These memories came back as I drove through the beautiful moonlight. It would be a perfect evening, I thought, to climb the tower again. I had to drive on to the next village where my son worked in the local pub. It's a lovely old inn with white walls and thatch. All the way, I debated the idea with myself. Cars are great places for talking to yourself. I often have some of my most intelligent conversations when there's no-one else around to answer me back. It was a mad idea of course. It was one thing getting into trouble for trespassing in your twenties, but a completely different thing when you're a responsible forty five year old. Not to mention bringing a sixteen year old along with you. A crazy idea.
My son got in. As usual, he smelt of David Beckham aftershave and chip oil in equal measure. I'm not sure which one's worse. As we drove along he bombarded me with his thoughts on tomorrow's football. How Arsenal had dramatically improved since signing Ozil. At first, I misheard him and thought he said Worzel. This conjured up a wonderful image of a scarecrow running into the penalty box and booting the ball into the goal, straw flying this way and that around the Emirates.
The car drew level with the lay-by and the tower.
A crazy idea.
Without thinking, I pulled over. Maybe it was something to do with the moon.
'What are we doing Dad? Are we going to bury a body?'
'Just come with me. And keep quiet.'
We climbed the same gate that my friend and I had clambered over twenty-odd years ago. There was the field rising towards the clump of gorse bushes. No sheep. No tractor. No grandfather clocks. We started walking. My son took the situation very seriously and decided to demonstrate his prowess in flatulence. Instead of the usual guffaws, he was met with a stern reprimand. 'This is private land. I don't want to get caught!'
By the time we'd reached the gorse I was completely exhausted. New fences of treacherous barbed wire criss-crossed the field. More baffling, I couldn't see the tower. But I didn't want to give up. We hurdled the last of the barbed wire and I managed to alter the design of my jeans with a brand new vent. For the first time in decades, I probably looked halfway fashionable. My son had climbed at a spot where a cattle trough was on the other side. 'Careful' I said just as he stepped right into it. He cursed loudly but at least it would help to tone down the smell of David Beckham and chip oil.
I stepped further forward into the moonlit wonderland. Something was badly wrong. I couldn't see the tower. Plastic labels hung down from the barbed wire. Even in the moonlight, I could make out what the lettering on them said: You Are Being Watched and a picture of a pair of binoculars. I scanned the trees half-expecting to see CCTV cameras recording my every move. I climbed another fence. Then I saw it: the tower making a silhouette amongst a wiry clump of trees that I didn't remember seeing before. To reach it we'd have to cross a field of what looked like sweetcorn in a horror film growing before us. Thick, impenetrable stuff that would be exhausting to get through. The car already felt like a very long way behind us. As did the carefree past with its freedom, hair and spontaneity.
A dog began barking. It sounded very close.