What would you put in a time capsule? - Ian McMillan

Back in the 1960s, when my dad had finished washing up the Sunday dinner pots, he’d take his pinny off and say: “Right, shall we go for a little run in the car?”

Memories of creating a time capsule more than 60 years ago.
Memories of creating a time capsule more than 60 years ago.

We’d all say yes, so me and my mother and my brother would join my dad in the Ford Zephyr and make our steady way down the B-roads of South Yorkshire.

The route was always the same; out of Darfield towards Great Houghton. Through Great Houghton to the crossroads at the end of the village where we’d buy a Danny’s Ice Cream.

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We’d sit in the car and eat them and then my dad would turn the car around and we’d drive a little way and park in a layby and go for a stroll through Houghton Woods.

I guess most families would be able to point to this kind of routine; the same thing done at the same time on a particular day. They’re like a kind of scaffolding that holds us together, that we can reminisce about in the decades to come when some of the family have got too old and frail to venture far.

One week, having seen something on the TV about a time capsule being buried under the first house being built on a new housing estate, I became obsessed with the idea of those little postcards from the past to the future, and I decided to make one and bury it under a tree in the wood.

I used an old treacle tin that my mother had washed out; I decided to put in the front page of that day’s Yorkshire Post a bus ticket, a postcard from Tenby in south Wales that I’d brought back from a recent holiday, a penny, a shoelace (my logic for this being that in the future they wouldn’t use shoelaces and they’d wonder what it was) and a note from me with a greeting and my name and address.

The Sunday of the great Time Capsule Drop, I was really excited; I wanted my dad to drive quickly and sulked all through the ice-cream licking because it seemed to me that everybody else in the car was taking too much time.

My brother helpfully pointed out that this was, in his words, “a long-term project” and it really didn’t matter how slowly we ate our ice creams and that made me sulk even more.

Eventually we trundled off to the layby and I ran ahead to bury the time capsule at the base of a huge tree using the little spade from my beach set. By the time the family had caught up with me, the treacle tin was safely hidden, waiting for the future to arrive.

We went home and I found the shoelace on the table; I’d forgotten to put it in. My sulk deepened and widened and I wept and demanded we go back so that I could dig the tin up and put it in.

In the end, it was the following Sunday when I was able to take the shoelace but then I couldn’t remember where I’d buried the tin.

It might still be there for all I know, waiting for tomorrow. And there’s a life lesson there somewhere, buried.