© John Atkinson Grimshaw
I suspect there’s a reason why fairies are found at the bottom of the garden: the bottom of the garden represents the limits of a child’s freedom. It is the furthest they can go from home without entering the big wide world – and it’s in this space between security and freedom that magic occurs.
Children have so little freedom. Freedom beckons, but is also frightening. Perhaps this is why I loved reading so much when I was a child. From the safety of an armchair in the front room or beneath the covers of my bed, I could escape safely.
When I was seven I loved books in which magical items transported children directly from the security of home into another world - stories like Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair, in which an old chair intermittently grew wings and carried the children off on fantastical adventures. There was also Nesbit’s Phoenix and the Carpet, in which an old rug turns out to be a magic carpet - and let’s not forget that wonderful flying bed in Bedknobs and Broomsticks - or The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which an old wardrobe provides the portal to freedom.
Part of the excitement lay in the fact that the children never quite knew when their adventure might take place. Nesbitt’s children always had to wait until their parents were out – and Blyton’s children had to keep going down to the playroom to see if the chair had grown wings. The appeal also lay in the fact that there was always the risk of mishap - along with the assumption that the children would return home safely.
When my friend’s daughter Elinor told me about a dream in which her bedroom flew, I was delighted. What a wonderful symbol her unconscious had conjured up to grant her both security and freedom! She could go wherever she wanted without leaving the safety of her bedroom – and what’s more, she would have everything she needed with her: a raincoat, a book to read, a sunhat or a swimsuit …
So, inspired by Elinor’s dream, I wrote The Flying Bedroom, a series of short adventures in which Elinor’s bedroom takes her to faraway places including a tropical island (from which her bedroom nearly floats away), the theatre (where Elinor reluctantly takes centre stage), and even to the moon (where Elinor helps a man called Niall fix his rocket). I’m hoping that The Flying Bedroom will satisfy children’s longing for both security and freedom – the tension that never really goes away, no matter how old we are.
You can find more information about Heather Dyer and her books at www.heatherdyer.co.uk