I had many family nicknames growing up. The first was Jackatittit as my sister couldn’t say Jacqueline. This was quickly followed by Jbe-baby. Shortened to Jbe as I got older. That stuck for some years. It came in handy many years later when I got my dream car. It just so happened to have the number plate ending JBE. And yes I did buy it just because it was a personalised number plate for me. Derek was soon added as I was such a tomboy. My mum would shout across a restaurant ‘Derek we’ve told you before you’re too old to go in the ladies toilet!’ She thought it was funny. I was mortified. Although I never let on till now. The Brat was another one. Which I guess I deserved as I was so stubborn. Now a days they just stick with J.
A few toys stick out from my childhood. The first was a wooden toy car. That had men in it that bounced up and down when you pulled it along by some string. Apparently mum and dad took me into a toy store. I saw it. Grabbed it. And said ‘Mine’. I loved that car. Although it drove everyone else nuts. In the end the dog attacked it and chewed it until it wouldn’t work. My other favourite toy was a garage on two levels. I loved to take my cars and push them down the ramp. It was free from the local petrol station when you collected tokens. It was the best toy I was ever given. That same Christmas mum insisted my sister and I were given matching dolls and doll prams. The prams were like the old fashion prams you got in the 1950’s. I never played with mine. Although my sister loved hers (told you she was girlie) In the end my pram was given away to a family friends little girl. She played with it till it feel apart. So all wasn’t totally lost.
Other toys included a Weeble school set and play ground. The school itself had a bell on the top. Mum carried it home from the store, with me in tow, with the bell jingling all the way back. It never occurred to me to ask what the noise was. My sister had a Playmobile hospital and I had the fire engine. I would set them up on the dinning room table and play for hours. I lived in a world of my own as a small child. Never needing anyone else thank you very much. Where my sister needed to be constantly entertained. I was happiest playing by myself.
Christmas was always fun. And birthdays were always a big thing in our house. My sister and I were born two years, two weeks and two hours apart. Birthday parties were held jointly the week in between our birthdays. Which was fine by me. As that meant the fact that I had very few friends and didn’t have to be the centre of attention never showed. One birthday party we had a chocolate blancmange rabbit sat on green jelly grass. Complete with a whipped cream cotton tail. All the children began to cry when a knife went near it to cut it. And we refused to eat it.
Christmas’s became the game of which toy of mine wouldn’t work on the day. I had a train set that refused to run. And had to be taken back. An Action Man helicopter. Which my dad and granddad flu into a tree and broke it. A Scalextrics that wouldn’t start, until we realised we were starting at the finish line. A Sony Walkman that refused to play cassettes. Ok I admit it I had found it before Christmas and had played with it until it broke. Retuned it to the box and denied all responsibility on the big day. To be fair I didn’t lie. I just failed to mention it!
I hate surprises and went hunting for all my presents. I would carefully unwrap them. Peek inside. And then re-wrap them. That way I had planned what acceptable face to make on the day. It made sense to me after the pram debacle. There was however the dreaded presents from other family members. Which I couldn’t plan for. There was the classic year when my aunt, among other things, brought my sister and I a plastic apple each. Because what child doesn’t need a plastic apple!
My dad’s parents always showered us with presents. They lived in Middlesbrough. So we usually only saw them once a year. We were brought up not to ask for things. Unless it was Christmas or birthday’s. My grandparents appreciated the fact that we didn’t. So much so. That we only had to look at something for a few minutes and it was brought for us. We would get home with our booty and be accused of ‘being on the want again’. The famous year I got my first remote control car. My grandparents came down to see us. And took us to Hamley’s in London. ‘You can both pick one toy’ my grandparents said. I went off with my dad and grandfather. My sister with mum and our grandmother. My poor sister had my mum watching every price tag and saying no to everything my sister picked up. Until my grandmother told mum off. I was free to pick what I liked. As I said I picked the car. We wanted to check it worked before we went home. The only street in London that had a free space to test it was Downing Street. You could at that point go down there. We tested the car and the police officers guarding number 10 came over for a play. These days they would blow the toy up.
Another year all I really wanted was a bmx bike. My lovely sister told my parents that as I wanted one so much. That if they couldn’t afford to buy her a present too. Then she would go without. I got my bmx and she got her first hi-fi system. We went to visit my aunt, uncle and great-grandfather. We could only fit the bike into the boot of the car. We always took our main present to show it off. My great-grandfather got it into his head that my sister hadn’t got anything. And insisted that my sister had a bicycle too. The fact that she didn’t want one was irrelevant. When my aunt found out that Grampy had brought my sister a Christmas present but not got me anything. She was horrified. So my mum and her sister concocted a story about how I was really into music. And it should be encouraged. Grampy thought it was classical music. It was in fact the band Musical Youth. And so I got my first hi-fi too. We had by then moved into the house and my sister and I had separate rooms. You could stand on the landing and hear BBC Radio 2 coming from my parents room, Capital radio from my sister’s and BBC Radio 1 coming from mine all at the same time. it was a cacophony of noise.
The toy that I’ve kept to this day. Is a teddy bear called Isaiah. He was brought from the reject bin in C&A, a department store in the 70’s. He had one eye higher than the other. Hence the name (eyes higher. Do you get it?) my mum named him. He was my constant companion going with me everywhere. Except school. When he would sit on the sofa waiting for my return. For a well loved reject he has lasted remarkably well. we had a lot in common.
Me sat on my Aunts rocking chair