As I ramble through Britain's broad acres, I occasionally notice treehouses - usually in private gardens. Most of them are homemade wooden structures that have seen better days. Some are clearly falling apart.
It is easy to close one's eyes and imagine the construction of a treehouse - usually by fathers who were keen to express paternal love with planks of wood, boxes of nails, a hammer and a little ingenuity.
Equally, it is easy to imagine playful children entering the brand new treehouse with glee. Sharing secrets, having picnics, defending the treehouse as though it were a castle or a sailing ship. For a short while at least, a treehouse might be a treasured place, like a den hidden in the woods.
But how long do the treehouse dreams of childhood ever last? Perhaps one summer - maybe two. And then the kids outgrow it. Its novelty has evaporated. There are better things to do.
Yet the treehouse remains, blasted by weather and the ever changing seasons. Planks loosen. A rope hangs limply. Perhaps a roof panel blows off or a wooden rung on the ladder swings loose. Maybe the father who built it muses, "I must dismantle it. One day. When I have the time".
The idea of writing a poem about a neglected treehouse had been in my mind for a long while. The names of the children and the dog are shared with Enid Blyton's characters in her once supremely popular "Famous Five" books. This is not co-incidental.
Of course it might be reconsidered and edited but here's the poem that surfaced just the other day...
Those kids who used to play
In the treehouse
That soared above the hedge?
One summer’s eve they slept there
The pin-pricked canopy of night
Drinking cocoa from a thermos flask.
Julian said, “We must sleep”.
Timmy barked and Anne imagined trouble
- Something swooshing down below.
George said, “It’s nothing”.
Dick was soon asleep.
They followed their prescribed paths -
George studied law at Warwick,
Anne married a farmer
With a missing finger,
Julian lives in Oxnard, California.
Dick died on the M1
Timmy was buried in the orchard
Which is gradually rotting -
Algae feeding on the wood,
A roof panel blown away.
I wouldn’t go up there now -
It’’s not safe
Though Mr Barnard promised
It would last forever.
You paint a vivid picture with your poem, Mr. Pudding.ReplyDelete
Thanks for reading it Catalyst.Delete
I like that poem and treehouses. I never had one but I wanted one so much. I always wanted to get away from my family, someplace secret.ReplyDelete
I think that was the main point of a treehouse.Delete
I never had the pleasure of a tree house as I lived on the bald prairie but I am aware of play house pleasure. Where I live now there are trees and yes I did build a tree house for my kids. It was three sider.ReplyDelete
And I bet when they finished playing in it, it remained for a good long while before you took it down.Delete
Your post, and lovely poem, sure stirred up memories of the treehouse in the great maple in our back field. The boys had a rope ladder of sorts and a trap door cantilevered with a cinder block. They dropped it on my head, resulting in a concussion when I was eight years.ReplyDelete
I should not be chuckling about that! But I am.Delete
Thought- provoking musing, YP. You've also just transported me back to the Famous Five. I'd forgotten their names.ReplyDelete
Their names are embroidered into the tapestry of what England used to be.Delete
That was oddly touching. Thank you.ReplyDelete
I am glad you read it and connected with it.Delete
By the way, has anyone heard of Mr Haggerty? He used to be the most prolific commenter on many blogs I know, including my own, until a while ago when from one day to the next, his comments ceased to appear. I hope he is well.ReplyDelete
He has had gaps in the past. He is probably reading this now. Mr Haggerty has a lot of reading and YouTube viewing to do in order to maintain his vast reservoir of literary, historical and cultural knowledge.Delete
The Famous five! The first books most of us youngsters graduated to after simple readers. Thank you for the update on how their lives progressed YP - those left alive must all be in their late 90's now!ReplyDelete
Not all tree houses have the innocence of the one in your poem YP. Just before we moved from our house in the UK, our next door neighbour had a very fancy tree house built at the bottom of the garden. It took a team of workmen a couple of days to install! None of the fun of watching dad bang his thumb, yet again, as he thumped another nail into a rickety structure. We later heard that it wasn't for the children to play in, but was for the husband to keep an eye on the neighbours through binoculars, then report back to his obsessive social-climbing wife. The tree house provided an excellent spot to spy on the neighbours, until several made a formal complaint to the police!
He had probably heard that you liked to sunbathe in your itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini during the summer months.Delete
He left it a bit too late - we'd moved by the time the weather was good enough to sunbathe!Delete
I see you are not denying the bikini Carol!Delete
I like your poem. As kids our father built us a tree house in a Cypress tree. I've no idea what happened to it. I put down lino on the floor and added some seating. There was also a rope swing hanging from a tree branch. While Cypress could be very scratchy, ours was a great tree to climb.ReplyDelete
I guess you haven't read Enid's final book, Five Give Up the Booze and so don't really know what happened to the The Famous Five.
"Five Give Up The Booze" is a fake book and an insult to the memory of The Famous Five! I am glad that this poem connected with you Andrew and your fond memories of the treehouse your father built.Delete
I think Mr. Moon did build the kids a tree house once. I seem to remember...ReplyDelete
I'll ask the children. They'll know.
Mr Moon is the perfect husband, father and grandfather. He must have built a treehouse. If not, he should make amends by building one for August and Levon.Delete
A beautiful poem, I like how you brought it into today and what happened to the kids.ReplyDelete
Kind of you to read it and think about it WWW.Delete
Your tree house poem reminds me that all children have to grow up. It's a very good poem.ReplyDelete
Childhood is so fleeting and yet it shapes our adult lives.Delete
When you're a child, a structure like a treehouse (or a swing set or a jungle gym) seems to last forever! It's only as an adult that we realize how transient they are.ReplyDelete
Nice poem. You could subtitle it "Ode to Enid."
Thanks for reading it and for considering it Steve. By the way, my real name is not "Ode"!Delete
Your lovely photo reminded me straight away of the tree house that my father built for my elder brother. It was very high up and I, little sister, was not allowed to climb up for fear of falling out and cracking my head. I spent my time swinging beneath it in annoyance. Perhaps it was because of this that I joined the climbing club as soon as I got to college. No rock face was too high!ReplyDelete
Ha-ha! Joining the climbing club was payback time!Delete
I remember wanting a treehouse for many years growing up and never got one. But now as a parent, I see the reluctance to build a structure that will become obsolete in just a couple short years. I just took down a trampoline that probably had ten minutes of bouncing time on it in the last six years.ReplyDelete
There is a similar trampoline next door to us and a playhouse that the father spent ages building. The two girls spent very little time in the playhouse and the trampoline has probably seen no more bouncing since the summer of last year.Delete
I had a playhouse in my back yard that was decked out with table, chairs, and toy kitchen appliances. I spent more years playing in it than I should probably admit. It lasted through two more families and only met its demise when a tree fell through it during a major storm a few years back. The current residents' granddaughter was devastated. My dad would be pleased to know it was used and loved for 50 years or more!ReplyDelete
Childhoods still linger in quiet corners of my attic. Sometime I go there to remember those children.ReplyDelete