Monday 27 January 2014


Some people, those with too much money and perhaps a Monet or a Gauguin hanging in their crib, may have a specially designed panic-room secretly hidden inside their home where they can run to seek refuge should they for any reason suddenly find themselves in a situation where they feel their lives may be threatened, say perhaps, from a gang of violent robbers.

But then other people like myself, with nothing really worth robbing but at the same time not wanting to lose what few marbles I have left inside my head, will have opted for a less elaborate means of escapism - in my case, a tent erected in the far corner of my garage that serves as a kind of 'safe place', hidden behind the tumble dryer, an array of petrol operated garden machinery and a substantial accumulation of old pushchairs, prams and other miscellaneous garage junk.

Inside the tent, it’s kitted out with an inflatable bed, bedside lamp and power points so I can use my laptop and other necessary appliances so that in an actual real life crisis situation - say for example when my ears start to bleed because the noise level inside my house exceeds that of which you would normally expect to find on a bombing range – it’s an ideal haven that offers immunity from the outside world and trash reality television. It's also a sanctuary where I can go-to-ground and lay low for extended periods of time when the mother in law comes over to stay.

Considered by people who know me to be somewhat whacky if not the behaviour of a complete fruitcake, in reality it’s a cosy snug where once inside it affords a dense blackness and total silence allowing easily for suspension of disbelief and within moments I can magically take myself to any location in the world that I should desire to be at that precise moment in time.

One minute I could be in the midst of an ultimate domestic noise nightmare with the washing machine well into its final end cycle spin and screaming like a military A10 jet shaking the entire house as shrieking, squealing children close in fast around me from all flanks. Hip hop, blasted from two powerful Bose sub-woofers pound hard, triggering tiny earth tremors that shake crockery and the portable house phone that invariably lays hidden under the sofa where it was abandoned will ring and ring and bloody ring. Doors around the house can be heard slamming shut, mobile phones bleeping and the excruciatingly annoying badly tuned kitchen digital radio will kick me in the balls as I lay motionless on the floor holding my ears . . .

But then the next moment . . . I could find myself sat at a small Viennese back street pavement café on a quiet Sunday morning gazing skyward toward the magnificent spire of St Stephen's Cathedral. Or maybe I'll be high in the deep snow covered arctic mountain region of northern Norway during mid-winter, watching the spectacular northern lights kaleidoscope above in the night sky.

For those of you who are familiar with the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, you will no doubt remember the small adapted wooden outhouse from which the eccentric grandfather would step into and imagine he was travelling the world . . . . “I’m off to Alaska, m’boy!”  he said in one scene while wearing a fur hat and coat and carrying a ski pole in each hand with a set of snow shoes flung over his shoulder, while his Inventor son Caractacus Potts looked on. Well . . .  that's a bit how it works with me.