I don’t believe in a heaven, not that it matters one way or the other because if there is one… If there is one… There sure as hell ain’t no place in heaven for the likes of me.
So no, I don’t believe in a heaven, but I can tell you what’s it’s like. That I can do.
When I was young, and the world was still full of magic and wonder, before the world stopped making sense, I used to spend my Saturday morning with my mother. We would jump on a bus and she would take me to a nearby market town and try, as best she could within her meagre means, to entertain her demanding youngest son.
Now my older brother he was the practical one but I, I was a dreamer. Still am. Then again who isn’t in this current shared nightmare we find ourselves? I was just a little ahead of the curve.
Sometimes when we got off the bus in this nothing special market town, this broken down, declining market town, we would be overpowered by the smell of hops. Hops from the local brewery. Of course back then I hadn’t had so much as a sip of beer, so that unusual, inescapable, smell didn’t have the associations for me it would in later life.
But those Saturdays were special to me. So that smell became special to me. That’s what heaven smells like. Hops. The hops they brewed John Bull Bitter with in particular.
You see we had our rituals ma and me. The first stop was Bartons the bakers. There I would have a diet Coke and a sausage roll. Now that, that’s what heaven tastes like. Bartons the bakers sausage rolls washed down with a diet soda. I don’t know what I wouldn’t give to go back to those Saturdays, those innocent, endless Saturdays, and to sit at that table again with its plastic table cloth and eat one of those sausage rolls.
Then on, ever onwards, to the cinema. A huge Art Deco monstrosity, with huge vaulted ceilings that soared up seemingly to infinity that frankly, and I never once told my mother this, terrified me. I only had to hide my fear until the lights went down and I could escape into film. That’s what heaven looks like, a bright shining beam of light in the darkness bringing dreams to life. The sound of heaven too! Sound and vision combined in perfect harmony. The sound of missing dinosaurs, of star wars, of close encounters… Larger than life heroes and villains, when we all knew who was a goodie and who was a baddie, before the lines for blurred, before moral grey areas, you know, before I grew up.
And after the dream was over, after the credits had run, my mother would ask me if I had enjoyed the film and would hug me. Now that. That’s what heaven feel like. A mother’s embrace. A mother’s love.
They are all gone now. The brewery demolished and replaced by a shopping mall. Bartons the bakers closed and replaced by some clone store that from the inside could be anywhere in the country and so becomes nowhere. The cinema has been turned into a nightclub. And my mother has been in her grave these past ten years.
Gone, but the glimpse of my personal heaven they afforded me remains.