Blur of blue, green and – mainly – orange. Familiar whistling, unfamiliar ratchet being tugged, clanking, several times, followed by coughing sounds, more whistling, humming and whirring, coming and going. All topped by a clean fresh scent on the air that I’ve loved ever since.
Pale blue, white, and grey. Solid. Heavy. Handsome. Noble addition – even if the large hook was disconcerting and responsible for small-boy nightmares about a certain infamous pirate. More whirring and clanking. Like a wooden mallet inviting a bell.
On the same day: Dad’s first petrol-driven Flymo. And Mum drove a brand new Kenwood Chef.
Don’t get me wrong – dry days were fun. We went beach-combing for jerry-cans, glass buoys and cowrie shells. We slashed paths through the woods with scythes.
But wet days were glorious. We holed up in Granny’s onion shed, oblivious to the rain teeming down outside, playing shove-ha’penny with green-stained tuppence bits. We painstakingly decorated empty wooden boxes, her monthly order of Turkish cigarettes from Fortnum and Masons. Tiny brass hinges yawned open and inside the crumpled tissue paper breathed camels and spices, deserts, weathered dark faces and hot dusty leather, and stole you away to another world.
The wealth of nations is such a resonant phrase yet so difficult to define. There is the material wealth which can be defined as assets, incomings and outgoings. More interesting to me is the spiritual and cultural assets of a nation. Some years ago I spent twelve days at Tashi Lhunpo monastery in the Indian state of Karnataka. The Indian Government had given an area of land on which were five Tibetan monasteries and a Tibetan village, all of them refugees from Tibet seeking to preserve their culture. The Tibetan, Ladhaki and Nepalese men and boys in Tashi Lhunpo monastery were the sanest, happiest and most generous community I have ever encountered. Yet materially their wealth was utterly meagre.
Most infants owned a Pea Shooter. I remember calling at the small general store opposite our infant school to purchase a halfpenny worth of grey peas, ammunition required urgently for the first playtime break.
With no paper bags until a later delivery, I was happy to improvise and had the peas wrapped carefully into my clean handkerchief.
Our teacher, having noticed most boys using their coat sleeves on which to wipe their noses, had urged us to always carry a clean hanky and it was on this fateful day he requested we prove we had taken his advice.
In my exuberation, I snatched out my lovely clean hanky, without a thought for my recent purchase, to see dozens of my much needed “grey farters” explore the whole of the classroom floor.