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Karl
20th September 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer: Andrea Dumbrell
(Audio only – no video)

00.06 – I remember with the He Man figures I remember being enticed, whenever my mum and dad went to do the weekly shop at Tesco’s, that when you first walked in they put all the kid’s toys right near the front of the store so I, in my mind, every week I was allowed to go and buy a new figure to keep me quiet and stop complaining while they did the shop. I think, I think in reality it was probably once every four or five trips to Tesco’s. I probably had four or five tantrums and then once in a while I got a new He Man figure, but I definitely remember it working on that basis of them always coming from the same store.

So, you had a cartoon, which, I don’t know if the cartoon was actually called He Man, I think it was called Masters of the Universe. But He Man was the, sort of the star of the show. And every week they’d probably have an extra new character either good or bad show up, which the show would be based around. And then probably in a few weeks after that that figure would be in the shops. So all the kids would want that figure because it was the latest coolest one, and all the parents would despair and think how’s he really different from the ones they’ve got already? But obviously when you’re five years old it’s very important that you have the exact one.

With that it was definitely like playing toy soldiers. It was definitely like, you’d have little scenarios where you’d have the goodies and the baddies, and perhaps the goodies would have to go and rescue someone who was trapped.

I think that was one of the major, like the He Man figures and stuff, I was quite attached to. I remember when the next big carton came in, probably ’86, ’87, Thundercats, was a big, big thing. And all the other kids from my school loved Thundercats, loved the cartoon and all the figures came out and He Man was just old hat. And I was the other way, for probably the first time in my life, setting the tone for the rest of my life, that the old stuff was better than the new stuff, and I didn’t like change, even as a six year old. I remember going round a friend’s house and he used to have a suitcase just full of every He Man figure in the world and then one day he didn’t. One day his suitcase was just full of, his parents had bought him all these Thundercats figures. And I was just: it’s not as good, it’s not the thing, we need to keep the He Man figures.

Andrea: I assume you don’t still have them

Karl: I have, I don’t have any of them. I’m trying to think if I have any of those type of things at all.

With the He Man stuff and the 80s Master of the Universe stuff, it was quite tacky and plastic, and so a lot of it probably just broke, or expired. It didn’t look like stuff that was built to last, you know. That was probably part of their agenda, make it so it breaks so someone would go and buy a new one, you know.

I think there was a character that was in He Man. I can’t remember his name, somebody would know, which was like a . . . I think he was like a little floating wizard. He was a half size, almost like a dwarf size character. But he had no feet. He had a … Genuinely, I’m not making this up. He had a big red hat, and he had a sort of red cloak on, and I think he had a big black circle, and he didn’t really have a face, like a dark shadow with eyes. But I remember this being the toy I wanted for an awful, awful long time, I’m sure of this. I might be getting this mixed up with another figure but there was definitely one that, whereas most of them had like a, the only action they had was an arm that you would pull back and it would spring forward, or you’d twist a waist and the waist would flick round, this one particular one had, it was, not a rod, but almost like a sort of cable effectively with teeth through the middle of it on sort of ring pull. And you would pull it, very quickly, and it would make the character just spin off really quickly. It would be like a sort of more crazier movement. So if I had one prize memory it would be definitely acquiring that figure and just constantly playing with this ring pull and making this thing just dance off. but yeah, I’d probably . . . I guess I’d have to offer that . . I always liked things that moved.

04.08 – RECORDING ENDS

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20th September 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer: Andrea Dumbrell (
Audio only – no video)

00.05 – Andrea: Okay, so. To start officially.

Karl: Mm hm

Andrea: I’m going to ask you your name, where you were born, and when you were born. As in the year.

Karl: Okay. I was … Can I do them in reverse order?

Andrea: Course you can.

00.20 – Karl: I was born in 1979, the tail end of 1979. I was born in Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands and my name, that’s the one I was forgetting, is Karl Eisenhauer.

Andrea: Thank you very much. And did you spend your childhood in Kirkwall?

Karl: I didn’t. Well, I spent the first, I think probably the first year or two of my life, so the bit I don’t remember, on, I think it was an island called Sanday, that my parents moved to. It was one of the outer islands, which is where they were living, where I should have been born, but they, there’s no hospital there, so they moved my mum to the nearest one. But although I grew up, I grew up in Rotherthorpe in Northamptonshire until I was about 12, 13, and then from there we moved back to the north coast of Scotland, so as near as you can get to the Orkneys without actually being on them, and we lived in a little town called, well Borgie, which is part of a sort of larger town, well, village called Skerray. I say a town called Borgie, it was basically a road. Tiny little place. But I lived there until I was 18, 19, and then I came back to England and started moving around.

Andrea: So you lived with your parents. Did you have brothers, sisters?

Karl: I have two older brothers and one foster sister. But there’s big age gaps between them either side. So I’m the youngest of the three brothers. So the middle one is nine and half years older than me, or ten years older than me, and the older one is eleven years older than me. And then in the other direction my foster sister is like about eleven years, nine, ten, eleven years – I’m never very good with numbers – the other way. So when I was growing up in England in Rotherthorpe I always had like brothers and sisters, but when we moved to Scotland the oldest two had moved out and were doing other things so it was just me and my foster sister.

02.26 – Andrea: So, thinking about your childhood and toys. Did you have a teddy bear?

Karl: I did have a teddy bear. I think I had more than one. I definitely had … I think it was the era after . . . A lot of the stuff I had was kind of hand me down stuff from my two brothers, so it’s kind of like the previous era of toys I guess. And they were all . . . My parents lived on the, an island called Egilsay and an island called Sanday through most of the 70s so even most of the stuff that my parents had, sorry, that my brothers had in the 70s wasn’t brand new stuff, it was probably hand me down stuff from other people’s families. There were no little trips to department stores to get the latest gadget stuff, you know. But sorry, yeah, in terms of teddy bears, I – was it PlaySchool that had Big Ted and Little Ted? I’m pretty sure I had a Big Ted and a Little Ted. Maybe not identical to the ones on PlaySchool. But I definitely remember a big, two, two foot sized teddy bear, black and white one. That was raggedy and falling to bits but I absolutely adored it when I was younger. And I’m pretty sure I had a little one as well but I don’t remember that quite as well.

Andrea: So what were they made out of?

Karl: I don’t, you know I don’t – I remember the innards of this big thing being the sort of stuff you get in old sofas, the horrible almost asbestosy kind of stuff, and the outer bit was just kind of very threadbare. It would have been . . . I think they would have been, if not hand made, sort of, not that mass produced era that you get now when everything’s nylon and polyester, I think they would have been more whatever they were made out of sort of before that era. Because it was . . . Yeah, I don’t remember it being like a . . . I know like my younger sister for instance had teddy bears which were quite kind of like mass produced and stuff. You could sort of, you know, you could see the same sort of stuff in the shops kind of. This wasn’t like that you know, it was just some big old cotton thing I guess. I don’t know actually . . .

Andrea: Were they furry?

Karl: No they weren’t furry. They probably were furry once. Big Ted probably was furry once. But he was very. He very much got that kind of um, crew cut style kind of hair. That was my nice way of putting it. He didn’t have a lot of fur left on him by the time I got to him, no.

Andrea: So how did you come to own it?

Karl: I think it probably just got. As I say, it was probably a hand me down thing because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t new when I came to get hold of him. So I’m pretty sure he’d lived through eras of my brothers and the family probably for a good 10, 15 years before I kind of got hold of him definitely.

Andrea: And did you play with him?

Karl: I think I did a little bit, yeah. I mean I don’t think. I probably didn’t really sort of do the … Without sounding sexist probably the more sort of girly thing like having little tea parties with people and stuff. But I do vaguely recall just sort of like playing games. Because a lot of, at that age I didn’t have like brothers. I had brothers but they weren’t interested in, a 14 year old wasn’t interested in the things that a 4, 5 year old was, or the same tolerance, so when they were babysitting you it was very much kind of a reluctance thing so I think probably a slight imaginary quality to it. This is my little friend, you know, that whatever I was doing, he would be doing too.

Andrea: So you’d be playing with him on your own rather than with other people?

Karl: Yeah, I’m pretty sure, almost certainly. Yeah. I wouldn’t say that … I did play with my older brothers, but I wouldn’t say there was a massive overlap. I mean, I would have, I probably would have other friends round after school and stuff, but probably by the time I was 6 or 7, teddy bears were still around but they weren’t, they weren’t something to be played with, they were just sort of something to be, you know, like a comfort blanket I guess. For when you were upset or for whatever reasons.

Andrea: So, thinking about – was he called Big Ted? Did he have a name?

Karl: I distinctly recall he was called Big Ted. I think he lasted another 10 years after. He wasn’t really played with by my sister because I remember she had her own little teddy bears, I distinctly remember those, but he was around, definitely, for a long, long while.

Andrea: So did he – that was going to be one of my questions actually, what happened to it? So did he get passed on?

Karl: I think he, I don’t think he got like ceremoniously, you know, handed over to the next generation, ‘cos I think she kind of had her own kind of stuff that she, you know, became her comfort blankets or whatever, but I sort of remember, when I was a teenager up in Scotland, him just still sitting in a chair somewhere in like the living room. Just being, I guess probably for my parents’ sake you know, they’d probably seen this teddy bear kind of passed through almost two generations of kids you know, so I guess he was quite sentimental for them in a way. I’ve no idea where he’s ended up after that though unfortunately.

Andrea: That’s what I was going to ask. You obviously don’t have him?

Karl: I think, I think he. No, I don’t have him, and I think I moved out before he left home, put it that way.

Andrea: And how did you feel about him?

Karl: Yeah, I mean I, I think probably, sort of 7, 8 years old, he was definitely, definitely a comfort blanket. You know. It was definitely that kind of … I wouldn’t, I don’t remember being one of those kids that sort of necessarily had to go to sleep with a teddy every night, although my parents would probably tell you differently, but I do remember like, you know, when you’re really upset, you kind of want certain things around, and he was definitely, at that age have been one of those things. I mean, the funny thing was, I do remember having another little, what I would call like a more modern mass produced type, black and white little teddy bear that came in a Christmas stocking and I remember distinctly like being, when I was about 6 or 7, or probably a bit younger than that, being told to tidy up my room, and putting this white and black, newish teddy bear into a cupboard and then, in my memory, going back to the cupboard and him sort of disappearing just almost Narnia style, out the back of the cupboard, where he should have clearly been. And that one’s obviously been quite traumatising because for years I was convinced that it would turn up somewhere, this other little teddy bear. I think it can’t have just vanished. And probably those two memories of checking the cupboard and putting it in a cupboard were probably months apart, but when you’re in childhood time gets a bit mixed up doesn’t it? So you know, yeah, to this day I still generally wonder where this little missing teddy bear is. Just vanished somewhere into the ether.

Andrea: Running off having adventures of its own I imagine.

Karl: Yeah. Clearly. Disappeared through the back of a cupboard, you know.

09.30 – Andrea: So did you play with any dolls?

Karl: Not really dolls. Probably more. I did play with like your Action Men, and robots, and Masters of the Universe type He Men little figures and collected those, but not really dolls, no. Unless. I think probably the only time I crossed paths with dolls is when I. Sometime I. Because both my mum and dad worked when I was little. My mum had a job at the Council. And before going round, going to school, a lot of mornings I’d get shoved round somebody else’s house and it always seemed to be some girl’s house that I would have to go and effectively be babysat for an hour in the morning or an hour after, you know, until 5 o’clock when work was finished. So there was definitely, there was definitely sometimes being around girls with their dollies but it didn’t really hold a lot of interest after a bit.

Andrea: So you had Action Men, action figures. You wouldn’t had described them as dolls?

Karl: I wouldn’t have done really. I guess I, it’s just when I think of dolls I literally, I think of, the little sort of babies effectively, you know, or Cabbage Patch Kids kind of. Yeah, those kind of things with the funny eyes that just don’t look right and roll in their sockets and. Yeah. I guess I always think of dolls as more sort of something young girls have pretending to be mums and. You know, a bit weird, 6, 7 year olds that are already wanting to be parents.

Andrea: So thinking about your action figures, what did you have?

Karl: I definitely. I think. I think everything I had really fell into three camps. That would have been Star Wars stuff and Star Wars figures. ‘Cos that was huge, with that kind of generation of kids. I think that was one of the first things that they really kind of pushed to kids as a movie tie in, or a TV show tie in. Rather than Action Man, or GI Joe or whatever. I’m pretty sure I did have an Action Man but he wasn’t as cool as Luke Skywalker, you know. I definitely had a few Transformers models ‘cos they were, that was another big thing from about 1983, 84, 85 that kind of era.

And as I say, the Masters of the Universe, the He Man stuff. And probably in that order, to be honest with you, by sheer coincidence.

I remember with the He Man figures I remember being enticed, whenever my mum and dad went to do the weekly shop at Tesco’s, that when you first walked in they put all the kid’s toys right near the front of the store so I, in my mind, every week I was allowed to go and buy a new figure to keep me quiet and stop complaining while they did the shop. I think, I think in reality it was probably once every four or five trips to Tesco’s. I probably had four or five tantrums and then once in a while I got a new He Man figure, but I definitely remember it working on that basis of them always coming from the same store.

Andrea: Okay, thinking about the He Man figures then, for the benefit of anyone listening to this who’s got no idea what they are, can you describe them?

Karl: So old now. So, you had a cartoon, which, I don’t know if the cartoon was actually called He Man, I think it was called Masters of the Universe. But He Man was the, sort of the star of the show. He was, I guess a kind of . . . From what I remember of that cartoon show, it was kind of your Conan the Barbarian type thing crossed with a bit of sort of fantasy, and a bit of science fiction as well, because you would have this kind of character who had a magical sword, a sort of barbarian type character wouldn’t you? And then . . . But some of his team of sort of good guys seemed to have slightly more high tec weapons and sort of, I think there might have been the odd laser and that kind of thing flying around.

I might be remembering that wrongly. Or it might have been just kind of fantasy sparks and magic and what have you. But yeah, I never, I always got the impression that it was set somewhere in the sort of future or off in space, rather than it being an old medieval King Arthurian type fantasy thing. But yeah, I think they had the TV show. And every week they’d probably have an extra new character either good or bad show up, which the show would be based around. And then probably in a few weeks after that that figure would be in the shops. So all the kids would want that figure because it was the latest coolest one, and all the parents would despair and think how’s he really different from the ones they’ve got already? But obviously when you’re five years old it’s very important that you have the exact one.

14.25 – Andrea: So how did you play with them?

Karl: With that it was definitely like playing toy soldiers. It was definitely like, you’d have little scenarios where you’d have the goodies and the baddies, and perhaps the goodies would have to go and rescue someone who was trapped. I remember with those figures that they would be played with on my own but they would also be played with when friends came over after school, because I guess it being that era – I remember having a He Man lunchbox as well, come to think of it – but I think when you have friends after school they’d bring their ones over so it was a bit like the 70s, with the old stickers, well the 80s, where you’d have swaps and stickers and you’d be trying to get the duplicates or whatever. If your friends had one of the ones you didn’t have you’d quite want him to come round just so you could play with that one and vice versa.

15.21 – Andrea: So how did you feel about them? Were they important?

Karl: They were very important, yeah. I think they were probably . . . It’s funny, ‘cos when I got older I gave all the Star Wars ones away. Even ‘though I loved Star Wars I had a friend who loved Star Wars even more and I was quite happy to just give him my Star Wars stuff ‘cos I was probably getting a bit older and I didn’t really play with them any more. But the Transformers stuff, I have no idea where that went. And for years I was quite sulky that I didn’t keep it. ‘Cos I still feel quite strongly that I wanted those kind of things. I think that was one of the major, like the He Man figures and stuff, I was quite attached to. I remember when the next big carton came in, probably ’86, ’87, Thundercats, was a big, big thing. And all the other kids from my school loved Thundercats, loved the cartoon and all the figures came out and He Man was just old hat. And I was the other way, for probably the first time in my life, setting the tone for the rest of my life, that the old stuff was better than the new stuff, and I didn’t like change, even as a six year old. I remember going round a friend’s house and he used to have a suitcase just full of every He Man figure in the world and then one day he didn’t. One day his suitcase was just full of, his parents had bought him all these Thundercats figures. And I was just: it’s not as good, it’s not the thing, we need to keep the He Man figures.

Andrea: I assume you don’t still have them

Karl: I have, I don’t have any of them. I’m trying to think if I have any of those type of things at all. I occasionally see, if you go in some of the, especially in Brighton, like Snoopers, and you go into the collectors’ kind of shops and toy shops, I do occasionally see the Star Wars figures and kind of, a, wish I’d kept them, but not really . . . I wish I’d kept them because they were mine, not because of the value attached to them. And occasionally I’ll be tempted to pick up one, just because it was something that I knew that I had before, so it feels like it was part of me. I wouldn’t be necessarily be buying like a figure now to play with it for instance, but I would be necessarily buying it for value or to collect them either, it would just be to reattach the memory from childhood, you know.

Andrea: Can you remember what happened to your figures? Did you give them away, or?

17.46 – Karl: The Star Wars ones definitely got given away, ‘cos I had the X Wing and various little ships and things as well. The Transformers ones, as i say, I think they may have just got broken and thrown away. I think that’s where a lot of my toys went, they probably just got thrown away by mum when I wasn’t looking and then I got something new that distracted me and so I didn’t really notice until a year later. That’s probably what happened with the teddy bear to be frank. I don’t really know about the He Man figures, because I had an awful lot of those, and they wouldn’t have been the sort of thing that was handed down to the next generation, they wouldn’t have been handed down to my sister. They may well have been like passed on, again by parents more than by me, to younger other kids, friends of the family kids kind of coming through sort of stuff. But, you know, with the He Man stuff and the 80s Master of the Universe stuff, it was quite tacky and plastic, and so a lot of it probably just broke, or expired. It didn’t look like stuff that was built to last, you know. That was probably part of their agenda, make it so it breaks so someone would go and buy a new one, you know.

Andrea: So if I asked you what your best memory of your He Man figures was, have you got a particular memory of them?

Karl: I don’t know if I will for the . . . I can’t think of any really specific scenarios or such. I can remember certain little toys. I think there was a character that was in He Man. I can’t remember his name, somebody would know, which was like a . . . I think he was like a little floating wizard. He was a half size, almost like a dwarf size character. But he had no feet. He had a … Genuinely, I’m not making this up. He had a big red hat, and he had a sort of red cloak on, and I think he had a big black circle, and he didn’t really have a face, like a dark shadow with eyes. But I remember this being the toy I wanted for an awful, awful long time, I’m sure of this. I might be getting this mixed up with another figure but there was definitely one that, whereas most of them had like a, the only action they had was an arm that you would pull back and it would spring forward, or you’d twist a waist and the waist would flick round, this one particular one had, it was, not a rod, but almost like a sort of cable effectively with teeth through the middle of it on sort of ring pull. And you would pull it, very quickly, and it would make the character just spin off really quickly. It would be like a sort of more crazier movement. So if I had one prize memory it would be definitely acquiring that figure and just constantly playing with this ring pull and making this thing just dance off. And it may be a completely different character to the one I’ve named, I’ve probably just mixed up memories, but yeah, I’d probably . . . I guess I’d have to offer that, because I can’t really think of any really particular . . . I always liked things that moved a lot. Like I had a little, not so much a, I guess it was an action figure, Evel Knievel type biker, motorbike thing that you would pull back, it would build up the energy, or the spring or whatever, and you would let it go and it would just shoot off into the distance. Things that always did that and crashed, were always quite appealing.

21.13 – Andrea: Okay. So, Construction Toys

Karl: Well it was more destructive toys. But then you’d put them back together afterwards

Andrea: Construction toys. Did you play with any of those?

Karl: I definitely played with construction toys. We had Lego. I remember having a big, big metal, probably just one of those Quality Street tins, or it might have been even bigger, just full of Lego. And it was, it was not just specific sets, it was just random bits of Lego. But I also remember having a fair bit, to start with, of Meccano. Which was, again, both of them were hand me down items, and they definitely would have come down from my brothers. I think my older brother was a bit more into Meccano than I was. Probably more the case that I probably got it too young. So Lego, where you were just sticking bricks together was a lot more simple than toying with little spanners and tiny little nuts and bolts. Even now I love the idea of Meccano. I think it’s a shame it’s not, you know, everywhere and in the shops and teaching kids to be young engineers and stuff. But I think I probably got put off it a little bit by getting given it all at the same time. But I had an awful lot of Lego and built an awful lot of things out of it.

22.36 – Andrea: So where did your Lego come from? Was it bought for you, or was it handed down?

Karl: It was a bit of both, definitely. I mean, I think. I remember sort of the Meccano, the Lego and a big box of kind of like farm toys and you know, sheep and cows and bales, little plastic bales of hay and stuff like that. I’m pretty sure all of that must have been second if not kind of third generation by the time it finally got to me. But I definitely also remember getting bought different bits of Lego, whether it was just blocks of Lego or specific things when I was young. And I can remember when I was, I think probably about 10 or 11, towards the end of the 80s, when Lego probably got their act together a bit and started to get a bit more savvy, they put out this thing called Lego Technic, which was more like the Meccano of Lego I guess. It was a little bit more fiddly and a little bit more advanced. They were sort of . . . They would have these really expensive looking things that were probably like two, three hundred pounds with computers in them that you could, the advert made it look like you could programme them on the computers to be little robots and stuff like that. I would definitely have got bought some of that. Not the really expensive stuff. It would have been envious of friends. I can remember actually one friend getting this big, this big £200 plastic car that we all wanted or something like that. But I don’t. It’s funny, looking back, I’m quite happy to have had all the standard building blocks, because you actually had to be creative with what you made, you weren’t just making something from a kit, which seems to ruin the point of it a lot to me.

Andrea: So how did you play with it, what did you make, what did you do once you’d made it?

Karl: What did I make? I would have made little cars definitely, always tried to make little sports cars and things. I would have made planes, planes and rockets and such. And I think just generally houses and bits of castles and … It’s funny, a lot of the stuff I would have made with Lego would have interacted with the He Man figures. Because I wouldn’t have necessarily been bought the big expensive Castle Greyskull or whatever. It was Greyskull wasn’t it? I don’t know where that memory came from! But I would have then gone right, well what can I do to sort of, you know, add to this, and I would have made like little houses and put them on little different levels and so on. I was probably quite the little junior architect with my Lego actually, I was quite into it. And I was very fiddly about the colours as well. I also hated … And even to this day, I think James May did the programme where he built the Lego house a few years ago and they just kind of built the walls all higgledy piggledy with red bricks and blue bricks and all that. And I wouldn’t do that. I had to have. If I had a wall, the wall all had to be say white, or all had to blue all the way around. And if I didn’t have, if I didn’t have enough blocks but I had say a white block that would have finished the house in the blue wall, the white block wouldn’t go in and the house would just get rebuilt into something else I did have enough bricks to make. It all had to. There was definitely a graphic design element to me, even at a young age. But really with Lego, definitely.

25.58 – Andrea: So how important was your Lego to you?

Karl: Lego was probably my favourite thing. Yeah. Just because … Lego and toy cars were probably my favourite actual physical, physical toys. Lego just because it was so versatile. I think even as adults, you know, there’s still a special affection for the ability to just click things into place and … It’s kind of, I guess I didn’t realise it when I was a kid, but it’s that therapeutic thing of putting things in order isn’t it? Which you know, probably as an adult is why it still appeals to us and it’s still quite a nice, nostalgic memory. Yeah definitely Lego, Lego was a big, big, big thing.

26.40 – Andrea: Do you still have it?

Karl: Funnily enough, I don’t. I often think of buying bits of Lego, just for the reasons I’ve just discussed, just to have a few things to click around, but no, I think the Lego would have been something that would have been passed onto my sister, because I remember the little tin of Lego being in her kind of bedroom. But I, the thing I guess with me, is probably when I sort of moved up to Scotland and I was 13, 14, a lot of the traditional toys I guess were getting replaced by things like computer games and such things. And then when I moved out, I moved quite a distance away so I wouldn’t have been taking a lot of stuff with me, you know, apart from things like computer games and maybe board games and such, and so it kind of … I probably do have actually, well I have, or my parents have in their possession, certain of these heirlooms still kicking around. ‘Cos I constantly get harangued by my parents when am I going to come to the house and pick up all the rubbish that’s still being retained in the shed, rotting away? And I always get told “when are you going to come pick it up?” And then I get told “oh, it probably needs to be thrown out anyway because it will all be rotten and it’s been in the back of the shed.” But whenever I go up for Christmas, or I visit, it’s always at the back of the shed, so you can’t get to it. So one day. Maybe I haven’t thrown some of this stuff out, maybe Big Ted or the missing teddy bear is going to materialise thirty years later!

Andrea: So what are your best memories of Lego that you have if you had to pick something? Anything in particular?

Karl: I think I’ve probably answered that, it’s probably building things. But the overriding memory was the detail of how something had to be perfect or I wouldn’t necessarily want to finish it, you know, it’s … But, saying that, I would still much rather build, definitely, I’d much rather be building something to my own design, not in a “I’m going to set out to build this particular thing that’s in my head”, it would be built as I was piecing bits in, so you would take bits out, trying to find the thing that was most pleasing to yourself, but I definitely always preferred building things for me, rather than what was on the instructional bit of paper. Even if it was a kit or something like that, the first time you’d build it, and you would build, you’d build it as it says, and then that would probably only last for about five minutes before you’d started thinking “How can I, you know, what can I do with this, what can I make with this, with these same blocks?”, you know?

29.25 – Andrea: So did you ever want a teddy bear, or a doll, or action figure, or a construction toy that you couldn’t have?

Karl: I think probably, you see, probably an awful lot to be honest with you. I always get told by my parents that I was the spoilt one because both my parents were working when I was a kid, whereas my two elder brothers had to make do with what they had on the islands of Orkney. But I guess the sort of counter to that is, because I was going to a primary school in England, with a lot of other kids, I was seeing what all they had and in my head my parents still had the mentality of, their spending budget for toys is probably what they had for my older brothers in the ‘70s rather than what was arguably in my eyes at the time realistic for a kid in the ‘80s. But I don’t feel I missed out particularly on anything. The only thing that I guess, and I think I mentioned it earlier, was I remember in the early ‘90s Lego bringing out this huge box of this Lego Technic, which was a big red car, made out of, which just looked amazing, and I think, as I say, it had a little computer in it, it had a little motor in it, or something like that, which just seemed … Even though Meccano had motors and things like that, I didn’t click that Lego doing it wasn’t a new thing because Meccano had already done it, they managed to sell it to us kids, maybe because of its exotic price tag, as just something amazing that we all kind of wanted. Yeah, I never got the big expensive car, but I don’t feel too gutted about it.

31.08 – Andrea: So are there any other memories of teddy bears, dolls, construction toys, that you haven’t mentioned that you want to?

Karl: Let me think. I think, maybe it would qualify as a doll, but going back full circle to teddy bears and comfort blankets, I remember having this, it was probably something of a TV series again, there was a thing called . . . It was a glo worm basically, it was like a little plastic 2 inch, probably looked quite phallic in hindsight, you know, little green, luminous green glow worm with a sleeping cap on, and it was purple, I think mine was a mauvey kind of purple and a similar coloured tunic, and I had this thing when I was very little, and I loved the fact that when I went to sleep it would glow green, that was really comforting, and we used to go up to Scotland, back to the Orkney Islands, when all the other kids were jetting off to Disneyland or Lanzarote, we’d go back to the Orkneys, which at the time I couldn’t really, again, I wasn’t really fond of as a kid, but (I sound like such a little brat, I probably was), but I always remember going up, on trains you would have like a, on the sleeper train up you would have a little light, a little blue night light, would come on. And anything, when I was asleep, in the night, had a little bluey neon kind of light, or green light or whatever, was fantastic. So this glow worm, I absolutely adored this thing. And that went missing for absolutely years, and then that turned up when I was about, probably about 17, 18, 19, and I distinctly remember keeping it for years and years and years. I wouldn’t be taking it to bed, but I definitely, it wasn’t, you know, having been lost for ten years it wasn’t getting, it wasn’t going anywhere fast again after that.

I’m trying to think, because I haven’t really spoken about specific scenarios and things. Oh, probably playing toy soldiers. I had a big box – that was probably another hand me down – tin thing, but that was one thing where I would interact with my middle brother, because I distinctly remember us like building, just laying out armies and armies and armies of plastic little, you know the little throw away tacky plastic soldiers and positioning them around the room in different kind of battalions and then conjuring up some way we would have some little toy battle with them, I think probably involving rolling a marble you know into your opponents’ or throwing a marble, and I remember doing that all over the house. So that’s one that I definitely remember interacting with my brother a lot, around those, definitely. And I guess they were probably a precursor to playing strategy battle games on computers as well. I mean, it’s, a lot of those things are the same things that you did as toys. It’s like the sporting simulations, it’s the same thing as playing football, it’s just a slightly lazier way of doing it, or a way of doing it when it’s raining and there’s no one else to play with. It’s a way of having more competitions I suppose.

34.16 – Andrea: I have to ask. I’m trying to visualise this glo worm.

Karl: This glo worm?

Andrea: Are we talking furry, or are we talking …

Karl: No, no. Plastic. A firm, hard piece of plastic, which is why I mentioned about the phallicness of it. With a little knobbly head, that was slightly bigger than the rest of the body. And it had a little hole in the bottom you could put your finger up inside.

[Laughter]

Andrea: Okay . . . Thank you for sharing that!

Karl: And on that bombshell . . .

Andrea: So is that it? Is there anything else you want to tell me?

Karl: I feel I should try to prove this glow worm existed and wasn’t just some kind of like something I found in the back of my mum’s drawer or something.

[Laughter]

Andrea: Oh dear . . .

Karl: I think that’s probably all I can come up with. As I say, I played with the Star Wars stuff a lot, you know, recreating bits of the movies with friends, that you would do that. So it would probably be less imagination involved in those, but … It’s funny, now you ask the question I’m kind of disappointed that I can’t actually think of a specific, you know, specific events, I kind of feel like I should have, I sure I played with these things enough, that they should be … But I remember the items, I don’t really remember stories around them. I wonder if part of that’s because I ended up playing with a lot of them on my own, rather than necessarily interacting with other people, and so I think generally perhaps your memories are of things you do with other people and less really things that you do by yourself, just passing the time a lot of the time until you get to the other people. I don’t know, maybe not.

Andrea: It’s interesting how memory works anyway. Anyway, if you’ve run out of things I’ll press stop.

Karl: Yeah, I think I have

36.03 – RECORDING ENDS

Listen to the audio

Read the transcript of the audio track

20th September 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model
Museum Interviewer: Andrea Dumbrell

Andrea: Okay, so. To start officially.

Karl: Mm hm

Andrea: I’m going to ask you your name, where you were born, and when you were born. As in the year.

Karl: Okay. I was … Can I do them in reverse order?

Andrea: Course you can.

00.15 – Karl: I was born in 1979, the tail end of 1979. I was born in Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands and my name, that’s the one I was forgetting, is Karl Eisenhauer.

Andrea: Thank you very much. And did you spend your childhood in Kirkwall?

Karl: I didn’t. Well, I spent the first, I think probably the first year or two of my life, so the bit I don’t remember, on, I think it was an island called Sanday, that my parents moved to. It was one of the outer islands, which is where they were living, where I should have been born, but they, there’s no hospital there, so they moved my mum to the nearest one. But although I grew up, I grew up in Rotherthorpe in Northamptonshire until I was about 12, 13, and then from there we moved back to the north coast of Scotland, so as near as you can get to the Orkneys without actually being on them, and we lived in a little town called, well Borgie, which is part of a sort of larger town, well, village called Skerray. I say a town called Borgie, it was basically a road. Tiny little place. But I lived there until I was 18, 19, and then I came back to England and started moving around.

Andrea: So you lived with your parents. Did you have brothers, sisters?

Karl: I have two older brothers and one foster sister. But there’s big age gaps between them either side. So I’m the youngest of the three brothers. So the middle one is nine and half years older than me, or ten years older than me, and the older one is eleven years older than me. And then in the other direction my foster sister is like about eleven years, nine, ten, eleven years – I’m never very good with numbers – the other way. So when I was growing up in England in Rotherthorpe I always had like brothers and sisters, but when we moved to Scotland the oldest two had moved out and were doing other things so it was just me and my foster sister.

02.27 – Andrea: So, thinking about your childhood and toys. Did you have a teddy bear?

Karl: I did have a teddy bear. I think I had more than one. I definitely had … I think it was the era after . . . A lot of the stuff I had was kind of hand me down stuff from my two brothers, so it’s kind of like the previous era of toys I guess. And they were all . . . My parents lived on the, an island called Egilsay and an island called Sanday through most of the 70s so even most of the stuff that my parents had, sorry, that my brothers had in the 70s wasn’t brand new stuff, it was probably hand me down stuff from other people’s families. There were no little trips to department stores to get the latest gadget stuff, you know. But sorry, yeah, in terms of teddy bears, I – was it PlaySchool that had Big Ted and Little Ted? I’m pretty sure I had a Big Ted and a Little Ted. Maybe not identical to the ones on PlaySchool. But I definitely remember a big, two, two foot sized teddy bear, black and white one. That was raggedy and falling to bits but I absolutely adored it when I was younger. And I’m pretty sure I had a little one as well but I don’t remember that quite as well.

Andrea: So what were they made out of?

Karl: I don’t, you know I don’t – I remember the innards of this big thing being the sort of stuff you get in old sofas, the horrible almost asbestosy kind of stuff, and the outer bit was just kind of very threadbare. It would have been . . . I think they would have been, if not hand made, sort of, not that mass produced era that you get now when everything’s nylon and polyester, I think they would have been more whatever they were made out of sort of before that era. Because it was . . . Yeah, I don’t remember it being like a . . . I know like my younger sister for instance had teddy bears which were quite kind of like mass produced and stuff. You could sort of, you know, you could see the same sort of stuff in the shops kind of. This wasn’t like that you know, it was just some big old cotton thing I guess. I don’t know actually . . .

Andrea: Were they furry?

Karl: No they weren’t furry. They probably were furry once. Big Ted probably was furry once. But he was very. He very much got that kind of um, crew cut style kind of hair. That was my nice way of putting it. He didn’t have a lot of fur left on him by the time I got to him, no.

Andrea: So how did you come to own it?

Karl: I think it probably just got. As I say, it was probably a hand me down thing because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t new when I came to get hold of him. So I’m pretty sure he’d lived through eras of my brothers and the family probably for a good 10, 15 years before I kind of got hold of him definitely.

Andrea: And did you play with him?

Karl: I think I did a little bit, yeah. I mean I don’t think. I probably didn’t really sort of do the … Without sounding sexist probably the more sort of girly thing like having little tea parties with people and stuff. But I do vaguely recall just sort of like playing games. Because a lot of, at that age I didn’t have like brothers. I had brothers but they weren’t interested in, a 14 year old wasn’t interested in the things that a 4, 5 year old was, or the same tolerance, so when they were babysitting you it was very much kind of a reluctance thing so I think probably a slight imaginary quality to it. This is my little friend, you know, that whatever I was doing, he would be doing too.

Andrea: So you’d be playing with him on your own rather than with other people?

Karl: Yeah, I’m pretty sure, almost certainly. Yeah. I wouldn’t say that … I did play with my older brothers, but I wouldn’t say there was a massive overlap. I mean, I would have, I probably would have other friends round after school and stuff, but probably by the time I was 6 or 7, teddy bears were still around but they weren’t, they weren’t something to be played with, they were just sort of something to be, you know, like a comfort blanket I guess. For when you were upset or for whatever reasons.

Andrea: So, thinking about – was he called Big Ted? Did he have a name?

Karl: I distinctly recall he was called Big Ted. I think he lasted another 10 years after. He wasn’t really played with by my sister because I remember she had her own little teddy bears, I distinctly remember those, but he was around, definitely, for a long, long while.

Andrea: So did he – that was going to be one of my questions actually, what happened to it? So did he get passed on?

Karl: I think he, I don’t think he got like ceremoniously, you know, handed over to the next generation, ‘cos I think she kind of had her own kind of stuff that she, you know, became her comfort blankets or whatever, but I sort of remember, when I was a teenager up in Scotland, him just still sitting in a chair somewhere in like the living room. Just being, I guess probably for my parents’ sake you know, they’d probably seen this teddy bear kind of passed through almost two generations of kids you know, so I guess he was quite sentimental for them in a way. I’ve no idea where he’s ended up after that though unfortunately.

Andrea: That’s what I was going to ask. You obviously don’t have him?

Karl: I think, I think he. No, I don’t have him, and I think I moved out before he left home, put it that way.

Andrea: And how did you feel about him?

Karl: Yeah, I mean I, I think probably, sort of 7, 8 years old, he was definitely, definitely a comfort blanket. You know. It was definitely that kind of … I wouldn’t, I don’t remember being one of those kids that sort of necessarily had to go to sleep with a teddy every night, although my parents would probably tell you differently, but I do remember like, you know, when you’re really upset, you kind of want certain things around, and he was definitely, at that age have been one of those things. I mean, the funny thing was, I do remember having another little, what I would call like a more modern mass produced type, black and white little teddy bear that came in a Christmas stocking and I remember distinctly like being, when I was about 6 or 7, or probably a bit younger than that, being told to tidy up my room, and putting this white and black, newish teddy bear into a cupboard and then, in my memory, going back to the cupboard and him sort of disappearing just almost Narnia style, out the back of the cupboard, where he should have clearly been. And that one’s obviously been quite traumatising because for years I was convinced that it would turn up somewhere, this other little teddy bear. I think it can’t have just vanished. And probably those two memories of checking the cupboard and putting it in a cupboard were probably months apart, but when you’re in childhood time gets a bit mixed up doesn’t it? So you know, yeah, to this day I still generally wonder where this little missing teddy bear is. Just vanished somewhere into the ether.

Andrea: Running off having adventures of its own I imagine.

Karl: Yeah. Clearly. Disappeared through the back of a cupboard, you know.

09.27 – Andrea: So did you play with any dolls?

Karl: Not really dolls. Probably more. I did play with like your Action Men, and robots, and Masters of the Universe type He Men little figures and collected those, but not really dolls, no. Unless. I think probably the only time I crossed paths with dolls is when I. Sometime I. Because both my mum and dad worked when I was little. My mum had a job at the Council. And before going round, going to school, a lot of mornings I’d get shoved round somebody else’s house and it always seemed to be some girl’s house that I would have to go and effectively be babysat for an hour in the morning or an hour after, you know, until 5 o’clock when work was finished. So there was definitely, there was definitely sometimes being around girls with their dollies but it didn’t really hold a lot of interest after a bit.

Andrea: So you had Action Men, action figures. You wouldn’t had described them as dolls?

Karl: I wouldn’t have done really. I guess I, it’s just when I think of dolls I literally, I think of, the little sort of babies effectively, you know, or Cabbage Patch Kids kind of. Yeah, those kind of things with the funny eyes that just don’t look right and roll in their sockets and. Yeah. I guess I always think of dolls as more sort of something young girls have pretending to be mums and. You know, a bit weird, 6, 7 year olds that are already wanting to be parents.

Andrea: So thinking about your action figures, what did you have?

Karl: I definitely. I think. I think everything I had really fell into three camps. That would have been Star Wars stuff and Star Wars figures. ‘Cos that was huge, with that kind of generation of kids. I think that was one of the first things that they really kind of pushed to kids as a movie tie in, or a TV show tie in. Rather than Action Man, or GI Joe or whatever. I’m pretty sure I did have an Action Man but he wasn’t as cool as Luke Skywalker, you know. I definitely had a few Transformers models ‘cos they were, that was another big thing from about 1983, 84, 85 that kind of era.

And as I say, the Masters of the Universe, the He Man stuff. And probably in that order, to be honest with you, by sheer coincidence.

I remember with the He Man figures I remember being enticed, whenever my mum and dad went to do the weekly shop at Tesco’s, that when you first walked in they put all the kid’s toys right near the front of the store so I, in my mind, every week I was allowed to go and buy a new figure to keep me quiet and stop complaining while they did the shop. I think, I think in reality it was probably once every four or five trips to Tesco’s. I probably had four or five tantrums and then once in a while I got a new He Man figure, but I definitely remember it working on that basis of them always coming from the same store.

Andrea: Okay, thinking about the He Man figures then, for the benefit of anyone listening to this who’s got no idea what they are, can you describe them?

Karl: So old now. So, you had a cartoon, which, I don’t know if the cartoon was actually called He Man, I think it was called Masters of the Universe. But He Man was the, sort of the star of the show. He was, I guess a kind of . . . From what I remember of that cartoon show, it was kind of your Conan the Barbarian type thing crossed with a bit of sort of fantasy, and a bit of science fiction as well, because you would have this kind of character who had a magical sword, a sort of barbarian type character wouldn’t you? And then . . . But some of his team of sort of good guys seemed to have slightly more high tec weapons and sort of, I think there might have been the odd laser and that kind of thing flying around.

I might be remembering that wrongly. Or it might have been just kind of fantasy sparks and magic and what have you. But yeah, I never, I always got the impression that it was set somewhere in the sort of future or off in space, rather than it being an old medieval King Arthurian type fantasy thing. But yeah, I think they had the TV show. And every week they’d probably have an extra new character either good or bad show up, which the show would be based around. And then probably in a few weeks after that that figure would be in the shops. So all the kids would want that figure because it was the latest coolest one, and all the parents would despair and think how’s he really different from the ones they’ve got already? But obviously when you’re five years old it’s very important that you have the exact one.

14.25 – Andrea: So how did you play with them?

Karl: With that it was definitely like playing toy soldiers. It was definitely like, you’d have little scenarios where you’d have the goodies and the baddies, and perhaps the goodies would have to go and rescue someone who was trapped. I remember with those figures that they would be played with on my own but they would also be played with when friends came over after school, because I guess it being that era – I remember having a He Man lunchbox as well, come to think of it – but I think when you have friends after school they’d bring their ones over so it was a bit like the 70s, with the old stickers, well the 80s, where you’d have swaps and stickers and you’d be trying to get the duplicates or whatever. If your friends had one of the ones you didn’t have you’d quite want him to come round just so you could play with that one and vice versa.

15.20 – Andrea: So how did you feel about them? Were they important?

Karl: They were very important, yeah. I think they were probably . . . It’s funny, ‘cos when I got older I gave all the Star Wars ones away. Even ‘though I loved Star Wars I had a friend who loved Star Wars even more and I was quite happy to just give him my Star Wars stuff ‘cos I was probably getting a bit older and I didn’t really play with them any more. But the Transformers stuff, I have no idea where that went. And for years I was quite sulky that I didn’t keep it. ‘Cos I still feel quite strongly that I wanted those kind of things. I think that was one of the major, like the He Man figures and stuff, I was quite attached to. I remember when the next big carton came in, probably ’86, ’87, Thundercats, was a big, big thing. And all the other kids from my school loved Thundercats, loved the cartoon and all the figures came out and He Man was just old hat. And I was the other way, for probably the first time in my life, setting the tone for the rest of my life, that the old stuff was better than the new stuff, and I didn’t like change, even as a six year old. I remember going round a friend’s house and he used to have a suitcase just full of every He Man figure in the world and then one day he didn’t. One day his suitcase was just full of, his parents had bought him all these Thundercats figures. And I was just: it’s not as good, it’s not the thing, we need to keep the He Man figures.

16.47 – Andrea: I assume you don’t still have them

Karl: I have, I don’t have any of them. I’m trying to think if I have any of those type of things at all. I occasionally see, if you go in some of the, especially in Brighton, like Snoopers, and you go into the collectors’ kind of shops and toy shops, I do occasionally see the Star Wars figures and kind of, a, wish I’d kept them, but not really . . . I wish I’d kept them because they were mine, not because of the value attached to them. And occasionally I’ll be tempted to pick up one, just because it was something that I knew that I had before, so it feels like it was part of me. I wouldn’t be necessarily be buying like a figure now to play with it for instance, but I would be necessarily buying it for value or to collect them either, it would just be to reattach the memory from childhood, you know.

Andrea: Can you remember what happened to your figures? Did you give them away, or?

17.45 – Karl: The Star Wars ones definitely got given away, ‘cos I had the X Wing and various little ships and things as well. The Transformers ones, as i say, I think they may have just got broken and thrown away. I think that’s where a lot of my toys went, they probably just got thrown away by mum when I wasn’t looking and then I got something new that distracted me and so I didn’t really notice until a year later. That’s probably what happened with the teddy bear to be frank. I don’t really know about the He Man figures, because I had an awful lot of those, and they wouldn’t have been the sort of thing that was handed down to the next generation, they wouldn’t have been handed down to my sister. They may well have been like passed on, again by parents more than by me, to younger other kids, friends of the family kids kind of coming through sort of stuff. But, you know, with the He Man stuff and the 80s Master of the Universe stuff, it was quite tacky and plastic, and so a lot of it probably just broke, or expired. It didn’t look like stuff that was built to last, you know. That was probably part of their agenda, make it so it breaks so someone would go and buy a new one, you know.

Andrea: So if I asked you what your best memory of your He Man figures was, have you got a particular memory of them?

Karl: I don’t know if I will for the . . . I can’t think of any really specific scenarios or such. I can remember certain little toys. I think there was a character that was in He Man. I can’t remember his name, somebody would know, which was like a . . . I think he was like a little floating wizard. He was a half size, almost like a dwarf size character. But he had no feet. He had a … Genuinely, I’m not making this up. He had a big red hat, and he had a sort of red cloak on, and I think he had a big black circle, and he didn’t really have a face, like a dark shadow with eyes. But I remember this being the toy I wanted for an awful, awful long time, I’m sure of this. I might be getting this mixed up with another figure but there was definitely one that, whereas most of them had like a, the only action they had was an arm that you would pull back and it would spring forward, or you’d twist a waist and the waist would flick round, this one particular one had, it was, not a rod, but almost like a sort of cable effectively with teeth through the middle of it on sort of ring pull. And you would pull it, very quickly, and it would make the character just spin off really quickly. It would be like a sort of more crazier movement. So if I had one prize memory it would be definitely acquiring that figure and just constantly playing with this ring pull and making this thing just dance off. And it may be a completely different character to the one I’ve named, I’ve probably just mixed up memories, but yeah, I’d probably . . . I guess I’d have to offer that, because I can’t really think of any really particular . . . I always liked things that moved a lot. Like I had a little, not so much a, I guess it was an action figure, Evel Knievel type biker, motorbike thing that you would pull back, it would build up the energy, or the spring or whatever, and you would let it go and it would just shoot off into the distance. Things that always did that and crashed, were always quite appealing.

21.13 – Andrea: Okay. So, Construction Toys

Karl: Well it was more destructive toys. But then you’d put them back together afterwards

Andrea: Construction toys. Did you play with any of those?

Karl: I definitely played with construction toys. We had Lego. I remember having a big, big metal, probably just one of those Quality Street tins, or it might have been even bigger, just full of Lego. And it was, it was not just specific sets, it was just random bits of Lego. But I also remember having a fair bit, to start with, of Meccano. Which was, again, both of them were hand me down items, and they definitely would have come down from my brothers. I think my older brother was a bit more into Meccano than I was. Probably more the case that I probably got it too young. So Lego, where you were just sticking bricks together was a lot more simple than toying with little spanners and tiny little nuts and bolts. Even now I love the idea of Meccano. I think it’s a shame it’s not, you know, everywhere and in the shops and teaching kids to be young engineers and stuff. But I think I probably got put off it a little bit by getting given it all at the same time. But I had an awful lot of Lego and built an awful lot of things out of it.

22.34 – Andrea: So where did your Lego come from? Was it bought for you, or was it handed down?

Karl: It was a bit of both, definitely. I mean, I think. I remember sort of the Meccano, the Lego and a big box of kind of like farm toys and you know, sheep and cows and bales, little plastic bales of hay and stuff like that. I’m pretty sure all of that must have been second if not kind of third generation by the time it finally got to me. But I definitely also remember getting bought different bits of Lego, whether it was just blocks of Lego or specific things when I was young. And I can remember when I was, I think probably about 10 or 11, towards the end of the 80s, when Lego probably got their act together a bit and started to get a bit more savvy, they put out this thing called Lego Technic, which was more like the Meccano of Lego I guess. It was a little bit more fiddly and a little bit more advanced. They were sort of . . . They would have these really expensive looking things that were probably like two, three hundred pounds with computers in them that you could, the advert made it look like you could programme them on the computers to be little robots and stuff like that. I would definitely have got bought some of that. Not the really expensive stuff. It would have been envious of friends. I can remember actually one friend getting this big, this big £200 plastic car that we all wanted or something like that. But I don’t. It’s funny, looking back, I’m quite happy to have had all the standard building blocks, because you actually had to be creative with what you made, you weren’t just making something from a kit, which seems to ruin the point of it a lot to me.

24.17 – Andrea: So how did you play with it, what did you make, what did you do once you’d made it?

Karl: What did I make? I would have made little cars definitely, always tried to make little sports cars and things. I would have made planes, planes and rockets and such. And I think just generally houses and bits of castles and … It’s funny, a lot of the stuff I would have made with Lego would have interacted with the He Man figures. Because I wouldn’t have necessarily been bought the big expensive Castle Greyskull or whatever. It was Greyskull wasn’t it? I don’t know where that memory came from! But I would have then gone right, well what can I do to sort of, you know, add to this, and I would have made like little houses and put them on little different levels and so on. I was probably quite the little junior architect with my Lego actually, I was quite into it. And I was very fiddly about the colours as well. I also hated … And even to this day, I think James May did the programme where he built the Lego house a few years ago and they just kind of built the walls all higgledy piggledy with red bricks and blue bricks and all that. And I wouldn’t do that. I had to have. If I had a wall, the wall all had to be say white, or all had to blue all the way around. And if I didn’t have, if I didn’t have enough blocks but I had say a white block that would have finished the house in the blue wall, the white block wouldn’t go in and the house would just get rebuilt into something else I did have enough bricks to make. It all had to. There was definitely a graphic design element to me, even at a young age. But really with Lego, definitely.

25.55 – Andrea: So how important was your Lego to you?

Karl: Lego was probably my favourite thing. Yeah. Just because … Lego and toy cars were probably my favourite actual physical, physical toys. Lego just because it was so versatile. I think even as adults, you know, there’s still a special affection for the ability to just click things into place and … It’s kind of, I guess I didn’t realise it when I was a kid, but it’s that therapeutic thing of putting things in order isn’t it? Which you know, probably as an adult is why it still appeals to us and it’s still quite a nice, nostalgic memory. Yeah definitely Lego, Lego was a big, big, big thing.

Andrea: Do you still have it?

26.40 – Karl: Funnily enough, I don’t. I often think of buying bits of Lego, just for the reasons I’ve just discussed, just to have a few things to click around, but no, I think the Lego would have been something that would have been passed onto my sister, because I remember the little tin of Lego being in her kind of bedroom. But I, the thing I guess with me, is probably when I sort of moved up to Scotland and I was 13, 14, a lot of the traditional toys I guess were getting replaced by things like computer games and such things. And then when I moved out, I moved quite a distance away so I wouldn’t have been taking a lot of stuff with me, you know, apart from things like computer games and maybe board games and such, and so it kind of … I probably do have actually, well I have, or my parents have in their possession, certain of these heirlooms still kicking around. ‘Cos I constantly get harangued by my parents when am I going to come to the house and pick up all the rubbish that’s still being retained in the shed, rotting away? And I always get told “when are you going to come pick it up?” And then I get told “oh, it probably needs to be thrown out anyway because it will all be rotten and it’s been in the back of the shed.” But whenever I go up for Christmas, or I visit, it’s always at the back of the shed, so you can’t get to it. So one day. Maybe I haven’t thrown some of this stuff out, maybe Big Ted or the missing teddy bear is going to materialise thirty years later!

28.15 – Andrea: So what are your best memories of Lego that you have if you had to pick something? Anything in particular?

Karl: I think I’ve probably answered that, it’s probably building things. But the overriding memory was the detail of how something had to be perfect or I wouldn’t necessarily want to finish it, you know, it’s … But, saying that, I would still much rather build, definitely, I’d much rather be building something to my own design, not in a “I’m going to set out to build this particular thing that’s in my head”, it would be built as I was piecing bits in, so you would take bits out, trying to find the thing that was most pleasing to yourself, but I definitely always preferred building things for me, rather than what was on the instructional bit of paper. Even if it was a kit or something like that, the first time you’d build it, and you would build, you’d build it as it says, and then that would probably only last for about five minutes before you’d started thinking “How can I, you know, what can I do with this, what can I make with this, with these same blocks?”, you know?

29.23 – Andrea: So did you ever want a teddy bear, or a doll, or action figure, or a construction toy that you couldn’t have?

Karl: I think probably, you see, probably an awful lot to be honest with you. I always get told by my parents that I was the spoilt one because both my parents were working when I was a kid, whereas my two elder brothers had to make do with what they had on the islands of Orkney. But I guess the sort of counter to that is, because I was going to a primary school in England, with a lot of other kids, I was seeing what all they had and in my head my parents still had the mentality of, their spending budget for toys is probably what they had for my older brothers in the ‘70s rather than what was arguably in my eyes at the time realistic for a kid in the ‘80s. But I don’t feel I missed out particularly on anything. The only thing that I guess, and I think I mentioned it earlier, was I remember in the early ‘90s Lego bringing out this huge box of this Lego Technic, which was a big red car, made out of, which just looked amazing, and I think, as I say, it had a little computer in it, it had a little motor in it, or something like that, which just seemed … Even though Meccano had motors and things like that, I didn’t click that Lego doing it wasn’t a new thing because Meccano had already done it, they managed to sell it to us kids, maybe because of its exotic price tag, as just something amazing that we all kind of wanted. Yeah, I never got the big expensive car, but I don’t feel too gutted about it.

31.06 – Andrea: So are there any other memories of teddy bears, dolls, construction toys, that you haven’t mentioned that you want to?

Karl: Let me think. I think, maybe it would qualify as a doll, but going back full circle to teddy bears and comfort blankets, I remember having this, it was probably something of a TV series again, there was a thing called . . . It was a glow worm basically, it was like a little plastic 2 inch, probably looked quite phallic in hindsight, you know, little green, luminous green glow worm with a sleeping cap on, and it was purple, I think mine was a mauvey kind of purple and a similar coloured tunic, and I had this thing when I was very little, and I loved the fact that when I went to sleep it would glow green, that was really comforting, and we used to go up to Scotland, back to the Orkney Islands, when all the other kids were jetting off to Disneyland or Lanzarote, we’d go back to the Orkneys, which at the time I couldn’t really, again, I wasn’t really fond of as a kid, but (I sound like such a little brat, I probably was), but I always remember going up, on trains you would have like a, on the sleeper train up you would have a little light, a little blue night light, would come on. And anything, when I was asleep, in the night, had a little bluey neon kind of light, or green light or whatever, was fantastic. So this glow worm, I absolutely adored this thing. And that went missing for absolutely years, and then that turned up when I was about, probably about 17, 18, 19, and I distinctly remember keeping it for years and years and years. I wouldn’t be taking it to bed, but I definitely, it wasn’t, you know, having been lost for ten years it wasn’t getting, it wasn’t going anywhere fast again after that.

I’m trying to think, because I haven’t really spoken about specific scenarios and things. Oh, probably playing toy soldiers. I had a big box – that was probably another hand me down – tin thing, but that was one thing where I would interact with my middle brother, because I distinctly remember us like building, just laying out armies and armies and armies of plastic little, you know the little throw away tacky plastic soldiers and positioning them around the room in different kind of battalions and then conjuring up some way we would have some little toy battle with them, I think probably involving rolling a marble you know into your opponents’ or throwing a marble, and I remember doing that all over the house. So that’s one that I definitely remember interacting with my brother a lot, around those, definitely. And I guess they were probably a precursor to playing strategy battle games on computers as well. I mean, it’s, a lot of those things are the same things that you did as toys. It’s like the sporting simulations, it’s the same thing as playing football, it’s just a slightly lazier way of doing it, or a way of doing it when it’s raining and there’s no one else to play with. It’s a way of having more competitions I suppose.

33.45 – Andrea: I have to ask. I’m trying to visualise this glow worm.

Karl: This glow worm?

Andrea: Are we talking furry, or are we talking …

Karl: No, no. Plastic. A firm, hard piece of plastic, which is why I mentioned about the phallicness of it. With a little knobbly head, that was slightly bigger than the rest of the body. And it had a little hole in the bottom you could put your finger up inside.

[Laughter]

Andrea: Okay . . . Thank you for sharing that!

Karl: And on that bombshell . . .

Andrea: So is that it? Is there anything else you want to tell me?

Karl: I feel I should try to prove this glow worm existed and wasn’t just some kind of like something I found in the back of my mum’s drawer or something.

[Laughter]

Andrea: Oh dear . . .

Karl: I think that’s probably all I can come up with. As I say, I played with the Star Wars stuff a lot, you know, recreating bits of the movies with friends, that you would do that. So it would probably be less imagination involved in those, but … It’s funny, now you ask the question I’m kind of disappointed that I can’t actually think of a specific, you know, specific events, I kind of feel like I should have, I sure I played with these things enough, that they should be … But I remember the items, I don’t really remember stories around them. I wonder if part of that’s because I ended up playing with a lot of them on my own, rather than necessarily interacting with other people, and so I think generally perhaps your memories are of things you do with other people and less really things that you do by yourself, just passing the time a lot of the time until you get to the other people. I don’t know, maybe not.

Andrea: It’s interesting how memory works anyway. Anyway, if you’ve run out of things I’ll press stop.

Karl: Yeah, I think I have

35m 58s – RECORDING ENDS

Karl

Karl was born in Orkney in 1979 but grew up in Rotherthorpe and then the north coast of Scotland. In the short version (4m 8s) of his interview he talks about his He Man and other Masters of the Universe toys. In the full version (36m 03s) he also discusses teddy bears,  Lego, Star Wars figures, Transformers and his Glo Worm. His interview is audio only.