The pre-Christmas clear-out is well under way in our household.
“If you don’t get rid of the old toys that you’ve grown out of, there’ll be no room for any Christmas presents,” I warn my seven year old daughter.
Unlike her more capitalistic cousin Tim, Laura can’t be persuaded to sell her old toys for a profit. Car boot sales leave her cold. She forms strong attachments to her cuddly toys: each has a name and a personality. Even I find myself drawn to the livelier characters: Candyfloss, the comical greying white poodle; its close friend and straight man, Butlin the spotty dog; Poonia and Pink, the fanciful unicorns; Sweetie, the soft-bodied baby doll who calls me Grandma. Laura would no sooner sell her dolls than sell her family. No doubt I’ll find this a comfort when I’m old.
When the toytown clutter gets too much for me, I entertain a shamefully ungrateful fantasy: that my house gets burnt to the ground. The conflagration is colourful as a Christmas tree. Well, it should be, with all those plastic toys as fuel. We then set up home in a minimalistic Ikea showroom , our possessions stowed invisibly in storage baskets arranged on bookcases called Billy. But oh, the flat-packs! When I think of all that self-assembly, the current muddle doesn’t seem so bad.
Killing time before a medical appointment, I wander round a toyshop. Don’t shop until you’ve dropped, I remind myself, eyeing the Barbies and boardgames, of which we already have plenty, thank you very much. Drop a few big bags of toys into one of the many charity shops while she’s at school, a little voice tells me. She’ll never notice that they’re gone. I’m not convinced.
And so on to plan B: we could give her only very tiny toys as presents this Christmas. Then space would not be an issue. My husband, studying for a geology degree, has just acquired a microscope.
“Maybe she’d like to start an atom collection?” I wonder.
The trouble is, things are just too cheap these days. It would be easier to resist buying large toys if they cost more. How much more sensible it would be if toys were priced according to volume. The huge wooden rocking-horse, lovingly carved by Laura’s grandpa, would then be priceless. It all makes perfect sense. I have a similar proposal for calorie distribution: a square of chocolate should contain a fraction of the calories in a Ryvita.
But then a smarter strategy occurs to me. We’ll tackle the problem from the other end. There are two small but serviceable cellars beneath our cottage. And they are empty.
“How do you fancy a playroom for Christmas?” I suggest. “We can convert one of the cellars as your present.”
Her eyes light up.
Her eyes light up.
“I’ve always wanted a playroom.”
“A playroom. A music room. A disco. We can make it whatever you like.”
“Oh, yes, please, Mummy!”
Problem solved. And at a bargain price, too.
Now all we have to do is to work out how to giftwrap it.
(This post originally appeared in the November edition of The Tetbury Advertiser)