When I was a toddler I had a jack-in-the-box which, on account of my early language skills, I named ‘Guggla.’ I don’t really remember him that much, he was just one of the many toys that I played with as a child. He shared my room with cars, trucks, fire engines, a parking garage, action-men, lego, a guitar and a whole host of other things that accompanied me through my early years. So when my Mom recently emailed me some pictures of my young niece and nephew, Jacob & Sumalee, playing with a wooden fortress that my Granddad had made for me, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic.

I loved that fortress. It had a draw bridge that could be extended over the gloss blue moat, and turrets upon which my knights in their painted armor would brandish gruesome weaponry and cast imaginary arrows at the invaders below. It had no switches or buttons, cord or batteries, it was powered entirely by the imagination of a child. I don’t know how many hours I must have spent immersed in that medieval world, but I imagine that the fortress served as the seed for the fascination with castles that I have today.

My Granddad created a number of great toys from wood. He built my multi-level parking garage with it’s array of ramps and tricky walls. He made my action-men a home and a base from where they planned their various adventures, one of which involved parachuting into the pond, much to my Dad’s annoyance. And then there was the scale model of our family home, a dolls house built for my sister, Louise, which came complete with action figures of the five of us. It was amazing, and I’m not ashamed to say that I think I played with that about as much as my sister did (much to her annoyance too I might add!).

Mom also sent me a photograph of my niece and nephew playing in Jubilee Cottage, a wendy house built into the space under the stairs in my sisters family home. I first saw Jubilee Cottage back in 1977, the year of the Queens Jubilee when I was just six years old. It was another one of Granddad’s creations, built into a space in my sisters bedroom. Dad had painted the outside with red tiles, and flowers either side of the bright yellow toddler sized door. Louise and I played in there for hours, cooking on the hand made wooden stove and making imaginary cups of tea served in vivid orange and yellow plastic cups.

I’s funny how when I look back, it’s not the battery powered loud toys that I remember most. Instead it’s things like the fortress and the parking garage that are embossed into my memory. Even a stuffed cartoon style bird I named ‘King’ sticks in my mind. Made by my grandmother, whom we to this day still call ‘Yogi,’ ‘King’ was an exact copy of a stuffed bird that used to look out of the window of a house we used to walk past on the way to my grandparents who lived just around the corner. I liked looking at that bird and wanted one just like him. With a little neighborly help Yogi was able to make that happen, and ‘King’ looked out of my bedroom window for years to come.

Then there was the train set that my Dad built in my brother’s room. It included a model village complete with a pub called ‘The Swan’, a police station, and a farmhouse set on a landscape of trees and hills. It was a pretty impressive train set I can tell you, but Pete wasn’t always excited about having his little brother in his bedroom, and so began my education in boundary distinctions. Fortunately my Scaletrix set, wasn’t similarly fixed and therefore my brother and I were able to play with that in relative harmony.

I’m glad that my parents were able to hold on to some of the things of our childhood. Sure, they’re different now as I look at them through the eyes of an adult. But there’s something of that child in me that can still recall the wonder of these things. So when asked recently, I couldn’t resist an invitation by Sumalee to join her inside Jubilee Cottage for a cup of imaginary tea.

As for Guggla, my old jack-in-the-box, he wasn’t discarded either. When I grew tired of his wobbly ways he took retirement in a storage box where he remains to this day, quietly hoping perhaps to make a few encore appearances and once more feel the warmth of the sun on his wooden face before he’ll ‘guggle’ no more.

So long Granddad