Christine Grahame: Peeries and steam engines '“ real toys for real kids
Over Christmas, as I reminisced about Christmases past, I thought back to all those long lost toys which would now command a penny or two on the Antiques Road Show, although no doubt they would not be boxed and in pristine condition.
It became a “whatever happened to” exercise. There was the German PoW-made wooden crib with my name painted on the side, which transported me from my birthplace in Burton-on-Trent to Leith and in which various dolls later slept.
There was the pull-along dachshund made of wood with leather joints – also created by the German PoWs incarcerated at Sighthill – the dolly with the yellow frock, sandals and straw hat which I pestered my mother for. Poor woman, she must have scoured Edinburgh for it in those far-off days before Google and internet shopping.
Then there was a second-hand doll’s house which had a flight of stairs and real lights with wall switches and fitted carpets. I had lusted after it for years and it was bought second-hand from neighbours emigrating, as many did in the 1950s, to Canada.
They also sold us this magnificent sledge with runners which surpassed anything dad put together and which would hurl you along the sledge runs in Corstorphine woods at breakneck, almost literally, speed.
We had toys which would be banned in today’s health & safety world and probably with good cause. I had a white enamel toy cooker which had real burners and ran on paraffin. I recall boiling tatties on it. Tony, brother, had a steam roller which also required fuelling up and puffed out steam as it crossed the room.
What happened to them and all those pre-war scraps carefully swapped and collected in playground corners? The early Hornby train set which just went round and round but which Tony thought was the bees knees.
We had bikes bought for us with no gears and at least two sizes too big with the pedals fitted with wooden blocks so we could reach them. The mantra then was, as with clothes, “you’ll grow into it”. Roller-skates – I’m on a roll now – whose wheels would hardly turn but at least we had the entire road to pretend we were professionals as we oiled the ball bearings and tried to effect fancy turns.
But many of our “toys” were simple: the skipping rope, purloined washing line, the peerie, the polish tin for peeveries, the “acquired“ wood from the building site for stilts.
With the skipping rope, brought out seasonally, we became experts at “bumps”, the peerie would be decorated with different chalk markings in an informal but fierce competition to see which looked best.
Mum used to berate us for taking first the washing line then a new polish tin, much better for peeveries, but in vain. We were fit, we took risks, we fell, we skinned knees, elbows, and had various cuts and bruises and this was not all to the bad.
I think (controversial) we protect our children and grandchildren from the occasional fall too much. No running in the playground (whit!). No conkers without goggles (whit whit!).
Too many electronic gadgets and couch-potato children and grandchildren. Ach, you can tell you are getting old when times past with simple imaginative and “slightly” edgy play and a few well-loved toys seems a better time and better place to be a child.