Sorry, people, but Thomas must be the most yawn-inducing tank engine in the world, universe, space and this in spite of a string of celebs acting as narrator, including ex-Beatle rock ‘n roller Ringo Starr. If I have to hear ‘We’re busy busy busy, our wheels don’t touch the ground’ one more time, I’ll explode in a jet of steam and join Lucy in the sky with or without the diamonds. So I was almost ecstatic when my son, who lives in Argentina, suggested I get a Hot Wheels set as a fifth birthday present for his son who’s been stuck in the Thomas and Friends phase for, like, eons. My son sent me a link to the exact page for the set in the online Argos catalogue. I know it’s daft but, to me, it’s still the stuff of miracles that my son can browse the Argos catalogue on his computer up in the Andes in Patagonia, order something and his mum here in Blighty, over seven thousand miles away, can hotfoot it down the road to Argos in Walthamstow, E17, to pick it up and take it over in her suitcase. Things like Hot Wheels cost a fortune there and Argos hasn’t broken into the Argentinian market yet. So I clicked on the link and ping! there it was, a Build Your Own Hot Wheels City! A MEGA Metropolis! Five Sets in One! Over Thirteen Feet of Track and Ten Cars! Wowweee! And it was half price! Well, I’m always up for a bargain and this could bid bye bye to Thomas – yippee!
Argos helpfully puts the dimensions of boxes in the product description details – they must know that lots of British grans and grandads are trotting about the globe, suitcases packed with things from their catalogue, delivering stuff to their children and grandchildren in farflung lands. But would the Hot Wheels city box fit into my suitcase? I hauled a bedroom chair over to the wardrobe, climbed up teetering on tiptoes and, arms outstretched, grappled about in the dust and fluff on top for my suitcase. Hell’s teeth, the whole wardobe shuddered and shifted grannywards and I just avoided instant death by bouncing onto the bed – boing, boing, boing, I went, like Zebedee on speed back in the day.
There was no way the Hot Wheels MEGA Metropolis box would fit into my suitcase. Oh god, maybe I should buy a bigger case – but then, perhaps it’d be cheaper to send it by international courier service, a previous personal success story. I went online – no, I was wrong, it would cost nearly a hundred quid – they’re having a laugh, aren’t they? So, this miserable, mingy old granma prepared to email her son to say it wasn’t possible. Then the guilt kicked in and, you’ve guessed it, I relented. After all, I reckoned, each of the five sets would be in separate boxes – I could take a couple out of the big box, send them by parcle2go and put the others in my suitcase to take out at Christmas – they might take up a lot of space, but it would be summer in Argentina and I’d only need a couple of t-shirts, some jeans and a few pairs of Marks and Spencers knickers. So I clicked ‘collect in store’ and emailed my son. ‘Fantastic!!!!!!!!!!,’ came the reply, yes, that’s 10 exclamation marks. I began to wonder who the Hot Wheels set was actually for.
The huge MEGA Metropolis box looked very flash with shiny red and blue racing cars zooming about on the cover. But it rattled suspiciously and the pieces of the five sets were not in separate boxes at all but loose inside the big box. But, hell’s teeth, I was stuck with it and there was nothing for it but to try to work out what bits went with which set by reading the assembly instructions. Well, I’m not good at instructions – I get bored and tend to improvise. So if you’d turned up at my house that day you would have found a disgruntled granny crawling about on the floor from one heap of plastic bits to another, muttering in a language of four letter words, with a large sheet of instructions spread on the carpet like one of those infuriating Ordnance Survey maps my partner swears by. God, the things us grandparents do for love, as 10cc might’ve sung in the 70s. I’ll not mention the bit when I stretched my endurance levels even further by trying to scan the instructions on my photocopier and then sticking the 16 resulting readable sheets of A4 together with sellotape, just in case. Suffice it to say, two sets of the MEGA metropolis plus one set of assembly instructions, are now winging their way over the Atlantic and I’m creeping about with aches in places where I’d forgotten I had places. Enough already.
Although my two grandsons live over 7,000 miles apart, they seem to like similar things. However, grandson in Argentina is a few months younger than Essex grandson so usually he moves on to various phases slightly after his cousin. At the moment faraway grandson is just entering the Spiderman phase while grandson up the road, though still keen on superheroes, is into God big time – well, I guess God’s a superhero of sorts. ‘He’s higher than a skyscraper, gran,’ he said, ‘and deeper than a submarine.’ Wow! But sadly God doesn’t feature in the Argos catalogue and, although he’s rather good at miracles, I don’t think he’d fit into my suitcase either.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.