"When I lived out in Canada for a few years during the early 1960's, on very hot days a few of us would get our swimming gear and while there were no beaches nearby that we could go to, there was a very special river that was a favourite place for relaxing in its cool waters. The river ran alongside a rock face, and hidden within part of the rock surface was an entrance which led to a water cave grotto. Seeing this photo recently, reminded me of some pleasurable afternoons I spent there, although I have to confess, I never met the lady in the photo there.
The photo got me to think about all those other hiding places and secret nooks of solitude most of us have had in our lives. The earliest one I can recall was under my Grandmother Fanning's dress when I was three. I would pretend to have disappeared when my Grandfather Fanning appeared, and though he knew where his eldest grandchild was as my feet stuck out beneath her working frock, he would go along with the game, saying silly things about me until I giggled and gave my hiding place away. Then, he would suddenly lift up Grandmother Fanning's dress and reveal my presence. I would laugh and Grandmother Fanning would tell her husband to 'control himself.'
I also recall playing with my younger brothers and sisters, hiding under the kitchen table, also in the outhouse or even the bathroom. I would often choose the lavatory as my hiding place and lock the door. When the seekers eventually knocked on the door and proclaimed me to having being caught, I would disguise my voice as though I was was my brother Patrick, fart loudly as though I was fully engaged with the business at hand and tell them to go away. It worked until they latched on.
Being a large family of seven children, whose father earned as much money as he could, which was never enough to dress and feed us adequately, whenever anyone of us needed some clothing garment or a pair of shoes, the only way to get them was to use one of the clothing clubs (the forerunner to hire purchase which quickly became known as paying on the 'never never'). It was so called because it often seemed that the original goods purchased would never be paid off, given the high-interest charged and the practice of the payee often missing weekly payments during economically hard times. The only other way, mum could juggle the books was to miss paying the weekly rent occasionally.On those occasions when we'd literally eaten the rent money or didn't have the tally man's weekly installment to pay him, when the dreaded knock on the door arrived to announce their presence, we all hid low behind the sofa, knowing that they wouldn't go away until they'd peered through all the windows to see if anyone was at home.
As teenagers interested in the opposite sex, we all had secret places we would hide out in whenever we had a girl we wanted to spend time with. And once we'd established such hideaways, nothing would possess us to share their location with any mate. Besides, I never did fancy the notion of foursomes!
I even recall during my first marriage when the marital relationship seemed to be going downhill that I built myself a garden shed and stocked it with many personal comforts. My garden shed soon became transformed into my working shed where many happy hours were spent most evenings and all weekends working away on new projects while I listened to music and plays on the radio. I even fixed up a special child seat on the working bench for my son, James, to watch me as I worked. It was only after the breakup of my first marriage that I came to realise that my working had been the place I had chosen to hide away from my wife and unhappy marriage. I also started to realise why in the past, men often spent numerous hours in their locked work and allotment sheds, where it was sacrilege for any woman ever to enter.These were the days when a man's shed was his castle.
My twenty-five years working as a Probation Officer frequently brought me into contact with people who spent their lives 'hiding away' from one thing or another. Indeed, most women who didn't want sex with their husbands would hide away behind some pendeing headache. Addicts to drink or drugs would all have their secret hideaways where they kept a secret stash of their addictive substances for future use.
The person who presented the greatest problems in life were those who never expressed their true feelings; the ones who 'hid them away' by burying them in the deepest recesses of their unconscious mind. I have sometimes been allowed or have gained entry to these secret places of the mind, and upon hearing of the terrible, unspeakable things that children and adults have had to secretly endure for many years alone in silence, I was sickened to the stomach and wasn't at all surprised that under such psychological pain, mental anguish and physical abuse, they chose to hide away such dark experiences!
We all have secret places where we occasionally retreat to or chose to store away those experiences we do not feel able to reveal or share yet. If I was to pick my favourite secret place, it would be either under my Grandmother Fanning's dress when I was hiding away from my Granddad Fanning or that secret water grotto in Toronto where many happy hours were spent with some cool Canadian woman." William Forde: March 2nd, 2017.