The darker evenings mean passing lighted rooms of houses when out for a walk. The hour being still early means the activities of everyday life are still going on. A child’s room in an elegant red brick Victorian house was brightly lit. On the wall there was mounted a wooden tugboat, plain wood in colour, it had a bright green funnel.
It seemed a magical thing to have on a bedroom wall. I pondered what imaginings would have been prompted if there had been a tug on the wall of my childhood bedroom.
Maritime stories were part of my upbringing. My father had served in the Royal Navy and had continued to work at a Royal Naval Air Station. I have no doubt that such a tugboat in my room would have been imagined as bringing into a naval dockyard one of the vast aircraft carriers on which my father served. It would sail out from Plymouth or Portsmouth and help to bring the great grey carrier to its berth.
I have no idea whether tugs, particularly civilian tugs, were used to draw aircraft carriers into harbour, but factual details would not have interfered with the scenes I would have imagined as a child. When the carrier was safely alongside and tied up, the tug would head back out into Plymouth Sound or the Solent to meet with one of the great ocean-going liners in order to bring it safely into port.
That was the thing about toys, they were so simple, so unsophisticated, that they became like a blank canvas on which you could draw your own pictures.
I had a cowboy hat. I was not interested in fighting with Indians. I had read that bullets were so expensive that cowboys did not ride around firing guns in the air and certainly did not go around having gunfights, instead they got on with the business of being cowboys.
In my cowboy hat, I would imagine the challenges of protecting the herd against rustlers who would steal the best steers and trying to find water for the cattle in times of drought. Being a cowboy was about riding the range and driving off wild animals, not firing six shooters in fights in bar rooms.
Looking back, what seems surprising is how few toys there were and how great was their capacity for entertainment. The electronic devices of the present time were unimaginable, but their infinitely greater technology has deprived children of many chances to write their own stories.
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