As the early spring sunshine streams in through my daughter’s bedroom window, I scoop up a half-dressed Barbie from the floor. Tidying her bedroom is going to be a lengthy job. To imagine the state of her room at this stage, picture what would happen if you took a giant food blender, filled it with hundreds of toys, then started the motor without putting the lid on. You get the idea.
I’ve tried blaming her father.
“I think Laura has inherited your tidiness gene,” I tell him.
“I don’t think I’ve got one,” he says.
“Exactly my point.”
My mother thinks it’s my fault:
“When you were her age, I had to bribe your big sister to tidy your room.”
At least I didn’t have such a huge quantity of toys to put away. I could count the number of dolls I possessed on one hand, whereas Laura would need a football team to ensure sufficient fingers. I had just three shelves of books and knew every page practically by heart; many of Laura’s dozens of books have barely been opened. My pencil case was a lone creature, but my daughter’s apparently flock. To me, a good collection of colouring pencils meant a set of 10, whereas hers run to about a hundred. As to felt tip pens, I think they breed after dark. My heart leaps each time one runs out, because it means I can throw one in the bin with a clear conscience, but still they multiply.
I remember the invention of felt tips when I was small and the excitement of buying my first pack which held just four. They were expensive, costing two shillings, and I paid with the pre-decimal pennies that my grandfather used to save for me in a jar – a special treat to help fill the void between Christmas and birthdays.
So where do all Laura’s toys come from? Free activity packs at family restaurants certainly account for the stationery glut. Another new source is the charity shop. There were none my local high street when I was a child, but now they spring up all over the place. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud them – they do a fabulous job, fundraising and recycling at one fell swoop. Shopping in them is a very easy way to support a worthwhile charity, so I tend to give Laura free rein. Progressing now on hands and knees through the carpet of toys in her bedroom, I realise that this is my undoing.
In my day, old toys weren’t taken to the charity shop but went into the dustbin (we didn’t worry about landfill in the 60s) or were collected for scrap by the rag-and-bone-man. This was the fate of my beloved push-along Baa-Lamb when I was about 4, and I’ve never forgiven my mother.
These days, old toys never die – they just relocate to Laura’s bedroom.
Happy Spring Cleaning!
(This blog entry originally appeared in the Tetbury Advertiser, March 2010)