The Night 'They' Came ...or... Send for Sparky
Grafton now reveals for the very first time
happening in 2000
Everybody in Mumbles knew of “Sparky” Claypitt, but few knew much about him, even his real name was known to but a few. If ever the subject came up as to his background, some of the older ‘uns would mutter vaguely that he’d had a rough time as a kid, losing his parents just after leaving the Board School and from then on, ploughing a lonely furrow. All this was said in a rather dismissive way, as if he didn’t count for much, anyway.
Though alone in the world, Sparky chose to stay on in the old family home, up the dead end of that lane in Thistleboon, a small cottage with a workshop at the side. He coped.
A tragic fact about life is that adversity does not conform to a humane code of fair play, but, all too frequently, bestows its bounty heavily upon a few. Sparky certainly fell in to that latter category, misfortune having touched his shoulder at the tender age of nine. Stricken with polio, he was bequeathed a leg in irons for life and was seldom free from pain.
For all that, instead of turning in on himself and becoming a recluse, he strove to live a full life, using what strengths he had. Amongst the most precious of these was an unquenchable optimism coupled with a will to survive and, in spite of the many detracting slights to which he was subjected, Sparky retained an enduring blind faith in the goodness of his fellow man.
On a practical level Sparky had an enviable hands-on skill, acquired as a youngster in a variety of jobs but a gift of far greater value lie in a hidden talent. He possessed an extraordinary intuitive ability which enabled him to diagnose, almost instantly, the cause of malfunction in any piece of equipment, from a simple hair dryer to the latest of computers.
And what was more, he could put it right! This created a steady demand from the villagers for his services and often the midnight oil would burn in his workshop as he dealt with their multifarious problems.
Sadly, it’s a cruel world and as with most easy going people, Sparky was, mercilessly, taken for granted and rarely appreciated. When anything went wrong, automatically without a thought, the call would be heard,
“Send for Sparky!”
And, no matter what the circumstance, Sparky Claypitt never had it in him to refuse. But a dramatic change was coming!
And, it came one night, literally, out of the blue, in the most bizarre of circumstances, and Sparky’s life was never to be the same again!
Over the years, Mumbles had had more than its fair share of tragedy. Like most other communities, two World Wars had taken away the cream of its youth but, on top of this, the life boat disasters had dealt body blows to the village. So, it was with relief that during the latter part of the Twentieth Century, little of moment occurred in the village and Mumbles basked in a period of peace and plenty, understandably welcomed by its natives and it was universally agreed that there were far worse places in this world to live than Mumbles. It had beauty and charm, pleasant folk (well, most of them), and Joe’s Ice Cream.
However, there was a shock coming!
Early in the new millennium, this overspill fin de siècle complacency was to be shattered by something, so far beyond belief, as to rock the village to its very foundations. It led to villagers questioning their very sanity and to wondering, whether or not, it had really happened! It was to become the closest held of secrets, never, ever spoken of to anyone from outside the village boundaries. A secret to be carried to the grave. And it all took place on one bitterly cold night, in the year of the Millennium. To be exact, on February 14th 2000AD.……The night when ‘They’ came…… And, the night in which Sparky Claypitt showed his true worth.
A creature of habit
Sparky stood a bare five foot four in his socks and appeared to be of an age, locked permanently somewhere between thirty and sixty years. A creature of habit, every morning at 6 o’clock without fail, he would pull on his overalls and limp painfully around to his workshop where, within minutes, his fresh shaven face and balding head would be splattered with oil, and glasses speckled with debris thrown up from his lathe. Late into the night any inquisitive villager, looking through the window, would see Sparky, fair hair all awry, either working at his bench with smoking soldering iron, or frowning into the intestines of a computer.
Shamelessly “used” by the less scrupulous members of the community, repaired mobiles, computers, whatever, would be collected with a muttered thanks, and…
“….. Square thee up later, Sparky, boy!" but never did!
February 14th 2000AD had been a classic Mumbles, heart-of-winter day. Darkness had fallen early upon a freezing, mist-enshrouded village. To the disgust of the local landlords and the takeaway owners, those villagers with an ounce of sanity had elected for a night in, with drawn curtains, Coronation Street and the fireside. Eventually, those few stalwarts who had ventured forth for a pint or three, lurched gaseously home. Dick Barton’s sold the last fish and chips of the night. Doors and windows were shut, bolted and lights extinguished. Windows, blacker than a witch’s toenails, deadpanned on to eerily obscured and empty streets. The muffled moan of the foghorn from the lighthouse was all that was needed to make it a night reminiscent of Victorian London malevolence. It smacked of hansom cabs, haloed gas street lights, dark alleyways and ripping deeds in Whitechapel.
This was, certainly, not a night to be abroad but to be home and safe in bed. After the weather forecaster man, (that one who seemed too big for his suit), had delivered his confident spiel, the trek was made up the wooden hill and soon, all God-fearing inhabitants of Mumbles were dreaming, zizzing, snoring, (and worse), under their cosy down-filled duvets.
Police Sergeant, Iago Jones, decided to take a last leisurely drive around the empty streets of the village before returning to the Police Station in Newton Road. After touring the shopping precinct, he drove past the Tivoli and tennis courts, continued his way by the Antelope and the George, up through the Cutting, past the Big Apple and on to Limeslade car park. Here, the fog was thicker than Tewksbury mustard, so thick that, as he gazed across the Limeslade Bay, he thought it looked like the end of the world. He shivered.
Photo by Mark Lewis and used with his permission
He turned to the Lighthouse, counted (for luck) its haloed, four flash signal and returned to the village.
In spite of the vile weather, all seemed well. Iago was satisfied, the good people of Mumbles would enjoy an undisturbed, peaceful night and succumb to a “sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care”.
In retrospect, for the rest of his life, Iago often mused, “How wrong could any one have been!..............”
Back at the Police Station, humming quietly, he heaved his bulk laboriously from the small police car, blue serge seams creaking ominously. A comforting thought flitted through his mind, -- only another nine weeks and all these tiresome shifts would be finished! He could then, finally, hang up his helmet, stick his truncheon up his attic, sleep in his bed every night and enjoy a well earned retirement. He would spend time with Joe Trigg on the golf course and sink a pint or two with Bob Jones in the Beaufort. No crowns on their shoulders then, and no more orders! They’d just be pals!
Mind you, spending more time about the house meant having to retrain Greta a bit, he’d have to get her an allotment, or something. Perhaps a job on an oil rig.
He reached the station door and as he had done, countless times before, tapped in the access code.
Then it happened!
Now Iago Jones, in spite of the classic, stolid appearance, was no ‘Plod’! He had an astute mind and was conscientious, epitomising all that was good about “old fashioned” policing. For 35 years his reassuring presence was about the village, rarely a day passing when one did not see him and, over the years, he had developed a deep feel for the environment of Mumbles, a sort of sixth sense to change of any sort. On this particular night, something was amiss! Like all good seasoned coppers he had antennae which would twitch when trouble was brewing. Tonight, those antennae were twitching like a buck rabbit’s whiskers.
He had just experienced something. Something that barely registered on the limits of his perception. A shiver ran up his neck. Something was not right! Something was different!
What had distracted him?
There it was again!
This time, out of the corner of his eye – he caught a momentary lightening of the sky over Oystermouth Castle. It occupied a fraction of a second. So brief as to make him wonder if it had been there at all! He turned around for another, more searching, look. Nothing. He shrugged, turned back to the door. There it was again! No doubt this time! A definite flickering. A greenish tinge? It diffused upwards into the mist and fluctuated in a most peculiar, irregular manner. Now he saw that it was not over the vague shape of the Castle but below, and fronting it.
Something was going on in the grassy amphitheatre, the scene years ago of so many wonderful packed village fetes.
Then! - a faint humming noise.
He crossed the road and, with back to Covelli’s Chips, got a less obstructed view. From this angle, all doubt was dismissed. The sky above the Field was definitely flickering with a greenish hue and the noise was now growing in volume.
In spite of increasing trepidation, Iago, who had never backed down to anything in his life (except Greta), hastened down Newton Road, (Iago always “hastened”, he never ran) performing a breathy gambol as far as “Treasure” and then, he turned up Castle Avenue. Trying to drown the sound of his panting and wheezing, he entered the Castle Field and, in spite of his size twelves, soundlessly mounted the steps to peer through the bushes.
The impact of what he saw would have killed a lesser man.
This was something totally beyond his understanding.
Something so immense that his higher centres were unable to accept and assimilate.
There was the source of that mysterious light!
It emanated from something which was not of this world and most certainly, a sight never seen before, here in Mumbles.This was most definitely not a situation that could be tackled with the customary,
“..’ello, ello, ello!... What’s orl this then?....”
There hovering, twenty feet or so above the ground, was a luminescent grey, spinning saucer-like craft! The sergeant estimated that it must have been at least forty feet in diameter.
Massive! Big! Really big!
The aura about it within the surrounding mist added to its unworldliness. His fifty five year old brain reluctantly accepted it for what it actually was—
A UFO!!! An Unidentified Flying Object!
A UFO here in the heart of Mumbles!
Something from another world!
An Alien Spaceship, here in Mumbles!
The volume of noise was increasing. Not the quiet hum expected from a machine made in a world, aeons more advanced than Earth. It sounded more like something from Apsey Peachey’s Garage. The rotating disc was not gyrating on a stable axis but wobbling like a child’s tiring top with a grating sound now adding to the commotion.
Lights began to appear in the bedroom windows of Castle Avenue and in the houses of adjoining streets. Curtains were pulled back and tousled heads pressed against the glass to peer, blearily out. Teeth were quickly reinserted and, within minutes, dressing gowned, wrapped-up villagers began to collect in the street and, in spite of the cold, made their ways up to the Field, to the source of the disturbance.
The sergeant pulled himself together, cursed his carelessness at leaving his mobile in the car and rushed to meet the villagers, to give warning and prepare, as to what lie ahead in the Field. He shepherded his bewildered charges up into the Field, and on, towards the Castle walls, calling for everyone to stand back, and keep calm.
And then wondered what the hell to do next.
His worried thoughts were cut short by a high pitched whine from the craft. Suddenly, it descended and landed in the centre of the Field amphitheatre, plummeting the last few feet with all the inelegance and noise of a dropped bucket. Villagers’ hands were raised to mouths, there were cries and gasps of alarm. Then,…….. complete silence.
Not a sound from this amazing machine that had dropped into their midst!
This was even more nerve racking than the noise! Nervously, the simple folk of Mumbles closed together into protective groups. To many of them this was a more terrifying experience than a Cliff Richard concert.The green glow from the tiers of portholes dimmed to a bare glimmer. And so it remained, enshrouded in the fog and silent, for the best part of a half hour. Slowly, the Castle Field filled as the rest of the village joined the throng and whispering to one another, they waited nervously, well away from the mysterious craft.
What is it?
Who are they? Will they hurt us? Why are they here? What do they want? Were the inhabitants of the craft friendly? Can they communicate with us? Was it the Council’s fault?
UFO expert, Les (one-and-a half) Batty conjectured as to what they ate? Did they eat Shredded Wheat? Suddenly, making everyone jump out of their skins, came the high pitched, piping voice of a little boy, cutting through the night air, like a silver dart.
“Look Mam! Look! Look! There’s a black line thing on the side!”
All eyes turned to focus on the unbroken side surface of the craft. A black vertical line had appeared which, began to widen into a doorway. The watching crowd backed off a little more, in fear. Sergeant Iago, although as frightened as any of them, played the part expected of him as he boldly paced up and down before them, his hands making reassuring gestures.
When the door of the craft was fully opened, a ramp was extruded, smoothly and noiselessly, coming to rest on the ground. This was accompanied by a subtle brightening of the interior green light which spilled out on to the surrounding field. Villagers recalled afterwards that, amazingly, it was from this moment on, that all fear left every single one of the fascinated viewers. There was no feeling of terror any more. Apprehension had vanished. For many years, comics, films, science fiction books, have pumped out grotesque images of beings from other worlds, portraying them invariably as fearsome predators. But nothing had prepared the villagers for what was about to appear.
As a prelude, elongated shadows were thrown on the inner passage walls, leading up to the doorway and then cast out on to the ramp.
Then came that great historic moment! Two beings, from another world, appeared at the threshold!
They were not terrifying, on the contrary. They were humanoid, and of incredible beauty. Large crania surmounted small slender green bodies of exquisite grace. Arms and legs moved with a fluidity, almost hypnotic in its loveliness. These entrancing creatures were clad in fine web-like garments, of befitting elegance. The gasp and the murmur from the spectators, this time, was not one of fear.
They stopped at the top of the ramp, paused, looked about. Then both raised their arms in greeting. Every single villager received (goodness knows how) a message of reassurance accompanied by a feeling of well being. It was one of warmth, love and peace. One of the visitors, took a pace forward and imparted a greeting,
Which came as a bit of a surprise but was none the less heartening.
A very brief message was then communicated as to why they were here. They needed help. Their space craft was in serious trouble. In order to travel the vast distances across the universe, they utilised forms of transmission which exceeded the speed of light. Unfortunately, one vital part of the vega-ultronic had nucleonised its zergon and no one in the space ship’s crew had the skills or equipment to handle this meltdown. This was a malfunction that had never been known to happen before.
Considering that the technological knowledge of the average Mumbles villager is stretched to its limit when changing a torch battery, this information caused a slight degree of confusion. Not even Canon Keith Evans fully understood … and he had been to Trinity College, Carmarthen. (Some time ago, mind).
Communication with the Mother Planet was impossible whilst the klugon was detronned. They were unable to summon help. Their period of survival in this Earth’s atmosphere was one of only hours. They were helpless, but reassured the throng that their presence was not threatening. With quiet dignity, they turned back to the shelter of the doomed ship.
Then came that never to be forgotten call from the back of the crowd, some said it was Bryn Colley, known locally as the Whispering Baritone, (it was certainly loud enough),
“Send for Sparky!”
(One well known Mumbles wag in the crowd was heard to say, “I think with their problem it’d be better if we sent for Paul, from Pressdee’s.”)
But Sparky was already there! He, too, had heard all the noise and seen the lights and had come along with the rest of them. The two aliens turned and locked on to Sparky who felt in a most peculiar way, a probing sensation in his head. He experienced something that he could only describe as
“…an assessment,.. a recognition and …an acceptance…”.
He pushed his way through the crowd and limped to the craft, stopping a few metres off the ramp. He spoke,
“P’raps I can help you, boys! I don’t know, mind! I’ll nip back to the shed for my tools. Be about ten minutes. Orright?”
Alien arms were raised and heads nodded in acceptance. Sparky left making what haste he could. He was soon back, carrying his orange B&Q toolbox (special offer).
The two aliens stood aside and one beckoned. Sparky hobbling nervously, walked forward and up the ramp. The visitors stood aside and ushered him in. The doors slowly slid together.
Mumbles wondered, would they see Sparky again? Sergeant Iago thought it time to re-assert his authority and stood before the crowd.
“Keep back!”, he boomed, "Keep your distance! You never know, this ship might be full of radio nucleum stuff, like what happened in Chernobyldropoff, that Russian place!”
Iago had no need to worry, although all fear had gone, the villagers were still reeling from the events of the night. Even Les Harris was quiet. Nervously, they huddled together in groups, like penguins listening to David Attenborough and anxiously, they waited. It was like a pithead scene from “How Green was my Valley”, (without the hymns).
The best part of an hour must have elapsed.
Then a piercing cry from the same little lad. Everybody jumped again.
“Look Mam! Look! Look! It’s opening up again!”
Once again the aliens appeared at the threshold and between them stood the familiar tousle headed and bespectacled Sparky. They paused, silhouetted in the light of the doorway, the two space travellers turned towards Sparky and gracefully bowed their heads as they faced him. Something was communicated and a hand from each one, gently came to rest on Sparky’s shoulders. He looked up to each in turn and his face lit up with characteristic warm grin. He bounded down the ramp with ease and turned. This was a different Sparky! There was a new confidence!
He raised his arm
“No trouble, boys! My pleasure! Any time! And thanks a load for fixing the old leg!”
Everyone in the field was aware of the message of gratitude that Sparky had received. He’d fixed the zirgonic/overstellar time warp surge-nakker which, as everyone knows, plays a vital part in space travel over distances of mega-light-year magnitude. The stranded aliens were now able to return back to their equivalent of home and with what went for their equivalent of a family fireside, Dick Barton’s chips, Eastenders and someone like Tony Cottle next door. They withdrew and turned around one last time, to wave.
Clearly came that feeling, again, of goodwill and reassurance. And with it a request,
"Mumbles people! We thank you all! And especially you, dear Sparky! But we must tell you to keep all this to yourselves. The rest of your world is not ready for us yet. We have travelled a vast distance within the Universe, part of the great Creation. We share your beliefs and, one day, we shall return!”
They withdrew. The doors slid soundlessly together. A full circle of light on the periphery of the ship gently built up, becoming so bright, as to illuminate the whole of the field and the Castle walls. Arms were raised to protect the eyes.
No great noise now, this was no jet engined Airbus. Just a hum and then the ship lifted slowly and began to spin. This time, on a perfectly balanced axis. The gyro-stellons were now in equilibrium. It rose to about a hundred feet and then, phased into inverse- square over-kling positron drive. This created acceleration to a level beyond belief. The ship soared, to become a dot and then nothing! All in the space of a nano-second!
Suddenly, the villagers became aware of each other again and numbed by the night’s events, they shuffled their ways to the exits in Castle Avenue and Castleton. Not a word was spoken. They dispersed quietly to their homes and, thankfully, slid under the still warm duvets, to drift off… and dream….
Every single one of those Mumbles people who had been present on that historic night, abided by the request from the extra-terrestrials. In some indefinable way they were aware of being better for the experience but rarely talked about it amongst themselves, and, never, never to outsiders!
Iago retired, well in time to enjoy the cloudless glories of a Mumbles summer and to share happy moments with those most affable of gentlemen, Joe Trigg and Bob Jones, and how the rafters ring with laughter whenever they recount past exploits in pursuit of villains! The two retired “Supers” never came to know of Iago’s role in “the night that ‘they’ came”. Iago, generous to a fault, gave Greta a new garden spade and fork as a retirement present for her allotment and instead of finding her a job on an oil rig, sent her on an arc-welding course.
Sparky was a changed man. Gone were the leg irons, the limp and the constant pain. Unchanged was his infinite kindness but now he possessed a quiet confidence and with it came, respect from one and all.
And did it all happen? Of course it did! Careful searching in the centre of the Castle Field amphitheatre will reveal the perfect circular depression that once accommodated the massive bulk of the visiting space craft. For the rest of his life, Sparky became a regular worshipper at All Saints Church. Ask Canon Keith, he’ll tell you why!
Sadly, Les (one and a half) Batty never found out if they ate Shredded Wheat.