I made Narnia in the space above the built-in wardrobe in our bedroom. To access it we needed the wooden stepladder. Once inside, the space was generous enough for the two of us to sit comfortably with our sandwiches, biscuits and fruit, or whatever I could find that would most closely resemble the tea that Mr. Tumnus the fawn made for Lucy that first time she stumbled through the wardrobe into Narnia and perpetual winter. Really there should have been a boiled egg but that would have been too difficult. There should also have been an iced cake with a cherry on the top. I improvised. The cake was made of plasticine. It was old and all the colours had bled into each other long ago so the cake was a kind of sludge brown with streaks of pink and turquoise through it. I found a red marble that served as the cherry. The walls of the above-wardrobe space were covered with our drawings of the Narnian forest, Mr. Tumnus’s sitting room and Aslan the lion, true King of Narnia. We had to keep the doors open a little so as not to sit in darkness, and the green and yellow daylight, the sound of Eva vacuuming the flat as she sang along to pop tunes on Radio Luxembourg, slightly broke up our perfect Narnian winter. We needed a candle so I rummaged around in the sitting room cupboard where my mother kept the Christmas things. My grandmother sent beeswax candles from Germany; they had a mellow, even light and gave off a scent of honey. I stuck the candle to a saucer and we closed the doors to the outside world, even though Lucy would have said that it is a very silly thing to shut oneself into a wardrobe.
“You’re very clever,” said my little sister. A selection of stuffed animals were with us, pressed against the wall and corners. Benjamin, the largest bear, was Aslan and Alfie the monkey was Mr. Tumnus. We ate our sandwiches which I had cut into triangles. On each triangle I had put a small decorative flourish with Heinz tomato ketchup or Daddies brown sauce. There was a small bowl full of raising and peanuts. “You’re a good cooker,” said my sister munching a sandwich. I read an excerpt from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the part where all four children had found their way to Narnia and are in the house of the beavers.
Eva absent-mindedly put the stepladder away and called out to see where we were. My sister was about to push open the door and call back but I shook my head and whispered, “let’s hide.” So we did, just like the Pevensey children had, and Eva thought we must have gone off to the playground. And when we jumped down, back into the ordinary world, no-one had really noticed our absence. Just like in the book.
Which is a long way of saying that I’m going to be retreating for a month or so – maybe not into Narnia but, you know – the place where story comes from. And I’ll be closing the door, but not completely –
Be seeing you.