How playing with my granddaughter took me back to my own childhood - Ian McMillan

In the distant past, when we were still allowed to go into each other’s houses, my granddaughter Isla was playing a game of hide and seek with my wife and I.

The power of memory is something you have to learn to harness if you’re a writer.

There was only one rule which was that we would hide and Isla would seek. The thing is, for a grown-up, there aren’t that many places to hide in an ordinary semi-detached house.

Behind that curtain. Behind that door. Behind that other curtain. Behind that other door. Under the table. Then, when the options seemed to be running out, I went into the little bedroom and tried to imagine myself hiding in the wardrobe.

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The little bedroom lives up to its name because it really is little; now it’s my workroom where I write and read and it’s crammed with books. There are books everywhere, books piled on books, except of course for the one you’re looking for.

The wardrobe is full of books and toilet rolls and a Hoover, but just at the side of the Hoover there’s a space where a man might hide. It would be a bit of a squeeze but I seem to have lost a bit of weight lately so this might well be the test.

I opened the door. I gently pushed the Hoover to one side, being careful not to collapse a leaning tower of poetry. I closed the door. I fitted, just. I was like somebody in a suit that’s a couple of sizes too small. It was half-dark in the wardrobe and I could hear Isla hunting for us. Then I heard her finding my wife behind a door. I began to formulate the idea of a poem written from the point of view of a wardrobe.

Then, totally unbidden, a memory slid to the front of my brain: there I was, in the rabbit hutch, pleading with the lads to let me out. It must have been the tightness of the wardrobe that brought the tightness of the hutch to mind.

Let me explain: when I was a lad we had a rabbit, the unimaginatively named Bunny Fluff. He lived in a kind of luxury hutch, designed and built by my Uncle Charlie; there was a living area and a sleeping area and you’d get three million quid for it these days if it was in Chelsea.

One day, while Bunny Fluff was hopping around the lawn, my mates challenged me to get into the hutch. I was, in those days, a portly lad and so I accepted the challenge.

I folded myself into the lounge (as we were sure Bunny Fluff called it), squeezed my legs in and bent my back and there I was, in the hutch. It was restricted but I could breathe.

Then one of the lads, maybe Keith Barlow, shut the door and fastened the latch. Then they went to the park, leaving me shouting feebly. I began to sweat in the wardrobe.

That’s the power of memory and it’s something you have to learn to harness if you’re a writer. I could hear Isla and my wife coming into the room and I really wanted them to find me.

I’m here! I’m here! In the wardrobe! In the hutch.