Phil Gyford


Thursday 1 May 2003

PreviousIndexNext Toy shop

When I was a kid my family used to spend occasional summer weeks in London, house-sitting for some friends. Not far from the local adventure playground, where taller, harder boys played rough games on the painted wooden architecture, was a toy shop. It was a small shop, even when I was small myself, and I remember it being the kind of magical place that could only exist in a film, run by a smiling old woman and her sleepy cat. The toys filled every nook and most of the crannies and were wholesome un-marketed products that would never be rude enough to shout at you from a Saturday morning TV screen.

Amazingly, the place still exists, and my sister has written an article about it. It sounds like, for once, my little childhood memories are accurate.


My grandmother used to live in and run a toyshop in Chester. It smelt of mothballs. There was a plastic darlek that you get inside and move around, saying EX-TER-MIN-ATE! There were also pedal cars and enough floorspace to drive them around, and there was one of those robots that walked for a bit, then popped open a cover in its chest and started spinning around making zapping noises. It would probably be a collectors' item these days, and you wouldn't be allowed to play with it.

The shop is now a hotel. It's within spitting distance of Chester Station.

Posted by Richard Carter on 4 May 2003, 8:04 pm | Link

I have two young children of my own. One of the things they don't get to do that I did, is shop. I have lots of memories of shopkeepers in small neighbourhood shops as a child, I can see many of their faces even now. My children never get to buy anything. The supermarkets where we do all our shopping are inappropriate, the local convenience store always has a queue, making the fifteen minutes deciding time children need difficult.

The only magical stores I can remember were book and record shops, thankfully there are plenty of them still around. The toyshops, much like the adventure playground leave little to the imagination.

Adventure playground, a bit of an oxymoron really, never liked the idea of someone else laying out the game plan. In the urban setting, where most of us live the most heartening thing I keep coming across is tarmac, and kids playing on it. They will either be jumping over things on their bikes or skateboards. The tarmac in this country tends not to be as flat and smooth as it could be. I reckon it provides a great playground for childrens imaginations, empty car parks on a sunday morning or a week day evening. I remember once cycling at 7am one sunday morning in north west london and coming upon a group of kids playing soccer on a four lane road, it was an inspiring site. You can always get inspiration when you see something coming out of nothing, no week would be complete without it.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 5 May 2003, 11:09 am | Link

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