Monday, April 24, 2006

Matchbox cars

I was nuts about cars when I was a kid. Perhaps because you could go places in them. One of my favourite books was a big Richard Scarry hardback, full of elaborate illustrations of townscapes and landscapes full of roads and vehicles and buildings and people - or rather, animals masquerading as people, and evidently getting away with it because there were no real people around to take issue with them. My favourite page of this book showed a country landscape with a road winding across it from one page to the next, so you could follow it with your finger, and imagine travelling along it. And that, I suppose, was also the appeal of Matchbox cars - those tiny yet durable little models that were cheap enough to buy every week with your pocket money, and (cunningly) numbered, so you had to collect the whole series. I think they went up to 75... and each one changed once in a while, so you never really had the lot.
Some had doors that opened, some had bonnets with an engine underneath, once in a while the boot opened too, and just one or two had all three. They were the best ones. Most were modelled on real cars, but a few wacky designs were completely original, if often implausible.

I used to buy one from Egdell’s, the shop on the corner, every Saturday as soon as I got my pocket money. I eventually had 48, enough to fill the specially-designed case which I got for Christmas or my birthday one year.

One of the earliest Matchbox cars I had, when I was about five, ended up in the zebra enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.

My Old Toys

This sad picture is of Harecrag rubbish tip just outide Alnwick, Northumberland, circa March 1986. Scattered across the surface of that day's refuse are various items from our garage, victims of a massive clearout just before we moved house. I can see my sister's spacehopper, bike and blackboard, my Dad's telescope and golf trolley, and nothing at all of mine, now that I think about it, but there must be some of my old toys down there somewhere - if not scattered across the surface, then further down, deep in the landfill, crushed or fragmented, rotted or rusted... somewhere down there are the earthly remains of the dozens, if not hundreds, of large and small, cheap and precious, treasured and transient toys and trinkets and trappings of a 60s infancy, a 70s childhood and an 80s adolescence... and now, a modern memory - recalled from beneath a heap of grey matter as deep and murky as Harecrag Tip, that you, gentle reader, may marvel at the myriad simple ways my generation found to pass its time in the days before Playstations - or perhaps just to think - 'bloody hell - I had one of those too.... they were crap.'