Today's young techies miss out on magic cubbies

IN THIS electronic age of PlayStations, computers, and the rest, do today s youngsters have time and inclination to build cubbies? And do they know what a cubby-hutch is? Much as I admire the familiarity children these days have with all that wizardry, I

IN THIS electronic age of PlayStations, computers, and the rest, do today's youngsters have time and inclination to build cubbies? And do they know what a cubby-hutch is?

Much as I admire the familiarity children these days have with all that wizardry, I sometimes wonder if they're missing out.

It must be seriously doubtful if many of them could be persuaded that rooting about hedgerows, fields and woods for cubby material is fun. Before getting to that stage, of course, you'd have had to get the siting of the cubby settled.

One of the main reasons for cubbies is that they are a hideaway refuge from grown-ups. That can be achieved by simple distance, but the drawback there is you can't really go trekking miles every day to keep an eye on it.


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So, usually it was a matter of making your cubby inaccessible enough to dissuade the adult world from prying over much.

This made trees a favourite cubby-building locality.

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The best such around our village would have been a classic model to copy - if we could have got closer to examine it than staring 50 feet up from the ground.

It was put there by the two sons of the senior school headmaster. Like he, they were over six feet. By our time, both were Guards subalterns and their cubby long abandoned.

It's a good few years since I last saw the masterpiece, but it looked as stable then as it had in 1940.

I'd not be surprised if it's still up there now, as solid and out of reach as ever.

As envious nippers, looking up at Adrian and Geoffrey's handiwork, we learned the basic need to ensure a cubby's durability, namely a good, solid floor.

They had hammered this together from decent planking before lugging it aloft in one piece.

After what that involved, the army's assault courses must have been a doddle to that towering pair.

Possibly, it was the inspiration they'd provided which motivated Vern, my neighbour mate, and me to start on what became easily our best ever cubby a few yards from the field edge.

Our tree was lower, but its branches spread laterally and the trunk was, for us, an easy climb.

It was within hailing distance of our homes, yet approachable from there through the back garden fence.

What really got the project going, however, was our lucky find in the adjacent orchard of an old hen-house door which, as a floor, would take our weight and wasn't too heavy for us to take up the tree into position.

Once that was wedged and tied-off, the rest of it grew bit by bit over the summer holiday.

There was then no plastic sheeting laying about the country, so we roofed our cubby with various compatible pieces of ply and timber, and covered it with scrounged tarred felt.

Old Westmoreland sacking, of which there was plenty around, made ideal cubby sides. Ideal because they flipped up or dragged aside to give immediate views in any direction. Though we arranged it so we could peer out through the sacks' numerous holes.

We were so proud of that cubby that Vern's twin, Pam, was allowed in it. Getting her up there between us was trickier than the hen-house door had ever been. When a wind rocked the branches, Pam's panicky grab for something firm to hold on to yanked loose a whole sacking side wall.

It gave us a chance to see how easily cubby repairs could be affected.

You have to smile now, thinking about it.

We had comfortable homes, albeit without electricity and bathrooms they've since had these many years. I recall how cosy it felt up in there one wet afternoon. It needed a lot more than a summer shower to penetrate the sacking walls.

We lit up, of course.

Homemade pipes stuffed with baccy from picked up fagends. The rain, we smirked, would lay any giveaway smoke.

That didn't stop Vern's mum coming to the back fence and calling: "Shall I get Twyford fire-brigade out, you two?"

She didn't push it though. We were snug in our cubby castle.It was all our own work.

We'd not have missed a moment for worlds.

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