Photo © David Gillanders
In the summer of 1982 I lived in a town called Cournon d'Auvergne in the middle of France. My parents owned a Volkswagen camper van and we'd idle away the weekends and holidays driving around the French and Swiss Countryside, stopping and setting up camp wherever we felt like it. I was six years old. It was the perfect way to spend summertime.
The van was compact and slept the whole family. There was a tent that attached onto its side, giving us extra room and somewhere to sit if it started to rain. The tent was heavy and clumsy to put up and always worked my father up into an aggravated fluster. Often the ground was hard and getting the tent pegs into it was even harder. Somewhere along the way he had picked up an old red brick to help him hammer in the pegs. The brick travelled with us in the bottom of the tent bag, and became an integral part in setting up camp. I took an instant liking for battering tent pegs into the ground with the brick. I was in charge of brick's other job too, which consisted of him being tied loosely to the bottles of milk and lemonade so that they wouldn't float away when we left them cooling in the river.
It wasn't long before Brick and I were pretty tight. I found a long piece of string, which I threaded through one of his three holes and tied leaving a length so that I could pull him along behind me. We'd go for walks together around any campsite we were staying in. Me and Brick. Sometimes other adult campers would look up from their newspapers and smile at the simple picture; a six year boy old taking a brick for a walk around a campsite on a lead. Other children I met on site seemed initially curious of Brick, thinking that I might have something wrong with me, wondering why I had a brick for a pet. But they soon took a fondness for him. Some even found their own pet bricks.
One day, toward the end of the holiday, in Austria, in a campsite high in the Alps Dad was hammering away, trying to get the final peg in a particularly hard piece of ground. All of a sudden Brick broke into four pieces. It wasn't my father's fault. The ground was hard as concrete and the pegs were bending. Brick had his work cut out. He'd taken one hit too many. Dad laid him on the ground. The lead was still attached to one of the broken pieces. We buried him in that evening, the service was brief and afterwards mum heat up a tin of ravioli on the camp stove and we ate it admiring how neatly the tent pegs had gone into the ground. Brick had done one good last job that was for sure. That was the last time I ever had a pet, that day up in the Austrian Alps. I've never wanted one since.