Saturday, 24 November 2012

The best toyshop in the world

A few weeks ago, we went on a family trip to France along with another couple and their little nine-month-old boy. Two kids under one. In an old French cottage with millions of stairs, exposed fireplaces, and uneven floors. Recipe for disaster? Un petit peu. So it was a different sort of idyll to the holidays of the past. For instance, we did have to be ushered hurriedly out of a museum due to one of the kids projectile vomiting. But that’s a story for another day.

The day after the museum disaster (everyone looked suspiciously at me afterwards – although even I wouldn’t go to such lengths to get out of a WWII bunker tour), we went for a drive to the beach and then a wander round a nearby village, Cassel. Cassel is perched on top of a hilltop and its claim to fame is that it's the very hill that the Grand Old Duke of York marched his 10,000 men up and down.

And it was there on the hilltop that we stumbled upon the shop of dreams - Alice-in-Wonderland, Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and Narnia all rolled into one.

It was the vintage-looking racing cars in the window that drew us in to start with. But that was only the beginning. This was hands down the most beautiful toyshop I'd ever seen, stuffed to the ceilings with wooden, handcrafted, brightly painted toys. Spinning tops, kaleidoscopes, mobiles, building blocks – everything was anti-plasticky, American-accented, flashing-lighted tat.

For once, my usually very vocal Little Bean was too overwhelmed with excitement to make a squeak. The two mammas and babes wandered euphorically through the piles of  treasures trying to pick out just one toy each to fit in our already overloaded cars on the return journey (bearing in mind we had already purchased vast quantities of cheese and wine to bring back with us).

The husbands got a bit bored after the toy cars had been thoroughly examined and tested – they were already in a bit of a foul mood having had an unsatisfactory trip across the border to a Belgian monastery to buy beer – the monks’ stash was sold out so we’d left empty-handed.

But they needn't have worried. Dangling from the ceiling, in amongst the hanging mobiles and hand-painted mini aeroplanes, was a wooden sign reading...Biere (for the non-French speakers that means 'beer').
An arrow pointed down a cobbly set of stairs, which our husbands raced down as quickly as if their mother-in-laws were in hot pursuit.

It was a little grotto of beer-lover’s paradise, piled floor to ceiling with specialist French and Belgian beers and cidres. Mr Bean was like a kid in a sweet shop. Or a husband in a beer shop.

So, not only did this er… toyshop provide for both little people as well as their hops-loving parentals, but upstairs, behind a pile of train sets I discovered my own personal paradise, a gourmet coffee bean selection and a mouthwatering display of chocolate truffles. At this stage, if there’d been a stable of unicorns behind the coffee display I wouldn’t have blinked an eyelid. I kept expecting someone to pop out like a jack in the box, shouting 'Carlsberg don't do toyshops but if we did...'

Safe to say the shop did well out of us. We finally settled on a the most hilarious duck for Little Bean, mostly because she became apoplectic whenever it started flapping its silly feet, and treated ourselves to a few goodies too.

Take note Mothercare, ELC and ToysRUs, this is how toyshops should be run. Now get cracking. Before Carlsberg beats you to it.

*Circus toys are actually from this website but it's exactly the kind of thing the shop sold. I was too much in awe to even think of whipping out my camera at the time.

 Moms Who Write and Blog

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Naming toys

I admit it. The first Christmas decoration is up. I didn't mean to. But I bought it this weekend at the Spirit of Christmas fair and because a) I just can't stomach the thought of fighting through the loft to find it's proper home among the other Christmas decor and b) it's only going to have come out again in a few weeks time, I decided that it could live on a random hook in the kitchen. Not really sure why the hook is there now I come to think of it. Note to self: are we missing a picture or calendar or utensil?

Hardly was the little rocking horse up then we decided he had to have a name. Perish the thought any inaminate toy/decoration in our house remain anonymous. Our favourites so far: Acorn (bit predictable), Harry (...the horse, or perhaps after the prince?), Dasher (quite apt for Christmas) or Baileys (after my favourite Christmas drink, or one of them anyway).

When Little Bean came along, we thought deciding on a name for her was tough enough. What we didn't realise was that there'd be countless bunnies, bears, crocodiles, giraffes, frogs, turtles, hedgehogs, dogs, ducks, pandas, kangaroos and pigs that would also require naming. Luckily some of them already came with names (thank heavens for Sophie the giraffe, Winnie-the-Pooh and Eeyore) and others were fairly easy (what else are you going to call a koala but Kylie?) but still we kept on running out of ideas.

After a while we cheated and defaulted to calling everything 'Mr' (Mr Bear, Mr Cow, Mr Crab etc) although after a while I thought this was not only a tad sexist but also potentially confusing - we had more than one Mr Sheep for instance. So we started asking people who'd given us the toys to give them a name - nothing like a bit of delegation to lighten the load... Ha - we thought, we've cracked it, as the competition hotted up to see who could come up with the most original name.

But of course it was never going to be that easy and trying to keep track of who was called Ralph, Lola and Rihanna (don't ask) became a bit of chore. So now I've decided that I'm taking a leaf out of the Harry Potter books and Little Bean's menagerie will now be 'they who shall not be named'. She's started pointing at everything in wonder and saying 'dey' anyway so no doubt she'll decide what she wants to call her bunnies and bears when the time comes. And that means I'm off the hook. Although the little rocking horse is decidedly not. See, more time for me to think up silly jokes. Tis the season, you see. Well, almost, anyway.
Now, who's going to play 'Pin the name on the horse' with me?