The Boys are off to Norfolk with their dad for a few days tomorrow and, while the washing machine was carrying out its incessant and inexorable labours, we went into Leicester, primarily with the intention of seeing if we could get Boy the Elder’s camera fixed. Yet another example of our throw-away society – a £50 camera would have cost £120 to get fixed. They can get f****d. (Fixed – what did you think I meant?) I haven’t been into Leicester since Christmas and I think one visit every eight months is all that’s necessary.
We looked in many shops. The boys looked at toys, computer games, gadgets and books while I looked at shoes, boots, sandals and books. I bought a boxed set of Powell & Pressburger DVDs for a fiver and a hairband with a red bow on – last of the big spenders, me.
However, we went into two shops in The Shires which, to me, were about as opposite as it was possible to be.
The first was called (I think) The Model Shop. It sold model kits of things; aeroplanes, tanks, ships, rockets, cars, Star Wars and Dr Who stuff and sets of figures to go with your kits. It had a whole corner devoted to Hornby train sets and all the glorious paraphernalia that goes with it and we were all dry mouthed with excitement for different reasons. I have a train set rattling in its box with nowhere to set it up. Boy the Elder likes WW2 tanks, planes and ships and Boy the Younger likes planes, Star Wars and anything Boy the Elder has got.
There was no music playing and it was staffed by young men who knew all about the things they sold. One chap spent ages with Boy the Younger helping him to find something he could manage without getting overwhelmed and dispirited. All the things in the shop required an initial interest, patience, a bit of skill and the opportunity for development of one’s skill and the associated learning that comes with collecting things.
It was lovely, although I admit I was the only girl in there and certainly the only one dribbling gently on the ‘OO’ gauge landscaping materials. I nearly bought a ‘Trackside’ Morris Oxford, just in case, but Boy the Elder calmed me down, gave me an injection and persuaded me not to empty the garden shed in order to re-create a post war rural layout (mixed traffic) in obsessive detail.
The other shop was a place of horror and revulsion. The Disney Store. In some ways, I don’t feel the need to say anything else. There was loud music blasting from speakers in the ceiling, nauseatingly perky, yet strangely passionless shop assistants pounced the minute one was through the door and the lighting could have been used to extract confessions from Russian dissidents.
It was bulging with plastic and polyester shite designed to turn parents upside down to extract every last penny from their fraying pockets. Racks and racks of hideous merchandising from every film you can think of and some we didn’t even realize were Disney. I didn’t see Mickey Mouse anywhere. When Boy the Elder spotted Marvel Comic merchandise, he started sounding off in the way that only indignant teenage boys can. When I explained to him that Disney had bought Marvel for $4 billion last year, he walked out of the shop, convinced that the world had ended.
Poor Boy the Younger just wanted to look at Buzz Lightyear drinks bottles, untroubled by the wailing and gnashing of teeth from his family, but it was horrible. The worst thing was that everything was instant, required no skill or imagination and was utterly disposable.
The two shops seemed to represent two separate worlds; one in which children’s play could be calm, constructive and fun, and one in which children were willing victims of the iniquity and greed of the merchandisers. And naturally it is presented in such a way that the children are encouraged to want more and more as every new film comes out and the parents are too enfeebled and anaesthetised to say no.
Would anyone like to buy me a shed?