‘I felt like nothing bad could ever happen to me’: how we keep cosy memories of childhood alive | Safe is the new bold

The ultimate fort

David Dunne, Liverpool

For 32 years, my parents have lived on the edge of a turf farm in Ormskirk, Lancashire. It means that there’s basically a massive, beautiful bit of grass behind the house and at its side is a little tree-lined ditch. As a kid, that was where I’d build my den.

The trees were coppiced, with lots of thin finger-like branches so you could sit in the middle of them and be totally hidden. When I was inside, I was completely shut off from the world. The farmer could even be ploughing in the field, and I would sit watching him, knowing that he had no idea that I was there. I could play for hours, undetected. It was like a fort. Or a palace. I felt very secure there.

One day a cat moved into our house and he started following me out to the den, so I made a special place for him in there. It became my own world, which I’d turn into a completely new scenario whenever I’d play – I’d get clay-ish mud to sculpt new parts. I’d use my penknife to cut bits of the tree and in my mind’s eye it would become a plane’s gun turret or part of a castle or a bit of a spaceship. Whatever I wanted to play, I could adjust it to fit my imagination.

Thirty years later, my kids started playing in that ditch. So recently, I went and found the bit that was my den. I showed my son where I played and now he goes down there with our dog. Watching him, it makes me think of my childhood. It totally takes me back to the times I spent hidden away from the world. It’s a nice feeling.

Malaysian mealtimes

Danielle Goldstein, Cambridgeshire

When I was six years old I moved from England into a three-bedroom flat in Malaysia. It was full of my Malaysian family: me, my grandad, my mum, my uncle and aunt, plus two cousins in this little flat. It was very, very full, just really bustling – my cousin would be doing her homework, I’d be on the floor playing, someone would be cooking and my grandad would be in his room watching TV. Having so many of my family in such a small flat just made me feel cocooned. It was a really safe feeling.

Mealtime was when that feeling was at its strongest – in Malaysia, food is the centre of family life. Everyone eats together, three meals a day, even if you have to come back from work at lunchtime. It’s a real ritual of togetherness and bonding. We’d eat coconutty curries, aromatic noodle dishes, at breakfast we’d have this incredible dish called roti canai where you dip flatbread into curry, but I dipped it into the sugar bowl to the bemusement of my family. I remember once there was a monsoon, lightning flashing overhead and it should have been quite scary as we were on the top floor, but I was right at the centre of my family. I felt like nothing bad could ever happen to me.

A couple of years later, me and my mum moved back to England. Whenever she’d cook Malaysian food, it would transport me to that flat and the feeling of security. As soon as the air filled with the spicy, coconutty scent of a laksa, I’d be on the other side of the planet. And now, as an adult, I’ve learned how to make those dishes myself. There’s never a week that goes by when I’m not cooking them, taking myself back to my family-packed flat.

Picnics in the car

Rob Greig, London

When I was a kid, we had a really special ritual where my dad would take me and my brother on road trips to watch sport. We’d drive to London to watch West Ham or go to watch Swindon Town or Bristol City, maybe go to Newbury, Chepstow or Cheltenham races. But my favourite bit? When we’d get there, we’d sit in the car and eat a makeshift picnic my mum had rustled up.

It felt so cosy. Outside it was dark, and the rain would be hammering down. You knew that you were about to step into an atmosphere that was unlike anything else you’d be exposed to – it was sport in the 70s: very smoky, very male, occasionally a bit intimidating. But in that car, sitting there with my dad, I felt so safe. He just seemed so completely in charge, so utterly comfortable in that situation.

For those 15 minutes, it was us and him, eating corned beef sandwiches, drinking squash out of a tartan thermos flask amidst the faint smell of cheap car seats and I felt totally protected.

Now I have my own family. On a holiday to Lanzarote, we drove to this really beautiful lagoon, but my three-year-old daughter had tonsillitis, so rather than getting out of the car, we sat in there and ate a picnic.

The place we stopped was like paradise and we were inside a car eating crisps. But my little girl felt safe and secure in there while she was unwell. Knowing that she has that same feeling that I had with my dad as a child means a lot. And when we got home, you know what she said was her favourite bit of the whole holiday? “Car picnic”. It was for me as well.

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Safety matters
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Johny Watshon

Life is like a running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting <a href="https://usanewsupdate.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">News</a> is my passion. Because my visitors have the right to know the truth and perfectly.

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Johny Watshon

Life is like running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting News is my passion. Because my visitors have right to know the truth and perfectly.

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