27.09.2006 12:11 - The Bunker
When I was young, my parents bought a prefabricated concrete coal bunker. To keep coal in, obviously.
This bunker was about six feet long and four feet high, four feet wide and four feet deep. The coal was emptied in through a hatch at the top. The hatch, also made from concrete, slid back and forth with an impressive sound.
It was only natural, then, for a 7-year-old who spent his time constructing various dens under tables, in cupboards and various cardboard boxes, that I would see the den-making potential of the coal bunker. When it was three-quarters empty, I would slide back the hatch, enter and sit on the remaining coal, then slide the hatch closed, pretending I was in an Apollo space capsule. The bunker proved to be a magnet for playmates, as would any place with such a den par excellence. Forget blankets draped over dining chairs or hollows in the chrysanthemums, this was the real thing.
Somehow, my mother always knew when I'd been in the coal bunker. I think it was the fact that I was covered from head to toe in coal dust - something that wasn't outside her experience, as my granddad Shipley was a miner. However, when the other parents started phoning up and complaining about their kids being covered in coal dust, that was the final straw. A lock was procured and placed on the bunker, and my attempts at getting preadolescent pneumosilicosis were thwarted.
One of my friends who was particularly eager to accompany me in the bunker later bought that house. Before you ask, he's too big to get in it now, and we got rid of the bunker when we had central heating installed.