Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Cereal junk

Deprivation is a subjective thing.

One deprived child might think he's hard-done-by because mummy and daddy won't get him the latest Will Smith film for his back-seat in-car DVD player.

Another might feel deprived because he's been forbidden Kinder eggs.

One might argue that deprivation can only be a good thing when applied to Kinder eggs and similar junk-sweeties.

But I always felt that the quotient of anticipation and joy that the buying of the much-wanted Kinder eggs (containing, most importantly a tiny plastic toy which could rarely be constructed properly) could whip up made it them worthwhile for a very rare treat.

I was talking to a pal today about the first commercial free gift I ever got - an orange plastic Big Ears out of a pack of Ricicles. It was a big deal when I was very young. Second only in status to my Noddy clock, which was a birthday present.

I had to eat a whole box of Ricicles (not in one sitting although I was a tad piggy) to get the next gift, a little blue plastic model of Noddy. Sadly, though, after Big Ears, Noddy wasn't as good somehow. Big Ears had attitude and a fair amount of gnomish testosterone. He had a beard and a tall pointy hat and stood with legs akimbo. Noddy was merely amiable and his hat was floppy with a bell on it.

My pal wasn't impressed. He was a tad sniffy, actually. He was never allowed such rubbish.

“We were make to feel guilty if we ever asked for crap like that.”

The fact that I was thrilled with a small plastic Big Ears might indicate that I was the deprived one. We had few toys when I was small in Wales. We had to go and play with coal and fashion pieces of wood with blunt knives or pick bilberries and attempt to catch lambs.

But actually I was very happy with all that and I feel my pal , although I wouldn't dream of telling him so, was actually the deprived one.

He never experiencing the thrill and wonder of lifting a small new model of Tony the Tiger from a box of Frosties or wracked his brains to think what marvellous mystery free gift could be lurking within the new box of Shreddies.

Taking a commercial break from the cereals for a moment, some of my first freebies were the PG tips collector cards. Every time mumsie opened a new packet of tea there would be another card for my treasured collection of British Butterflies or Birds of the World cards.

It sounds dorky now but I learned a lot from those cards and swapped with other sad twits at school until, joy of joys, the entire albums got completed - then I discovered the Gerald Durrell books and suddenly I was a confirmed amateur naturalist.

By the time my sons were old enough to collect free stuff, the “must have” were Top Trumps which were a lot less educational but did introduce us to the possibilities of supercars and in particular the Renault 5 Alpine Turbo.

I doubt today's youngsters would be impressed by such free gifts. Many of them have phones, stereo systems, TVs and DVD players in their bedrooms by the age of eight can no longer be impressed with bits of plastic.

Attitude to freebie junk toys might be a good indicator of class though.

My parents didn't care. They just saw it as harmless stuff which would give transient pleasure and be chucked out in due course.

My pal's mater and pater, in contrast were concerned that their children might be somehow tarnished by contact with common dross. They were probably right. There kids turned out to be far cleverer and more successful but didn't have as much cheap fun at home.

He turned out quite-posh anyway - uses the royal “we” and everything.

Actually we could all be using the royal “Wii” if only Nintendo would consider bringing it out.

It would come complete with ermine robe, orb, sceptre and throne. Not as physical as the Wii Fit but ultimately satisfying to sit in state as crowned head of your own domain. I know a deprived quite-posh person who'd be first in line for the prototype.