I have been tagged by red haired runner and writer Preseli Mags for a meme on memory.
Memories are a blur and a swirl. I try to pick something out, make something emerge from the mist.
My brother's trainset, a Hornby train, the track secured to a big board. Paul had two trains with their sets of carriages, painted in brown and cream. We used to play a lot together, my brother and I. We lived up on the edge of the moor and went to school across town so we didn't really know the few local children who lived further down the common. We spent hours up on the moors and out on the common whenever the days were fine, but sometimes, it being the Pennines, rain streamed down the window and we hung around moaning that we didn't know what to do. My mother wouldn't let us say we were bored but she was good at coming up with projects which would take us a while. I only understood when I had children of my own that there was an element of self interest in this creativity.
One long wet school holidays we had the trainset down from the loft, the board taking up most of floor in the dining room. After a few times of changing the points and circling the board we were running out of steam when my mum came in: "Why don't you make some scenery? You could make some hills and trees and maybe a tunnel."
And this is what I remember, not the trains so much but the paint, the paper, the glue, the painstaking construction of a landscape. I made papier mache hills while my brother pencilled the outlines of river and sea and roads onto the board. My hills took a couple of days to be shaped and to dry and to be painted. In the meantime we trekked out to the shops for pipe cleaners and cotton wool with which we made trees, the cotton wool soaked in green paint to make the leaves and then tied onto the twisted pipe cleaners with green thread. The pipe cleaners themselves were carefully coloured brown with felt tip pens. It was all very Blue Peter and I found it utterly thrilling to see the new world we were creating take place on the board in front of us. I hated to be dragged away for meals and lay in bed at night dreaming of wooded valleys.
The tunnel was a shoe box covered in green paper, with the ends cut out and the sides taped down. It looked too square and box-like when it first went down so I made another of my papier mache hills to fit on top and run down the sides. Of everything we did this was what I most proud of. It looked like the real tunnel where the Leeds to Manchester train emerged from the hills a few miles away.
My brother made a beach and some sea at one end of the board, sticking down some pale sandpaper donated by my dad for the shore and painting the blue water with white rippling waves. We imported a toy farm for the middle of the track and cows and horses grazed in our fields while hens scratched next to a lego created farmhouse. Every now and then the train did run, stopping at the station and disappearing into the tunnel, but it was the world on the board which gripped us for the whole holiday. Looking back now I suppose that was days, but at the time it seemed like weeks during which villages and houses dotted the board, were moved and moved again until we found a place we both agreed was the right one, where they should stay.
I don't remember it being taken apart or put away. I do vaguely remember the green painted board coming out again some months later but it was faintly disappointing. It was all a bit battered. It had lost its magic. It was the creation of a new world which had gripped us.
I wonder if my carving a world out of my hillside here had its roots there?