Thursday, 12 September 2013

WordPress Daily Prompt: Toy Story

What was your favorite plaything as a child? Do you see any connection between your life now, and your favorite childhood toy? 

Photographers, artists, poets: show us MEMENTO.


Meet Max – his home is in the States, but he stayed with me for a month on a trip around the world. Originally his journey began as a school project, with the idea that he did a world trip. I was joined by many web colleagues from a site called Multiply, which no longer exists. He arrived in my post-box from Australia after a stay in South Korea. Max eventually saw more of the world than I could ever dream of. Here he is pictured with the defence walls of the town of Solothurn, Switzerland, in the background. In the middle ages the flat part was filled with water as protection.

As far as toys are concerned, according to modern day rules it is a wonder that I survived. We did not know health and safety and childhood psychologically was concentrated into having a pat on the head for a good deed and a sound telling off for bad deeds. Mum and dad were not so much into child cruelty, although there were perhaps a few hits of the moment, reflecting on my misdeeds as a child, I cannot really blame them, but no-body is perfect and I survived.

My first memory of a toy (and this was a little more than sixty years ago) was a small blue teddy bear with yellow paws. There we have the first parental error, but do not worry, I did not grow up believing that all bears were blue. I also had a golliwog. You do not know what a golliwog is, better so: at that time it seemed to be ok, every kid I knew had one. Today it is a crime to possess one and they are banned, although I have never heard of a war being started through a golliwog, more for other reasons, but here is a link for those that have never seen or heard of one Golliwog. So there I was surrounded by a Golliwog and a blue teddy bear at night at the bottom of the bed. Where are the dolls with curly hair, nice red cheeks and lips and pretty dresses? I was not the doll type. I remember having one that said “mama” so I decided to find out where the mama voice originated and took her apart. I then had a body with separate limbs and a head. It all seemed to be attached by wire which would have been another problem, although mum and dad did not seem to notice that I would have been a candidate for blood poisoning if I had injured myself.

I loved to play with a gun. I remember I had a red metal gun. It did not fire shots, but most of the children in my street were boys and as I could not engage them in playing mothers and fathers, we played cowboys and Indians (another politically incorrect infiltration of my child mind) or perhaps the British against the rest (cannot remember who the rest were, I think it covered most of the world). These were the years after the last world war and I remember having an uncle who was in the so-called Territorial Army which “is a volunteer active-duty reservist force and integrated element of the British Army” according to Wikipedia. He and his family lived in a large warehouse where tanks, army lorries and canons were stored .His daughter was one of my “best” friends at the time and we would visit the family for a few days at a time, as they did not live very near. Oh we had fun imagining all sorts of things, and a package to go with the visit was a toy canon that shot ammunition, being small steel pointed darts. I even survived that. I was running a risk of being blinded for life if one had pierced my eye, but it seems that mum and dad were happy that I was occupied.

Of course during the day in my East London after war environment, we had playgrounds remaining from the war damage. I think my first French word was “debris” meaning wasteland. There were bombed out houses with some remaining walls and floors and even remnants of what once was a garden. That was fun and I had my first contacts with nature, pulling out plants and bringing flowers home to mum and having a stone throwing fight with the colleagues. It was a wonder that we never got hit, but each of us were a miniature Bruce Willis who seems to be immortal.

There was just one unwritten rule – do not tell mum and dad. Their last words when I left the house were “be careful and don’t go too far”. We really did not have to go far for the dilapidated ruins of a house and we were really always careful. This was better than any modern adventure playground you find today. Sometimes there were little accidents, cuts and bruises and perhaps a twisted ankle, but these were war injuries. We lived in another world at the time. Now and again an unexploded bomb from the war was found, although I was never present at the time.

We had official playgrounds with swings, roundabouts and all the trimmings, constructed from wood and iron. Even these are now a thing of the past, being deemed as dangerous and having sharp edges where a little girl or boy could cut themselves. Today a playground is a bright plastic coloured adventure world with so much health and safety, it is just plain boring.

Now if Bill Gates was then around things would have been different. I would have been sitting at home on my computer playing all sorts of educational games. I had to catch up on all this when I bought my youngest his first Commodore computer, followed by an Amiga. I remember waiting for him to go out with his friends, and then it was my turn. I loved those games on the floppy discs. I remember my favourite was Wizball. Most intelligent, where the colour had been stolen on eight different landscapes and you had to help the wizard to recover the colours so that you could paint each level again. I was quite good at that, and managed to colour all eight levels in 2-3 hours, according to how long son no. 2 did not need the computer: if only I had such a toy when I was a kid.

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1 comment:

  1. Being about 12-14 years younger than yourself, the war-time memories were more distant, but even so there was plenty to get into trouble in....ummm.........I mean play in. There was an old abandoned communal air-raid shelter, made of brick, that could probably have held over 100 people. A great place for us kids to play. There was also a sand and gravel quarry near where I lived. Quite a dangerous place, but we kids didn't care. As you say, we all thought we were immortal as children.

    I don't recall that many toys, but some of the ones you mentioned were similar to ones i played with. The toy guns, certainly. I do remember golliwogs, but I don't recall if I had one. Unlike today, with all the sophisticated computer games, we relied mainly on imagination.