Joseph Lamb, author of The God of All Small Boys, recalls the childhood den which was the inspiration for part of his new book.
There was a hole in the ground. It was broad and deep and long, almost a perfect square. Three small boys could easily have lain down, head to toe, and still had room to spare. At one edge the ground sloped down at a steady angle, into the pit. The other three sides dropped almost straight downward, and the bottom of the hole levelled off, almost completely flat.
“This is perfect!” Billy said. (extract from The God of All Small Boys, Chapter 17, The Den)
“The den is a pivotal part of the story of The God of Small Boys and was lifted straight from my own childhood experiences,” says Joe.
“Our den, (back in 1973-ish!) was exactly as it is described in The God of All Small Boys – situated in a huge field of tall grass. And the creation of it in the book is almost exactly as it happened in real life.
“The boys in the story have a itchy reaction after lining their den with something called ‘stone wool’ that they find on a building site. This section is based on actual events, where my friends and I carried back huge armfuls of Glass Fibre insulation to line the bottom of the den because it was warm. It wasn’t until the next day that we all came out in terribly painful rashes.
“My research showed that in 1917 that insulation did not exist! Luckily, stone wool (a similar product) hadn’t long been invented, and that was good enough to take the glass fibre’s place!
“During my author visits to schools I admit to feeling quite happy when I ask children if they know what a den is, and most of them can give a fairly good description of what it is. They understand that they are places of refuge for children to hide away from the world and have their own space. What isn’t so pleasing, is that it’s been very rare for them to then go on and say that they have had one.
“I included the den in the book because I felt the boys needed somewhere away from the mill-town, to show that there were places, even within walking distance, that were far removed from the noise and smoke. Somewhere that they could have, as I mention above, their own space to be themselves and not have to worry about, or deal with, the adult world… I think I need a new den!