Thursday, 30 August 2012

Summer Holiday Themes 9; Dens

On the two occasions over the years I've been house hunting with my husband he has shown almost no interest in any aspect of the actual house but headed straight for the garden to check the shed installation possibilities. In fact when we moved into our current home, his shed came too, moved in 48 hours in pieces on the back of a Ford estate. It is a pretty fine shed. It would have been a shame to leave it behind. I can see that.

I do worry sometimes about the possibilities of shed escalation in our family. We have a second shed already for the housing of tools etc. But the husband's father had at one stage 3 sheds and a garage and the boys already make wistful murmurings about 'a shed of one's own'. I suspect the shanty town at the bottom of the garden is only going to expand. They already have a castle but that's not the same thing at all apparently...Bill's new found fever for playing pool can't happen in a castle- and neither can his expressed wish to learn the drums. sigh. I shall just have to retreat to my bath and shut the door.

The point of all this is we all love a den and we never stop loving a den. Dens. Are. Ace. Whatever their dimensions; I think Balmoral may function as a den for the Queen. Hmm that's a castle. See boys- it can work?

On our Cornish holiday we went to the thoroughly marvelous Eden project. But the most marvelous thing about it from my children's point of view was not the contents of the amazing biodomes but a side attraction being housed in the stage tent area where you were invited to construct your own den. Huge racks of substantial bamboo poles of different sizes, rectangular frames, massive tarpaulins, ties and carpets were laid on. A simple idea but on a lavish and luxurious scale so you could really build something properly impressive.  All around dads (mainly) and their kids were engaged in a mild competition to out-design their neighbour's construction whilst mums (mainly) admired from the sidelines with a cup of tea.

Back home the rain continues to fall and so more interior construction is called for( with thanks to Mrs. Peggs Handyline)

Dens are pretty well represented throughout many children's books of course; whether on the epic-whole-island-to-yourself scale of 'Swallows and Amazons' or a tiny cocoon retreat to recover from a Very Hungry Caterpillar's stomach ache. 
I'm not sure you can top Stig's cave though as Den My Children Would Most Like To Visit from Clive King's ever lovely 'Stig of the Dump:

'Barney got up and went into the dark part of the cave.
He'd never seen anything like the collection of bits and pieces, odds and ends, bric-a-brac and old brock that this Stig creature had lying about his den. There were stones and bones, fossils and bottles, skins and tins, stacks of sticks, and hanks of string. There were motor-car tyres and hats from old scarecrows, nuts and bolts and bobbles from brass bedsteads. There was a coal scuttle full of dead electric light bulbs and a basin with rusty screws and nails in  it. There was a pile of bracken and newspapers that looked as if it were used for a bed. The place looked as if it had never been given a tidy-up.
"I wish I lived here," said Barney'

This is actually a pretty good description of our house 5 weeks into the holidays. That's lucky then.

What's your favourite literary den?


  1. I know I read Stig of the Dump when I was 7 or 8 but can't remember it at all (other than the physical book, with a photo cover IIRC) Stop tempting me with things to buy! ;-)

    Dens are fab. I try to kick my girls out into their TARDIS but they do a great line in using their bunk beds to make places. And the sofa & chairs. And corners. And middles of floors. And the clothes horse... The description is very fitting of our house too...

  2. My father has two sheds and two two-car garages. Shed escalation is a real problem, I think.

    I used to read under the basement stairs, covered by pillows from our sofa. My father sold the sofa, but then they couldn't get it out of the basement which had been built around it, and having already bought a new sofa, cut it up and gave me the pillows. It was fab.

    1. I want that den NOW. Hmm was thinking of getting a new sofa...