Isn’t it odd, how we don’t really think about buying toys or games througout the year – only when it’s a birthday or Christmas. Yet our childhood is formed to a great extent by these marvellous inventions! I so well remember my trips into town with our grandmother – she used to take us regularly for new skipping ropes, bouncy balls, five jacks, hoola hoops. She was a great believer in fresh air in the lungs for children – and playing outdoors in all weathers. We were ushered outside into the enormous garden early every day and allowed to built camps, play make believe games – playing doctors and nurses with all our toys lined up in the ‘waiting room’. I went ot my local toy store to buy a 2 year old’s present – oh what fabulous fun I had. The staff were fantastic and showed me lots of nurturing and imagination games. I nearly camped there overnight!
One of the more exciting things about Christmas is the packaging on the toys! We used to love ripping open the wrappings, all pictures of Father Christmas and little animals. Then inside would be a tantalising sight. A carton of some sort – brightly coloured and made very robustly. There would always be te explanation of how to work the beast inside too. We used to be told endlessly to keep the cartons to put the toys back in – being careful with our toys ensured we got bought more the following year. As it happens of course, anyone who has watched any antique programmes lately will know that the most critical part about taking a toy in for valuation is the state of the packaging – if it still exists. It’s rather too late for most post war children now – but generally the better the box, the more valuable and interesting the contents will prove to be!
There’s a brilliant programme that I sometimes catch on a daytime lifestyle channel – one of those easy to watch little numbers that shows off the talents of artisans and skilled craftsmen and women. The idea is that folk bring their dead and dying old pocessions such as toys, pictures, clocks etc. to the ‘Repair Shop’ and any one of the many specialist repairers and restorers is given the opportunity to show off their immense talent in bringing the article back to life. I’ve seen some amazing transformations from seriously battered and mishapen items. We see some of the processes and progress as the camera shifts from one expert job to another. The expressions of gratitude and incredulity from the owers when they come to collect are priceless! The programme is useful also for reminding everyone that new toys and future heirlooms are also available and out there in the best shops!
At this time of year the summer sun and warmth has started to slip away and become just another fab memory. Autmn slips in, quietly and without fuss and we start thinking seriously about Christmas and the New Year holidays. Those toys and pastimes that we so used to look forward to receiving. My sisters and I were always keen doll owners. The thought that we might just have another playmate to add to our family of dolls, especially if it came with a whole wardrobe of clothes and accessories. Our boy cousins used to sigh and eyes would go skywards at the very mention of such sissy, girly things. But they joined in eventually, especially if we were playing doctors and hospitals, or car mechanics if they had their garage and toy cars around. I now have several children in my extended family – I love toy buying for birthdays and Christmas!
I was reading a monthly magazine the other day when my eyes lit upon an article about the inventor of a particular brand of toy car from my youth. I had no idea this chap was local to where I have been iving for the last 40 or so years. The name of the toy is so well known, both here and overseas, that I naturally assumed it was a massive conglomerate from the US. This chap had started his toy empire many years ago after being injured when in his early twenties. In his frastration at not being able to carry on usual fun and sporting activities, he set about mending a few old toys of his own. He then produced some super duper fast track motor toys – based on the modern car of his day, these were fantastic working models – he had a ready market and never looked back. Folk stayed with a brand in those days!
There’s something wonderful about sharing a coach trip with several folk you’ve never met before but you find you have a lot in common with. this happens to everyone at some time or another when they go abroad for a short holiday. We all seem to go into over drive with the polite niceness. This definitely happened to me recently on a coach trip to germany, I knew no one when I got on the first of 3 feeder coaches . . . . . but after the first day of heavy travelling was over, and we wer on our first true excursion, I bonded with one couple who’s enthusiasm for life and anything new was utterly infectious. They had me trolling around looking at toy trains and model kits galore. Neither have I done much of before but with these new buddies, it opened my eyes to the fantastic world of model railways and everything that they encompass.
There are times throughout a year when playing near water is safer than at others. Now is just when youngsters and teenage men should not go near it. Why, year after year, do young adult men think it’s ok to jump into a largebody of water – to go for a free cooling swim? We are warned every single year about the dangers of unexpectedly deep water pockets, it makes the swimmer suddenly panic and they take in water with each breath. Very often cramp will get them aswell – the sheer cold and panic together make them move in unnatural ways, thus causing the muscles to move oddly. There are usually a lot by this time of the year. Swimming needs to be in safe public pools or lidos – never gravel pits, ponds, lagoons or lakes unless there are signs saying it is safe and legal to swim there. Get swimming lessons. If you can’t swim, don’t dump in anything!
Whenever I want to get the perfect present for my preciously picky grandchildren, I always ask for ideas from their parents. as there is always an anxious moment when the chosen gift is opened and you wait for a gasp of surprice, exitement, willowing disproval . . . The children know now not to moan or prattle on if the contents of said parcel are already in the child’s toy or book collection. This happened to me a couple of years ago. My daughter and I were going to stay with my grandson’s family for his birthday and having sought ideas for his present, my daughter queued for some time to get exactly the video mentioned. It was therefore very annoying, sad and embarrassing when the child more or less tossed it aside with a withering ‘got it already’ and not even a thanks for trying. We were not happy bunnies and words were said!
The way babies and toddlers develop has changed little over the years. Inf act there isn’t a grat deal that can change apart from the speed with thich babies graduate from blobby gurgling little lumps in a pram or cot and now seem to be expected to sit up and converse with the world at 6 months! I have connections with a relatively small number of children on a regular basis. My own have flown the nest and I see grandchildren – now teenagers and a couple of next generation great nieces. I luckily have neighbours with children aged between 6 and 12. This is a great joy to me because otherwise it can be very quiet once all your own throng have buzzed off! I love hearing the chatter of voices outside when they all come home from after school activities. The games have gone back to my youth – hopscotch, tag, british bulldog. they even do double dutch skipping – the curret phase.
I have spent a gloriously happy easter weekend away from home staying with relatives. There were no children around and although it was busy, it did seem to be missing this essential element. We made up for it though, happily joking and playing around as grown up kiddies might! The amount of chocolate scoffed was much less than in the day when my siblings and I managed to eat our way through 3 eggs before lunch! The children today seem less likely to be demanding of the chocolate egg – they seem perfectly happy with a new toy or a game that can be shared with pals. Outside my house beyond the normal driveway, there is plenty of safe area and children the other side of us really love this. Perfect for playing black jack, skipping and hopscotch. All these fabulously old fashioned games have come back into fashion big time.