Warning - Some posts may cause choking, spitting of beverage and /or a severe giggle fit. This advice brought to you by regular reader Louisa.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Perfect Getaway

Here I am with day three's post for my October Marathon. I'm still working through Maria's suggestions, and today's lovely subject is 'your favourite childhood hideout/ or fort/ getaway space' (Maria's come up with some good ones, don't you think?)

Technically, I never really had an official hideout as such, as I was never an outdoorsy kind of girl. If I wanted time for me I would simply go to my bedroom (which I always shared with one of my sisters) and pull out - and this should come as no surprise - a book. I can't ever remember a time when I didn't enjoy reading. I don't have any specific memories from my earlier childhood, but I do know that reading was always something that I did.

As I mentioned before, I'm not a very good mixer, and add to that the slightly over-protective parents who didn't really let me go out to play very often, plus a sister who was frequently too ill to join in the fun, and another sister who was manic depressive probably from birth, I was definitely a bit of a loner as a child. Oh, I had friends that I saw at school, and a couple of kids from next door that I would play with off an on, but usually I would make my own fun. I did all of the usual things that most girls do - I played with my Barbie dolls, and I played dress up with my mother's clothes and made extensive use of her make-up and perfume, that sort of thing - but when you don't have company to share the fun with, you do your best to make new friends.

So that's what I did. I became friends with all of the characters of my favourite books. My parents had little money to spare when I was younger, so my mother made frequent trips to the charity and second-hand shops and came home laden with clothes to get mucky in (we had a large backyard that was used for more grass and mud fights than anything else), dolls that needed nursing, and books. Lots and lots of books.

I don't really think there was a particular book or series that was a 'craze' in the 1980's, but being a girly girl, plus a child who would read anything and everything, I soon began to get hooked on dog-eared copies of Enid Blyton's books. I became fast friends with Darrell and Alicia from her Mallory Towers series, for example. Of course, the books were set in the Evergreen Jolly Hockey Sticks era of posh Britain - which is about as far away as you can get from a council estate in one of the poorer areas of Cardiff - so they were definitely rather dated, even in the eighties, but the underlying message of friendship appealed to me I suppose because I wasn't very social. Of course, I didn't know that was the reason they appealed to me back then - how many eight and nine years can self analyse? - but with hindsight I can definitely see why they attracted me.

One of the books that sticks in my mind most from my youth was Little Women by Louisa M Alcott. I absolutely adored this book for a number of reasons. Mostly, I loved the characters, especially the feisty Jo, with her sometimes misguided way of doing things, and her enduring love for her family. I'll never forget the part of the story where she cuts off her hair to make a little money - which, in the time that the story was set, was a huge deal for a woman because her hair was viewed as her crowning glory - and her elder sister, Meg, exclaims; "Oh Jo, your one beauty!" (or words very similar, I haven't got the book to hand), and that definitely struck a chord with me. Meg, indeed all of the family, loved Jo a great deal, but even at the fairly tender age of ten, I picked up the fact that they definitely weren't seeing Jo's inner qualities as much as they should.

See, this is what I mean by making friends with my favourite characters. This is what I would do when I wanted to get away from the ever-present concern for my elder sister, and the constant stress that my younger sister caused. I would pull out my latest favourite book and pretend that I was one of the characters. I would be one of the girls at Mallory Towers, drinking hot chocolate in a freezing dormitory and trying to keep the chills at bay, thoroughly enjoying myself as we all took the mick out of Madame DuPont and her funny little glasses.. Or maybe I would be one of the March girls (probably Jo), acting out the man's role in a performance for Marmee on Christmas Day.

In my later youth I progressed to slightly more dramatic books, and took my pleasure in writing first chapters of the non-existent sequels. I'd never go beyond writing that first chapter -somehow I never could spoil the original story by going too far into the characters' futures - but writing a little extra scene, as it were, would finish the story off nicely for me. I'm rarely happy with the way a book ends (I'm a fussy mare), and even now I usually find myself rewriting the final chapter of most books that I read.  When I was younger, I did most of the writing in my head, granted, but I guess the habit never died, and was probably the first strong indication that I wanted to write books of my own.

So there we have it, my personal spin on childhood getaway spaces. Though to be truthful, I still do it now, which goes to show that some habits never die.


  1. The second I saw childhood getaway I thought of books. I had a room to myself, but Ella Enchanted and Harry Potter were my real escape. I totally sympathize, nice post!

  2. You mean all the girls in England don't go to schools like Malory Towers? That's another childhood belief busted. Now please don't tell me Santa Clause doesn't exist.

    Darrel was one of my dearest friends too.