For fairly obvious reasons, as I was reading Angela Carter's The Magic Toyshop recently I kept on thinking about toyshops I have known. Trips to Hamley's in Regent Street at Christmas of course, but mostly those childhood forays on roller skates to the outer reaches of our territory from the Cricket Green side of Mitcham (in Surrey then, might be in Greater London now) as far as the joke shop at Amen Corner in Tooting. The Cricket Green I now discover reportedly the oldest still in use having been played on since 1685, but the Amen Corner joke shop held much greater appeal.... and such a good title for a Sunday post.
Angela Carter grew up in neighbouring Streatham, she would have known it I'm sure; a 1950s emporium of toys and jokes to which the promise of a window full of manna from heaven would lure us, and at the age of about eight or nine sent 'out to play' and free as birds.
I was trying to visualise the route and to my surprise that wasn't hard. Down to the Fair Green from home in Russell Road, then up towards Bond Road School, Mitcham Swimming Baths and the Library an on towards Mr Yee Chong's dental surgery.
Now isn't google an amazing thing... I idly type in the name as I recall it, Harris Yee Chong, to find this from 2009...
A dentist who has worked in Mitcham for more than half a century has hung up his mask and retired at the age of 77.
Dr Harris Yee-Chong from Queensmere Road, Wimbledon, has worked in the same Streatham Road surgery since 1958.
In the time he has treated everyone from dovegreyreader to cabinet ministers and TV personalities to oral cancer patients.
Well I felt I should add me to the list given the hours I spent in there, especially as I can remember very clearly the day his new high speed whistling drill arrived, prior to which the instrument of torture was a thing that seemed to run on a system of archaic droning pulleys, and to think he only retired a few years ago.
But our journey to Amen Corner took us way past his surgery, or so it seemed in my imagination.
So because I then had nothing better to do I decided to check how far it was on google maps and I wasn't wrong...
I mean just look how far it was and all along main roads. So I now know that at the age of eight my best friend Ann (of the Bunty-Judy comic swap) and I would willingly skate a four mile round trip in order to buy some fake dog poo or a whoopee cushion at her brother's request...because us girls were far too sensible to waste our own pocket money on such things.
On the way we would help ourselves to free sustenance because remember when those mini boxes of breakfast cereal were very new indeed, a real novelty and far too expensive to buy, but our local supermarket was giving away free packets all heaped in a bin outside. We'd swipe an armful of sugar-coated Ricicles as we shot past and eat them dry from the packet on the way.. little wonder I spent so many hours in the dentist really.
But tell me, do books take you off on frolics like this as well ??
Can you trace those childhood journeys in your memory too??
And more importantly, did you 'go out to play' as we did, and with such freedom to sort out for yourselves things like crossing roads, and keeping safe, and getting into and out of trouble, and taking a few risks??
Come on own up... what was the worst thing you did...time to confess, and as it's Sunday and this post is called Amen Corner, we can do absolution.