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James May: My life in toys

The first toy I remember receiving at Christmas was the Corgi Routemaster Bus (number 468 in the range, ahem). I can’t have been more than three years old. It was a gleaming, bright-red objet d’art with jewelled headlights; a Fabergé egg to a small boy. I still have it, though it’s not quite as shiny as it was.

If I still wrote to Santa, my letter would be full of requests for motorcycles, light aircrafts, supercars, that sort of thing
James May

The toy I regret throwing away is probably all of them, as it would be nice to see a record of my whole childhood in things I held so dear. But in a way toys are meant to be ephemera, like pop music. That way, when you encounter the same thing may years later, you experience a form of time travel, back to a forgotten emotion and sense of well-being that can only come from childhood.

The toy I wish I’d owned, but never did is the Raleigh Chopper bicycle, if that can be thought of as a toy. My parents didn’t really approve of that sort of thing. I never actually had a new bicycle anyway. I was encouraged to make them out of old bits. I’d like to say this helped to make me what I am, but what I am is merely a 51-year-old man who never owned a Chopper.

If I still wrote to Santa, and we had an open fireplace, my letter would be full of requests for motorcycles, light aircrafts, supercars, that sort of thing. But we have a rule in the house about Christmas gifts: no more than £10 on any item, and it must be consumable. So I’m expecting a posh cheese. Can you email Santa, by the way?

If I were to design a toy it would combine the constructional qualities of the classics with some elements of electronics and computer programming. But Lego are way ahead of me on this one. To be honest, if I had a really good idea for a toy, I’d be working on it now.

If I were to design an Action Man I’d probably take a look at the finished article and think, ‘This isn’t going to work. It’s just a stupid doll, and it can’t even stand up straight. Who wants to spend their time changing a doll’s trousers?’ That’s why the people who did market Action Man were geniuses. He was a best-seller for a decade, but it still baffles me.