"That will be 55p," the shop-keeper told my daughters, as they handed the cardboard box over the counter to her.
"I think," said Anne, in her grand-old-lady voice,
scrambling to her feet and setting the money in small piles on the counter, "that you will find that is correct." So taken aback was the shop-keeper, she very nearly forgot to check it.
"Do you like them, Mummy?" asked Little Nan, watching the highly-prized purchase being wrapped up in a brown paper bag. I was, in fact, rather disappointed - I had imagined that it would be a Very Special Something for my daughters
to pool their pocket money (an unprecedented act of co-operation) in order to buy it. But what was so very special, I asked myself, about a family of four bendy-rubber dolls, the tallest no more than five inches high, and all of them badly dressed in scraps
of scruffy felt? Was it for this that I had met the girls from school and trailed along the High Street to the shops on a wet and windy Wednesday, the kind of day when only the promise of a 2lb bag of sugar would send anyone out shopping?
"There's a father and a mother and two children, you see," explained Hilary. "We could have bought the other family, the one with the sweet little baby wrapped up in a blanket - but we couldn't afford it." "80p," nodded Anne,
They were still happily outlining their plans for housing the family amid all possible creature comforts when we arrived home - and I was admitting humbly to myself that, where toys and the
enjoyment of them is concerned, parents are not necessarily the best judges of good value for money.
My first shameless eavesdroppings on "The Family" - as they are collectively known - gave me to
believe that this mini-family's life was a mirror of ours. However, listening further, I am beginning to feel that this mirror gives a slightly distorted image. The father appears to spend his day going to and from work or demanding "a bit of peace and quiet"
- while the mother, a dowdy creature in shapeless green felt, nags and fusses continuously and sprinkles her conversation with insincere-sounding "my darlings." I am quite sure I don't sound like that.
would be more worried, were it not for the fact that the children of the family are not exactly true to life. They are the most unbearably smug and unbelievably virtuous beings. They never answer back, never grumble or complain. They don't say they will have
porridge for breakfast and wait until it is simmering on the stove before deciding that what they really want is Weetabix. They never insist upon complete and utter silence during "Blue Peter", then play their recorders all through the News.
In short, I am happy to say,they bear little or no resemblance to certain children of my acquaintance not two feet from my typewriter at the moment. As, likewise, any connection between Mrs Bendy-Rubber and myself is purely
Slough Evening Mail c. 1974