I am firmly of the opinion that a man’s bedroom is his castle. When I was still living at home this impression was only reinforced on those occasions when I found my mother glaring in at me like a gargoyle that had got itself turned around in a high wind, but that’s parents for you: swanning around the place, acting like they own it, unaccountably annoyed when you conscientiously file every article of clothing you possess under ‘F’ for ‘Floor’.
There were other similarities to castles and suchlike fortifications. It was in my bedroom that I came under aerial attack from the USAAF. A model of a B-29 bomber, an Airfix kit with a wingspan of several feet, slipped off the top of my wardrobe (in retrospect I shouldn’t have set it on the steeply-angled slope of an empty lever arch file) and struck me in the face as I slept below. There are good ways and bad ways to wake up, and a Superfortress in the teeth is one of the most confusing, as well as one of the more painful. Thereafter the big planes were suspended from the ceiling.
(Many years later, armed with lighter fluid and as many caps as I could lay my hands on, I blew up the model in the back garden. I felt suitably revenged.)
My bedroom then – and indeed now, and to a far greater extent – was also my library. (Castles should have libraries, and not just for books like ‘Siege Warfare for Beginners’. I distrust anyone whose bookshelves hint at monomania. A range is vital, even if it’s only a narrow one, or one where the deer and the antelope play.) I must have had a couple of hundred books. This may not sound like much of an achievement – certainly not by comparison with today’s bedroom-cum-athenaeum, as it goes marching bravely and helplessly toward the two-thousand-book mark – but it’s what I spent my pocket-money on, and it therefore represented my chiefest priority. You can tell a lot about someone by what they choose to spend their disposable income on: make what you will of my determined acquisition of the complete works of Terry Pratchett.
There were CD players of various sorts over the years, culminating in a very nice one that is still in my parents’ house (I call that suspicious), but one thing I never had was a television. My parents were absolutely firm on the matter. To this day I can take or leave the goggle box (although I am unendearingly bereft when denied my laptop), so perhaps they knew what they were doing after all. I had, briefly, a little plant that I called ‘Joshua’ (I was listening to a lot of U2 at the time), which had been a birthday present from my sister. It is still alive, but that’s mainly because my mother now looks after it and it lives downstairs where she can keep an eye on it. There was a desk, or at least a sort of wooden support structure for towering stacks of paper that otherwise would more accurately be described as ‘compost heap, with strata’; and there was a near-empty wardrobe that to reach you had to mountaineer your way over heaps of discarded clothing. There was an ancient swivel chair that even then had reached hitherto undreamed-of depths of disreputable decrepitude, and which I still have, here in my bedroom in Aberdeen. There was paint and glue and all the other paraphernalia of an inveterate hobbyist; there was a coffee-mug stain somehow on the ceiling.
Nowadays the picture is little changed. I am trying to wrestle the clothes back to their rightful places; I am fighting a desperate rearguard action against an avalanche of literature that threatens to descend from every shelf. The desk may yet have a clear space at which I can work. The model aeroplanes at least are diecast and have stands, sitting on the tops of my bookcases: I no longer fear miniature bombing raids. There is still modelling material lying around, though – only a couple of months ago I gave myself an experience in unexpected agony when, still blearily half-asleep first thing in the morning, I snatched up a can of deodorant only to discover a little later that I had accidentally sprayed myself with matt varnish that had cemented my underarm hair to my skin and made moving my shoulders an exercise in unbelievable pain.
Some day, of course, I will live in more than one room. Some day the words ‘my bedroom’, ‘my office’, ‘my study’, ‘my library’ and ‘my hobby room’ will not all describe the exact same geographical location. In the meantime, though, I shall man the battlements, pull up the drawbridge, stand by the cannon… and keep a weather eye out for gargoyles.