Monday 16 February 2009

The human G-nome project

English front gardens 'peopled' with gnomes and ornaments are getting more scarce as gardens become parking places. Here's a choice example from our Cornish trip, which county incidentally, seems to sport some real exotica. This was in an urban location not far from the excellent art gallery and museum in Penlee House, Penzance. What a cornucopia of plaster people, animals and plaques, upon which are writ sincere thoughts of the 'arrive a stranger, leave a friend' variety. There's something about this wish to 'improve' upon nature that I find rather charming in a perverse sort of way. Are garden gnomes merely the natural external extension of plaster flying ducks across the sitting room wall or have they a more subtle meaning? That's the burning question of the day.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Toys were us

Having re-met a friend with whom I was at primary school more than fifty years ago, it was remarkable how much we still had in common and how little in so many ways he had changed. I suppose neither of has grown up if the truth be known. On a recent visit to his home the conversation (rather naturally for boys of a certain age) turned to Dinky Toys, and without ado he rushed upstairs returning with a small pile of yellow, and blue and white striped cardboard boxes. At this point I realised that I had disremembered his penchant for tidiness, keeping symetry in all things...even his fighting in the playground would be addressed with an almost Victorian pugilistic stance. I then realised that 50s boys were divided into two camps...those who returned their Dinky Toys to their boxes after play and those who merely chucked them in a box. I fell into the latter category, which also meant that mine were played with al fresco. An orange Field Marshall tractor pulled its blue plough through soft sand and made very passable furrows. A Leyland Octopus pulled its mighty load of pebbles up impossible inclines whilst the Capstan Full Strength badged J-type Morris van delivered soil to the building site. Quite what the Centurion Tank and Mighty Antar Transporter were doing there is a bit of a mystery but was perfectly logical back then - who wouldn't want a tracked vehicle leaving its imprint all over wet cement outside our Prefab's front door? The cheeky Commer drop-sided wagon hove into sight with another load of soil to be dumped ready for Green Field Marshall number two to harrow satisfactorily into the surrounding field. All this was accompanied by much raspberrying and gutteral roaring as we emulated these leviathans climbing a nearby stretch of the A11. Thus passed just one pleasant morning of our 1950's childhood idyll. An apple pie cooled on the window sill and the unmistakable aroma of seived tomatoes on toast wafted out into the garden when the sound of Dad's pre-war Light Fifteen Citroen approaching alerted us to 'dinner', which was years before lunchtime had been invented. My friends all disappeared back to their prefabs for their 'dinner' only to return in the afternoon and commence play from where we had stopped...with MY batterend, scratched but much-loved Dinky Toys, obviously. Theirs were safely stowed away to be produced years later with barely a mark of use upon them. I wish I'd had just a tiny part of that self control, because I love, absolutely love, the fragile evocative well designed packaging. Sadly the photograph is of the mobile phone variety which I handle badly, but you get the idea.