tougher than that cemetery wall I had re pointed last summer.

I noticed how clean everything was. Narrow buildings stretched into the sky as far as the eye could see, some with huge spherical tops. A few were so high that they were partially obscured by cloud. The wind blew warm in my face and was curiously lacking in odour. I should add at this point that there was no fear. I was so dumbfounded with my surroundings that it hadn't even occurred to me to figure out where I was, or what might have happened to bring me here.

Slowly I came to my senses. I took in the awesome vista surrounding me and contemplated the sheer, magnificent Utopian beauty that I was now part of.

The closest pictorial evidence I can find is this:

Clearly this was not Catterick.

Strange vehicles, the likes of which I'd only ever seen on Buck Rogers, were traveling high up in the sky. They were following behind each other in huge lines that stretched off into the distance like galactic conveyor belts. I was used to seeing Leyland vans asthmatically puffing their way up Carter's Hill. These things had no visible means of propulsion and it befuddled me.

Where were the people? In my confused stupor I hadn't noticed that in the distance that there was movement. Tiny, barely perceptible movement. I started shuffling through this strange landscape in my soot-covered draper's overalls in awe at what I was seeing.They looked like humans, but they seemed to be travelling on silver plates. They were stood on these discs hovering approximately a spanner's length above the ground moving at incredible speed. Again, there was no visible means of propulsion. I marvelled at this incredible technology. Their clothes were weird too, sort of like a cross between 1980s power-suits and leotards.

I heard a voice:

"Are you new here?"

I couldn't place the accent.

Then again:

"Are you new here?"

"I'm not sure" I replied. "I was on me way to fix the brewery chimney, there were a bloody flash and next thing I knew I were stood 'ere. Where am a?" I puffed on my pipe as I wiped my glasses.

"You are in Sunlight City friend. All are welcome here." the figure replied smugly.

I'd taken to this chap as he seemed a friendly sort. He told me his name was Kalus and his job was to deal with newcomers to the city. I tried explaining that in Bolton we usually just send them to the Castle pub for a few jars and a game of darts but I don't think he understood. I tried striking up a conversation about boiler pressure-testing but it rapidly became clear that we didn't have a massive amount in common.

He encouraged me to stand on his metal disc and then transported me to some kind of laboratory. We hurtled across the city at incredibly high speed, his mere thoughts controlling our velocity and direction. I dropped what remained of my ham sandwich somewhere on the way.

We arrived at a huge glass building and plugged me into a machine. The questions started.

"What is this place?" I enquired.

"More a case of WHEN is this place." Came the reply.

He then came to explain how something to do with the ladder I had been carrying back in 1962 had sparked a massive time-shift, tearing normal space asunder and catapulting me into the year 3012. This explains why the place looked so alien.

Technically I was still in Catterick but not as I knew it. This was a futuristic Utopian dream that had been built in approximately 2080. A living, breathing embodiment of futuristic technology. A bastion to the egalitarian future of mankind. I took another puff on my pipe.

I suppose the next question was how to get back. Luckily my futuristic friend already had this base covered. He explained to me that Boltonians are frequently catapulted through time and space by ladders. I was beckoned to approach a device that looked like some brass knackers. Huge, brass knackers. They were shimmering and had a strange brassy glow.

"Go on, touch them. Don't be shy. Touch the knackers friend."

I wiped my hands on my overalls and gave the knackers a quick feel. Within a nanosecond I was hurtling through time and space. It was like that scene from 2001 where Dave Bowman is transported through the Stargate and ends up on the other side of the universe. A sensation of incredible speed, bright colours and scenes of wonder beyond the ken of mortal man. I woke up on the floor with Percy standing over me swearing.

"Where you bloody been? Mr Hobbs were 'ere lookin' for you. Wonders why it's tekkin' you bloody long to get started. Told him you'd nipped down scrappers to 'clect your payings. Didn't know where you'd bloody gone. Then I find you bloody lyin' on floor like you're in bloody bed."

I sat up, looked round, took another puff on my pipe and got to work.

In memory of Fred Dibnah, 1938 - 2004

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