Toy story

They were all lined up, on my bed; the multi-coloured pattern on the blanket which had served so well as a road network was now a vast car, truck, tank and other vehicle park come spaceport. The futuristic yellow transporter with gull wing doors containing my brother’s prized Jenson Interceptor, was parked next to the SHADO Mobile tank with flip-up missile launcher.

A Tiger Mk1, with its slabby glacis plate, massive tracks and huge 88mm gun, crewed by Sven Hassel, Portia and his other mates as we trundled through the back garden jungle, was side-by-side with a smaller, totally out of proportion, but naturally more powerful, Tiger 2. These alone saw off many a T34, despite that being the best tank of World War 2.

The gutted remains of a Tamiya model, blown wide open by .22 air rifle at a distance of 6 yards, brought back memories of an Airfix Lancaster, ablaze and melting, in the dark November sky, being obliterated by a banger stuffed inside as it was thrown across the Channel, radio desperately signalling it was going down and poor Johny’s chute hadn’t opened, and red hot molted blobs of plastic scorched and burned my skin.

The Batmobile, complete with bonnet-mounted chopping blade and rearward firing rockets, never quite managed to fit into anything other than Batman scenes, but the Interceptor from UFO and the Eagle Transporter from Space 1999 managed to travel time and neatly fitted into many exciting adventures, complete with Lego hangers, moonbases and HQs.

Able to pull far heavier and larger vehicles than its size would imply, the Land Rover and Trailer combo from Dick Townley’s toy shop was there. Always a favourite place to oggle on the way to and from school, second only to the sweetshop (Friday treat unless cancelled due to bad behaviour).

Trials bikes lay carelessly in the fluff, dumped by their invincible and seemingly magic riders who were able to pull off stunts that made Evil Kneivel seem like a kid on a trike, and Steve McQueen's Great Escape jump was a joke by comparison. The BMW R75 sidecar combo was no match for agility or speed, though its heavy machine gun could be useful in a scrape. Or bank raid.

Another Land Rover had been painted over in Humbrol paints to blend with desert warfare, though at the time I had no idea the same basic vehicle would be fighting in Iraq. I seem to to recall that this camouflaged car complimented the Desert Rats model, incomplete and unpainted, along with a US Personnel VW camper van bus. The merits of scale was utterly meaningless as imagination levels all, unless otherwise needed.

The dirt buggy had real working suspension, and work it we did! Through mud and dirt and dust and the 1970’s deep shag pile carpet, roads were forged, races raced, battles fought, no-man’s land quagmires struggled through and lives lost. Plastic soldiers, frozen in attitude, used as targets for air rifles and volunteered as guinea pigs for experimental parachutes, hurt like hell as bare feet found them and trampled them underfoot.

A pink jeep with an unfeasibly large engine, a purple dune buggy bought with pocket money as a souvenir from Mount St Michel, a rigid-back 8 wheeler lorry, a Spitfire, Whizz Wheels, Hot Wheels, Dinky Toys, Tamiya and Airfix. Porche, Maserati and Jenson; I’ve driven, raced, crashed, rallied and thrashed them all; piloted space ships in orbit and piloted submarines fathoms deep in the bath.

They were all there, treasured each and every one; lined up in salute, as I bid them all a fond farewell. Dad walked in, I looked up, self-conscious, embarrassed. He smiled and left me to it. The moment was gone, the freeze frame crowded with memories dissolved and they were all put back into the draw, not to be looked at until nephew No2 rides, flies and drives them again.