At the conclusion of the final episode of the final season of Detectorists, the gentle, perceptive British television series, Andy (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones) are camped under the stars, under a favourite tree. Ambling a little aimlessly toward middle-age, they have found contentment in their friendship and some satisfaction in their lives, even though their shared passion for metal detecting has not brought them riches.
Above them, nestled amongst the branches and leaves, unbeknownst to the pair, are the elusive gold coins from ancient Roman times that they have been seeking, plucked from the picturesque Suffolk soil by local birdlife.
Every morning I ride a few minutes to my school crossing and park my bicycle under my Detectorists tree. There, I unpack my tools: Stop sign, crossing flags, uniform. Then I wait. And wait. And wait, for in these lockdown days there are precious few people, let alone school-children, who need the crossing.
The tree keeps me company, keeps me sheltered, keeps me optimistic. It’s solid. Sturdy. Steady. Like my family, my partner, my offspring, my friends. It’s not going to blow over in the wind. It’s not going to drop its branches. It’s not going to let me down.
Just as Detectorists never let me down in its three lovely, sad, wry, funny seasons. As The Radio Times said in December 2017, before the final episode: Ostensibly it’s about two nerdy, 40-something men indulging their metal-detecting hobby while real life is passing them by. And yes, they are searching for gold, but dig below the surface and it’s about so much more: history, conservation, love, family, friendship, the quiet achievements of ordinary people… these are the treasures of life, not material things… The joy of Detectorists is precisely the fact that, for the most part, it isn’t earth-shattering; rather, a succession of entrancing moments and small happenings.
Which, it could be said, is all we can hope for from this thing called life.
My bike, another companion of sorts, rests against the tree trunk. Its panniers hold my glasses, sunglasses, phone, Covid face masks. At other times they are likely to hold groceries. Or a football and footy boots. Or beach towel and snorkel and flippers.
You could say those panniers, and especially the air in the bike’s tyres, hold my hopes and travails too but that might be pushing the point.
I pedalled past the middle-age peloton a while back, into the headwind of life’s frustrations and disappointments. Now I stand under a tree, waiting and waiting, watching the world go by (what there is of it, these days) with, perhaps, some measure of contentment.