When your imaginary friends are real…

It was my pleasure to interview Pip Jones and Nikki Sheehan for my latest Writing Magazine article about imaginary friends.  Pip Jones’ Squishy McFluff is an invisible cat – the imaginary friend of the oh-so-slightly-mischievous Ava. It appeals delightfully to young children.

Squishy McFluff Mad Nana Dot book cover

Whereas Nikki Sheehan’s Who Framed Klaris Cliff? is a book for older children, set in a world where imaginary friends are now considered to be big trouble…

Who Framed Klaris Cliff cover

The scope for imaginary friends in fiction is huge – as vast as the range of imaginary friends which exist in real life. It got me thinking about the imaginary friends I had as a child.

The first one I remember having was Nicholas, a ghost from around the 17th Century, in the attic. And, out of all my imaginary friends, I must admit he was my favourite. Perhaps that’s why he arrived first and feels like he has stayed with me the longest.

Nicholas' home

Living only minutes walk away from the sea, our house experienced quite a battering from the wind. This would make the attic hatch in my bedroom lift up and down on a very regularly basis. Of course, anyone with an ounce of common sense would realise a ghost had moved in. I can still see his face today. So very different from…

Henry, a much younger ghost who moved in a short while later. Whereas Nicholas was mature, friendly and wise, Henry was hot-headed and loud. But still fabulous fun. I’m sure it was him that took over the job of banging the attic hatch all the time. I like to think Nicholas took him under his wing to sort him out a bit. But Nicholas certainly had his work cut out because soon there were…

Charlotte and Marlene, two feisty, female ghosts who were best friends. It must have been getting a bit cramped in the attic…it wasn’t huge, and there was definitely no room for…

The dogs! Four of them. Rafe, Tinker, Dandy and Shadow. Well and truly nicked from Enid Blyton’s ‘Shadow the Sheepdog’ (a beloved book which had belonged to my mum when she was a child).

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Whereas the ghosts were there all the time, the dogs had a very helpful habit of appearing at convenient moments, like when we were walking on the South Downs. Although occasionally they would all appear in my bedroom. This always caused mayhem because there wasn’t really room for them in my bedroom as well, because of…

The twins! Day and Dawn (yes, I know, cringe…I’m sorry). Younger than me, and definitely children I felt responsible for. A far cry from Nicholas, who was older and wiser. Day and Dawn were great fun, but three of us in the room, plus the four ghosts was getting a little bit busy, so…

Tammy lived two minutes walk away down the twitten. She was a good friend to have. She was the same age as me, so, thank goodness, I didn’t have the responsibility like I had with the twins. She didn’t need telling off as much as Henry. She was always available, unlike Marlene and Charlotte, who were often off doing BFF-ghost-stuff together (humph). No, Tammy was SO easy-going that I even shared her with my big sister. But, good grief, she had a thing about sugar.

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I had to keep taking eggcups of sugar down to here every time we met up (my mum knew. Honest). Fortunately, I didn’t have this trouble with…

Darley. And anyway, he lived the other side of town, so we didn’t meet up that often. Just as well really. Had my hands full with the others…

Especially Amanda! I can’t believe my family had forgotten to tell me I had an identical twin sister. Although she got into SOOOOOO much trouble, I can see why maybe they thought it better to keep it quiet. Of course, she was the one responsible for digging up my grandparents garden (we were on an archaeological dig…not my fault Amanda forgot to ask permission).

So many friends and so many memories. But one by one they went on their way. And so did I. I moved out of that house by the sea when I was 18. My mum sold the house and I did think about the ghosts. Would they befriend the next child who slept in my room and wondered why the hatch kept banging? Or perhaps one day my children will look up at our attic hatch and Nicholas may move in once more…Our house may be about to get very, very crowded…..

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