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.