My father’s bedside cabinet contained enough bits and pieces to keep a nine year old boy entertained for hours.  It held a movable shelf which had a wooden lip at the front, an effective dam holding back loose change, a charcoal hand warmer and numerous out of date pills.  Pulling the shelf slowly out revealed the treasures therein. I had to make sure that the rest of the family were out of the house in order keep my contents research uninterrupted.  This was infrequent in a clan of seven.  Subterfuge had to be well planned and delicately executed.

There was a battered Jacobs biscuit tin which held old swimming medals, a Paul Elvstrom sailing rules book (which was a present from Bruce Walker, my father’s nephew and Godson) and a Gideon bible. But by far the most exciting find was a Playboy magazine that my father bought in London whilst on a business trip.  Girly mags were absolutely outlawed in Ireland at the time. It was the February 1969 issue and the centrefold was Lorrie Menconi, the most gorgeous creation I had ever seen.  The fact that she had no clothes on definitely helped burn her curvaceous outline in my memory. My Dad had smuggled it back to our Holy Catholic country and hidden it in his bedside imagined stronghold. I studied each delicious photograph in detail, read every word and learned the meaning of peripatetic.

This was big news in school, where we had just recovered from the emotional trauma of tracking down a copy of the magazine ‘Titbits’, because Gerry McCusker (‘EMMLITTLECBIGC-U-S-K-E-R’ he would shout in one breath when asked by a teacher, ‘How do you spell that?) had categorically announced that the latest edition contained naked women. This was a misinformed lie. It had nuggets of tittle tattle about celebrities, and that, unfortunately, was that.

I hit the heights of insider knowledge when I went to the Ormonde cinema in Stillorgan to watch James Bond in Her Majesty’s Secret Service for Mucko McSwiney’s 10th birthday party.

Bond visited Blowfeld’s lawyer’s office in Bern and flicked through the magazine rack.  He pulled out a copy of Playboy, tore out the centerfold and tucked it into his inside pocket. To my utter astonishment and delight, it was the same edition as the one I knew so well.  I elbowed Mucko and roared laughing, letting him and our friends in on my illicit secret.