Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Two Brooms For Flipper

When I was a small boy, I only really ever had two favourite toys. One was a plastic Dinosaur from The Natural History Museum - a Diplodocus, to be precise, and the other was a Dolphin made of soft plastic with a squeaker inside. I loved those toys, more than anything else.

For those of you who don't know what a Diplodocus looks like, here is a picture of the toy (and Dinosaur) in question:

Of course, this is not the actual toy Dinosaur that I had - that sadly got lost at some point many years ago. The toy that I had was dented, scuffed, and the tail had been chewed quite considerably (I was a troubled little boy). I loved this toy because it actually looked like what Diplodocus would have looked like in real life. I was heavily into Dinosaurs - but didn't want toy Dinosaurs that looked unrealistic, with multicoloured skin, red eyes, and blue feet for example. No - I wanted my dinosaur toys to look as realistic as possible, so that my imagination could bring them to life as much as possible.
All this talk of Dinosaurs has reminded me of one of my favourite "Far Side" Cartoons:

An instant later, both Professor Waxman,
and his time machine are obliterated, leaving the
cold-blooded / warm-blooded dinosaur debate
still unresolved

That grey plastic, scuffed, dented and chewed Diplodocus was big part of my life for a long time......

But before him, there was another.........

The Diplodocus was my favourite toy from the age of about 7 to 10. Before then, my all time, never to be beaten, most favouritest toy of all time was the soft plastic Dolphin with the squeaker inside. While it seems plausible for a toy Dolphin to have a squeaker (after all, Dolphins make squeaking noises - sort of), I have just had the realisation come to me that my favourite toy between the ages of 4 and 6 years old, may well have been a dog toy. Many dog toys have squeakers in, and back in the early 70's there may not have been the robust plastics available that today's dog toys are made of.
We didn't have much money as a family - but we did have a dog. A dog that always looked at me weird when I was playing with the Dolphin............
Anyway, whatever its origin or supposed destiny, that Dolphin was my best friend. And can you believe it, I found a picture of it!!!

I'm quite emotional at the moment, because I haven't seen this toy in 34 years, and it is bringing back one very special memory involving it - and my dad.

When I was small, I was lucky enough to go on holiday with my family to Butlins at Clacton in Essex. Now back then, Butlins was a great family holiday park - not the seedy, alcohol fuelled, Chav magnet that it appears to be these days. From memory, we went every year for a few years (although this might not be accurate). In fact, we must have been going since I was a baby, because my very first memory is having a bottle of juice in my cot in the Chalet at Butlins. I knew that I wasn't at home, because the room was decorated different colours to home.
Anyway, Butlins at Clacton was where we went on Holiday. And where I went, my Dolphin went. The memory in questions happened when I was about 4 or 5 years old. We were at Butlins on holiday, and on this occasion our Chalet was a first floor Chalet. The Chalets ran in two rows one on top of the other, with another row of Chalets opposite and a small playing area in between. At that time, it was safe enough for the kids to play outside the Chalet in the play area, and I was running about with my dolphin playing both in the play area and on the balcony outside our Chalet.
I can't remember how it happened exactly, but somehow my dolphin ended up on the roof of our Chalet. I can only presume that I was on the balcony throwing my Dolphin around when I managed to land it on the roof. Of course, when I realised that my dolphin wasn't going to swim back to me, I burst into tears - distraught at the thought that I would never see my friend again, and that he would die baked to death by the sun on the roof of a Butlins Chalet.
I remember standing in the play area bawling my eyes out, being comforted by a grown up from a neighbouring Chalet (who didn't have to go through a CRB check, to be allowed to approach me), as I looked up at the roof of our Chalet.
Luckily for me, my father was a super hero. Again, I can't really remember all the details - but I do know that at one point, my dad was stood on the railing of our first floor Chalet balcony with two brooms tied end to end, reaching to try and get my Dolphin down. What I later found out is that my dad hated heights (just like me) - and yet he still risked life and limb to get my Dolphin back.

And he did get my Dolphin back, and I was the happiest boy in the world.

And remembering my Dad now, I am again.

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