(9)(10)(11) Pets, toys and games/How did I entertain myself?


We certainly never had pets in the sense of another family member needing care and attention like a dog. There were terrapins – small turtles – but they got some fungal infection. Then there were intermittent goldfish, somehow prizes from the local fair, that came in a plastic bag. I think we may have had a water tank once, but they eventually keeled over and floated to the surface.

  I cannot remember much in the way of games apart from cricket. We might have had balls and soccer but it wasn’t major. We read the Beano and the Dandy, comic books I subsequently discovered which came from Dundee. There is a statue of Desperate Dan in the town square. After moving from Hillhouse, I did have however two massive presents, that grew with every birthday and Christmas. There was never any thought of loads of stuff. We had one or two solid gifts that stayed with us for a long time.

  The first was bayko, a construction toy in competition with Meccano. Meccano was all metal, strips with holes which allowed connections through nuts and bolts, needing spanners. Older brother had a set, but I can’t recall what he made. Bayko had plastic baseboards with holes that took metal struts. The spaces between the struts in turn took plastic tiles, half a dozen levels of bricks say, and windows and doors. There were corner tiles and roofs. In red and white. Houses, bridges, station platforms in every increasing size and complexity. Hence the second toy which was a train set. Triang which again could be developed each celebration. Engines, trucks, carriages, line-side buildings, lines. Then a base board and permanent display, large enough for the imagination, small enough to put away when not in use. Both brilliant. And sold on when the time came.

  Whilst we lived in Hillhouse I think I remember cowboys and indians figurines, but not much else. George and Gladys could afford more expensive presents and one was a grand garage on two levels connected by a lift which wound up on a string. Another great present, which may have come from Gordon, was a space gun that fired real darts with rubber suckers on the end. It got banned after I shot dad right between the eyes. Magic. It brought the house down. I’m not sure how dad didn’t laugh. Perhaps he was genuinely miffed. I saw the gun again, but the darts went missing. There was a plastic pirate sword once, soon broken when playing out with lads on Willow Lane.

  Then the bike on which I went everywhere in Lepton, Waterloo, Moldgreen etc. It was older brother’s but that was okay. I’d had plenty of his stuff, mostly clothes. Hand-me-downs they called it. I get hand-me-ups now from Chris. I crashed a fair bit with the bike. Knee abrasions galore. Hit a stationary car head on and buckled the frame. Slight problem with pedals and the front wheel after that but I managed. I wasn’t going to tell dad. I once lost control down the steep hill that passed Granny Addy’s with Wakefield Road at the bottom. Brakes not helping, left foot out digging into the tarmac. Made the turn safely. Scrape right down to the skin and beyond – not bone. I can’t remember how I explained that one away. New shoes anyway.

  Then it was reading which I think I have covered. 

  And soccer and cricket.