Hiding places, hidden spaces


Didn’t we all love making hiding places or dens when we were children?

I graduated from a blanket draped over a couple of chairs when I was a toddler, to a shed-come-clubhouse in a neighbour’s garden at seven, to a tepee-like construction in some nearby woods by the time I was ten.

I’ve always been fascinated by creating little secret hideaways.

There’s something magical and exclusive about hiding away — but it didn’t always have to be alone. It was often most fun when a couple of friends joined in and we all brought food and drinks begged or pilfered from home. Strawberry jam sandwiches, apples and bottles of flat, unfizzy lemonade took on a special charm when shared illicitly, far from the grown-ups’ eyes.

Children’s literature is scattered with such hideouts — some of my favourites were Stig’s den in the dump, The Five Find-Outers’ clubhouse and Jennings’ Little Hut.

I remember adoring a TV programme in the 1970s called The Double Deckers, where the local kids hung out in — you guessed it — an old red London double-decker bus, in an unused junkyard.

And then I discovered Alfred Hitchcock’s The Three Investigators and I was in heaven. These guys were the epitome of cool! Jupiter Jones’ aunt and uncle owned a salvage business, if I remember rightly, and the three boy investigators had a secret den hidden deep under the scrap and bric-a-brac. Wow!

Anyway, you get the picture. I’m sure you had your favourites, too, both from books and television programmes and from your own childhood. You may not have thought about them for years. Did you have secret passwords to gain access? Can you recapture the excitement you felt?

And now, even though I’m (supposedly) grown up, with grown up kids, I still can’t resist a bit of a hideaway.

When we moved home a couple of summers ago, we needed to have a new central heating system installed, and we waved goodbye to a huge old Mexicana boiler housed in a cupboard in the dining room.

My husband thought we’d turn it into a linen cupboard.

But I had a much better idea.

After a bit of cajoling, he agreed to build me a Book Nook, and it’s one of my favourite spots to sit and read now. All my favourite books migrated from my bookshelves to the specially built shelves in the Book Nook, and I had so much fun choosing cushions and running fairy-lights around the shelves.

It’s now a favourite spot for young visitors to sit and share a picture book (when I let them…) and I hope it starts them on their own road to a love of hideaways.

And although we have two empty bedrooms in our house, only occupied occasionally by student sons, and both of these rooms have desks and computers where I could sit and write to my heart’s content, guess where I end up?

In a newly painted shed at the bottom of the garden, complete with comfortable armchair and writing desk.

I guess I still can’t resist hiding myself away and waiting for the magic to happen.


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