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A Visit to a toyshop
by Len Curle

 

I got off the tube at Oxford Circus, and headed south through the packed crowds towards Piccadilly Circus. As I walked I wished I was back at the office, with the cooling draught from the fan blowing on my back, instead of out in the blazing sunshine amongst throngs of tourists.

About half way down Regent Street I reached Hamley's, one of the largest if not the largest toyshop in the world. As I entered, a horrendous din greeted me. Aeroplanes on the end of long wires whizzed round in never ending circles, and battery driven toys, rolled, bumped or danced all over the counters. Children were running all over the place, shouting things like,

'Mum, Dad look at this' to replies of, 'Yes dear, let's go this way', or, 'We can't afford that, let's look somewhere else', or, 'You'll have to wait until Christmas'.

Little girls stared at dolls with wonder in their eyes. Little boys gazed longingly at model motor cars, soldiers and spaceships. The computer games department was alive with sounds of alien spaceships and gunfire. Kids held onto joysticks, their little faces contorted with concentration as they stared at flashing screens.

I wandered around looking at the toys, watching the goings on and soaking up the atmosphere. It was a wonderful madhouse, packed from top to bottom with things that children dream about: and they could all be tried out.

Eventually I made my way to the sports department on the fourth floor. Not many people know, that Hamley's, carry one of the best selections of darts accessories in London. I had a match that night, and badly needed some replacement stems and flights. I found what I was looking for, paid for my purchase, and mission accomplished made my way to the escalator.

An African or possibly West Indian woman was ahead of me with a little girl, whose hair was tied up into piccaninny bangs using multi-coloured ribbons. The child was terrified of the moving staircase and was letting her mother, and the rest of the world, know this in no uncertain manner by screaming at the top of her lungs. The woman had to coax her onto the escalator at each floor and progress was very slow. The escalator was too narrow to allow me to pass resulting in a build up of people behind me.

After an agonisingly slow and noisy descent, we came to the final moving staircase on the first floor. The woman tried to get the child onto the escalator, but she would not move, and somehow the woman lost her grip. With a look of horror she began her descent alone, leaving the frightened child stranded.

"Baby! My baby!" called out the woman. The little girl, even more terrified than before, tears rolling down her face, screamed even louder.

There was only one thing to do. I scooped her up and stepped onto the escalator. The screaming rose to a ferocious, ear shattering all time loud, as she struggled desperately to escape. I could feel the sweat trickling down my back as I held tightly on to her, terrified that she might slip from my fingers and injure her-self.

"Sooner you than me mate," shouted a chap from further up the escalator.

"Well I couldn't just leave her there," I shouted back cheerfully.

At the bottom I returned the little girl to her worried mother.

"Here," I said "take her," in a light hearted manner with a quick reassuring smile, "she's too noisy for me."

The woman grabbed the child and hurried off without a backward glance.

As I sat on the sweltering, swaying underground train, on my way back to the office at Paddington. I replayed the incident in my head. Somehow the encounter with the mother and her little girl, had soured my visit to the magical toyshop in the heart of London.

 

 

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