The true meaning of toys?

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Penguin Books Image The Toy Makers

“A secret has been revealed, and I finally understand the meaning of toys, something my papa learnt long before me. When you are young, what you want out of toys is to feel grown up. You play with toys and cast yourself an adult, and imagine life the way it’s going to be.”

Yet, when you are grown, that changes; now, what you want out of toys is to feel young again. You want to be back there, in a place that did not hurt or harm you, in a pocket of time built out of memory and love. You want things in miniature, where they can be better understood: battles and houses, picnic baskets and sailing boats too.

Boyhood and adulthood – any toy maker worth his craft has to find a place to sit , somewhere between the two. It’s only in these borderlands that the very best toys are made.”

The Toymakers, a novel by Robert Dinsdale (Penguin, 2018), p. 256/7

My current reading  – half way through – is The Toymakers, a fantasy / magic realism book set in a magical winter toy shop in Edwardian London up to and into the First World War.

The book blurb aims for the Harry Potter market – “If There were a toy shop on Diagon Alley it would be the Toymakers” – and I can imagine the film makers who made the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies would enjoy recreating this world in CGI.

Here in the Emporium,  a refugee European Toymaker  Papa Jack and his two sons Emil and Kaspar Godman  compete in both love and Toys, including “The Long War” fought between brothers through their alive (clockwork?) handmade toy soldiers.

The  realism part of the magic realism steps up a pace when the First World War breaks out, Emporium staff join up, white feathers are handed out and at first, toy soldiers became the patriotic gift to give to small boys.

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But what would happen as the war ground on? I often  feel this looking at this WW1 era magazine scrap in my eclectic and chaotic collection

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/toys-from-the-scrapheap/

We all know what happened in reality to William Britain’s toy soldiers and their post war shift to more civilian Toys like farms, Wild West, gardens and railway figures.

Set at a time when H.G. Wells was writing Floor Games and Little Wars, those charming touchstones or portkeys to a vanished toy past, I would not be surprised if Mr. H.G. Wells turns up …

Links to  the Penguin books site featuring and extract and an interview with the author on the magic of toys and how the book came to be written.

https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/111/1113668/the-toymakers/9781785036354.html

https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2018/robert-dinsdale-magic-of-toys.html

and some reader reviews.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34846987-the-toymakers

I will post a fuller review when I have finished reading both this and rereading of Pauline Clarke’s 1960s book, the Bronte toy soldier inspired The Return of The Twelves.

And now for some simple wooden Christmas magic …

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Boom! Some new battered Toy Soldiers and cannon from my Christmas gifts. Magic!

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN 6 January 2019.

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Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

6 thoughts on “The true meaning of toys?”

    1. It is a good and wise quote about many types of toys and models, from railways to dolls houses.
      The author interview link is very interesting too.
      The spring cannon and its crude but charming wooden crew will feature on a post in a few days.

      Like

  1. Most enjoyable post. It explains my desire for the hobby very well. What a splendid photograph that is of the discharged fellow from Deptford. What excellent craftwork from him.

    Like

    1. It is a splendid photo and charming scrap fort, it reminds me very much of my craftsman Dad. I wonder what a discharged soldier (if he had seen injury and action in WW1) would have made of toy soldiers and forts – part of the tension in the ToyMakers story – or if it would have been a welcome return to childhood?

      Like

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