Saturday, October 16, 2010

Infantilist lurch

Spent a day at Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood. Wasn’t expecting to get snappy with my mobile, or for the place to be quite so engrossing and enjoyable, but it has the right balance of toys through the ages to gawp at through glass cases, and stuff for the little darlings/terrors to play with. Free entry, then they reap a reward through the shop and the café, though if anything they could use a bit more merchandising of the place itself, rather than just the standard-issue rubbers and pencils with the logo of V&A, which owns it. [Beware the glass-case glare].

The entrance is a bit White Cubey and confrontational, with its ‘Doll Face’ mini-exhibition.

My younger militaristic self toyed with Palitoy’s brief Action Force figurines in the mid-80s – it was all post-Falklands Para/SAS talk round our Surrey/N Hants way – and it’s fascinating to see that they used the storming of the Iranian Embassy to get the Arab separatists out dead or alive out as promotional material to fire up impressionable kids’ minds. Who dares wins, eh?

Forget the massive hard-ons of the Premiership, this is a Subbuteo-like figure in the colours of lower-league Shrewsbury Town in the days when they were allowed to play at (tee-hee) Gay Meadow. They are not of a piece with these two disco Barbies – check the wicked future axe on the one on the right.

Up until the 80s at least western kids still liked to recreate these dream cities with these Skyline building blocks, while the Trix train station (from 1954) below has a lovely formal modernism about it, and the second station, part of the de rigueur model village intended for middle aged gits with a tendency to model life’s problems away, isn’t bad either.

And that’s the mid-century American mobility dream right there. Think I had the station shop element of this, but like Britain itself in the 80s it was rundown and didn’t work properly (it has been passed down still dysfunctional).

Indeed, Britain needed flag waving jacks to patrol basic funfairs right up until the latter part of the 20th century.
The museum’s claiming that some child actually wore a Colman’s Mustard branded get-up for some party. Somebody from the family of mustard magnates themselves, perhaps?

Distorting mirrors and a jukebox (30p a go) allowed things to get a bit energetic and blurry, but taking in the view from the upper level across the whole building allowed a sense of calm to prevail. Let’s whack a few *** on to recommend this as a fun day out.

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