Little Herbert & the Rocket Ship
Herbert invited his friends, George and Nick, to play in his back
garden. Herbert’s house was the last house at the bottom end of
the cul-de-sac, so there was plenty of garden space to play in,
especially at the side of the house. Herbert had told his friends
of his plan to build a rocket ship to take them to the moon and
they were just as keen on the idea as he was.
Excitedly, the boys
began to strip the pallets and the old Formica wardrobe that Herbert’s
Dad had dumped against the sidewall of the house and with hammers,
nails and a length of plastic washing line; they began to construct
their space ship. With orange boxes for seats, an old transistor
radio and an old, wind up alarm clock for instruments, the rocket
was beginning to take shape, even if it wasn’t exactly rocket shape.
George provided an orange, plastic indicator light casing from his
older brother’s old mini cooper and he wanted it back afterwards,
even though his brother was driving a Zephyr now and Nick striped
the handlebars and gear stick from his old chopper bike. The finishing
touches were a glossy astral chart for a pretend view screen and
an old paint tin filled with tap water and placed under the rocket
for fuel. At last, the rocket ship was ready for its maiden voyage.
The boys agreed that
Herbert would be ships captain, because it was his idea and his
back garden. Nick would be pilot, because he had provided the handlebars
to steer the ship and George would be navigator, because they couldn’t
think of anything else that he could be and as George was the youngest,
it seemed only right, to Nick and Herbert at least, that his role
was the less integral. For friendship’s sake, George had bowed to
seniority on numerous occasions.
was to begin. Herbert slid a piece of Formica in front of
the entrance to the ship and pretended to lock it shut, for
which, George provided the sound effects by making a hissing
noise. Then Herbert gave the order for take off. Nick nodded,
leaned back on his orange box, raising his handlebars up and
made a whooshing noise. During their journey into the unknown,
the boys talked of asteroid belts, meteorites and star clusters,
all with a slight American accent.
an hour it was nearly lunchtime and George dropped his American
accent and expressed how hungry he was. Supplies was the one
thing that the boys had forgot to take on their mission and
Nick agreed that the mission should be aborted, temporarily,
as he had remembered that he had some water pistols that they
could use as ray guns. It was time to turn the ship around
and bring it home. “Coming in to land”, said Nick. “Brace
yourselves men”, Shouted Herbert over Nick’s whooshing sound
The ship had landed.
The worrying thing was that it had landed with a thud. “Did you
feel that?” asked Herbert. The three friends looked at each other
with concern. “There must be somebody outside” whispered Nick. The
boys cautiously removed the Formica board from the entrance and
stepped outside. They were no longer in Herbert’s back garden. Instead,
they found themselves in the middle of a field of long, sun-scorched
grass. George began to panic. “Don’t worry,” said Nick, “We can’t
be that far from home” he said. The boys walked out into the long
grass. As they looked around the field, Herbert spotted something.
“Over there” he said, pointing to the copse of trees on the far
side of the field. Nick came running to Herbert’s side, closely
followed by George. “What is it?” asked Nick. “Can you see that
church steeple between the trees?” asked Herbert. “Oh, yes” said
Nick, “Where there’s a church, there has to be houses and people,”
The boys made their
way across the field, past a clear shallow brook to a fence lined
narrow road that must surely lead to the village. Before long, the
boys were walking alongside the dry stonewall of the churchyard.
Beyond the church, the road veered to the right. The boys had made
it; they had arrived in the village. Nick recognised the place straight
away. “I’ve been here before” he said. “Where are we then?” asked
Herbert. “We’re in the village of Tipton Dell” Nick replied, “I
remember I came here with my mum last summer and we bought some
raspberry jam from the garden centre here. It was lovely. So, I
reckon we’re only about ten miles from home” he said. At this, George
began to sob. “That’s miles away” said George “It’s going to take
ages to get home and I’m not supposed to go off anywhere” he sobbed.
“Best we get walking
now then” said Nick. At that, he turned and began to walk down the
winding lane leaving Herbert to comfort George. Herbert knew that
George was right. It would take a very long time to get home and
it was a journey that Herbert didn’t fancy taking. Neither George
nor Herbert was as athletic as Nick. “Wait”, Herbert called after
Nick. Nick turned around. “What is it?” he called. “If the rocket
ship got us here, then it should get us back,” said Herbert. Nick
shook his head in disagreement. “We could end up anywhere,” he said.
“Let’s at least try,” said Herbert. George wiped his tears with
his sleeve and nodded in agreement. Nick held his arms up and then
dropped them to his side in resignation. “Alright then”, he said,
“but I think we’re wasting our time”
The three boys made
their way back to the field and climbed aboard the rocket ship.
Three times they attempted to take off, each time with disappointment,
they had not moved. “This is useless”, said Nick, “We may as well
start walking”. Herbert jumped from his orange box. “I know what
it is”, he yelled excitedly, “We’re out of fuel”. Nick disagreed.
“That’s silly”, he said, “It’s just a tin of water”. Herbert, was
in no mood for arguments, he knew he was right. He ran out of the
rocket ship and scrambled underneath. A second later he came out,
carrying the paint tin. “You see”, he said, “it’s empty”. Nick took
the paint tin from Herbert. The tin was bone dry and there was evidence
that it had been subjected to some heat. Nick didn’t know how or
why, but it seemed that Herbert was right; the rocket ship had indeed
run out of fuel. “Alright”, said Nick, “There’s a brook that runs
alongside that road. Let’s go and fill it up”
The boys hurriedly
filled the tin and replaced it under the rocket ship. They then
went through their take off procedure once more. “I don’t think
this is working,” said Nick. “Give it a chance,” said Herbert. “Right
then”, he said, “let’s go through the landing procedure again”.
George and Nick agreed and using sound effects they landed the craft.
Once again the rocket ship landed with a thud. “Quick”, said Nick,
“See where we are”. The three friends scrambled to the opening,
pulled the Formica board to one side and jumped out of the rocket
ship. To their relief, they were back in Herbert’s garden. “Hooray”
George, who lived
next door, made a dash for it. He was famished and wasn’t waiting
a moment longer. No doubt, once he had eaten and watched TV he would
be back out to play. Nick decided that TV could wait a while longer.
Even though the boys had experienced another strange and exciting
adventure, it seemed only right and proper to Nick that he helped
Herbert decommission the rocket ship.
Contributing Story Teller: Paul
F Clayton, [email protected]
New Parks Estate Leicester LE3 9HH