“Wow,” said Arif, unnecessarily.
“I think we’ve found it,” Joe agreed.
“We’ve got water, we’ve got a place to camp, we’ve got wood for a fire. The only thing we don’t have is somewhere to play footy,” said Alex.
I was just gobsmacked at how special the place was, and how it would be to wake up in the morning and look out at all that. It must have impressed the other five too, because no one said anything for some time.
“When do we come?” asked Tom, untypically quietly.
“Tomorrow?” asked Steve. “It’d be good to get the Explorers along ’cos this is so good, but I think I’d want to keep it just to us.”
“What do we need?” asked Tom.
“Tent. Pots and pans. Food. Matches,” said Steve.
“Sleeping bag.” I offered.
“Anything else?” asked Arif.
Steve frowned. “There’s bound to be a lot more. Let’s get back and make a list from what it says in some of my Dad’s old Scouting books.”
“You and your Scouts!” said Joe, though not as scornfully as he had at other times.
“They got you here, didn’t they? And stopped you falling down the cliff.”

You’re 14-ish, and the school summer holidays stretch before you; though because of a recession your family can’t afford to go anywhere.  You and five mates in similar situatiuons start off by visiting a very large, very overgrown and very private estate where you stumble across a perfect place for an illicit camp.  And back at home you manage to bend truths far enough to persuade parents to let you go.

Two days later you meet a friendly dog and his not-so-friendly owner, who chucks you out.

Moping around your home town you are accosted by a gang who try to engage you to find them girls who will “help them for money”. They threaten you: by devious means you go to the police. Their plans for the gang, and the gang’s presence, mean you have to make yourselves scarce.  You have to return to the estate without attracting attention, stay there until it’s all over.

But then the dog finds you.  His owner needs help and you save his life, and in looking after the dog you discover his owner’s secrets. 

But a few nights later the gang you’re avoiding track you down and pay an unwelcome visit to where you’re camping.

From these beginnings start a series of Interesting Times where you discover hidden strengths, abilities, unexpected friendships, self reliance, vulnerabilities, dependability and perhaps wisdom. You also discover that you’re not too young to be attracted to other people.

Just don’t mention truffles. 

Paperback, 5″ x 8″, 30 chapters, 274 pages.