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26th August 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer – Penelope Nightingale
Videographer – Dan Cash

00.03 – Marc: because I was a spoilt child. I must be honest with everyone. I was a spoilt child. And at my paternal mum’s behest we’d gone to a local church thing. I was very very young but I remember it quite vividly. And I saw this teddy bear which had been hand made by one of the ladies of the local Women’s Institute. And I said “I wan’ it, I wan’ it, I wan’ it.” And I never got it, not on the day anyway. And about 3 or 4 days later I discovered that my grandma had actually bought it off the lady, ‘cos it hadn’t sold at the fete, for 14 old shillings. Which I don’t know what that equates to now in decimalisation. And I had that teddy right up until the poor thing fell apart when I was about 14 or 15. My constant comfort and friend.

Penelope: Tell me about it anyway. Describe it on more detail. It was hand knitted.

Marc: Yes it was. I don’t think it was knitted. It was stuff fabric of some sort but it was furry, a bit like that sort of borg fabric stuff, which was quite modern in those days.

Penelope: How big was it?

Marc: Um, about that big [gestures with hands]. He was white.

Penelope: That looks like about 18 inches to me. Maybe more. Maybe 20 inches. That’s quite a big bear.

Marc: It was. For a little one, it was a big bear. But I mean, it was almost like having a brother.

Penelope: It must have been about the same size as you.

Marc: Well yes, I mean I must have been a bit taller than that. But he was brilliant white, with lovely, those sort of amber eyes with black pupils and he had a little button nose here like that [gestures]. A little smile there. And his paws were, you know sewn on I think. Stitched on. But I remember him very well. And he never had a name.

01.57 – Marc: And because I sucked my thumb – this one [indicates right thumb] – until I was 8 he was there with me sucking my thumb and I think I probably grew out of childish things about 8 but I actually stopped sucking my thumb but my teddy stayed with me until unfortunately with all the wear and tear of me being a young rather industriously vibrant and energetic young person that I don’t think that he could have survived more than probably about the age of 14. When I was 14, it would have been 1974, I think that he finally had to go unfortunately into the bin.

Penelope: He went into the bin?

Marc: Yes, because he just couldn’t be repaired. We did also have a dog Petra, who didn’t do much help, I can tell you, [Penelope laughs] because she would pick it up and you know what dogs do, that [shakes head] business like that, so it was quite a shocking thing to find him one day in not too many bits, and all the stuffing had fallen out.

02.55 – But Action Man I did get later, but that was in my teens. Much, much later on, probably when I was about, well , when I probably lost teddy, I probably went down that avenue. I do remember that he only came in one uniform. Khaki. But that would have been in the sort of early 70s, mid 70s.

03.16 – Penelope: That would have been the early Action Man.

Marc: Oh, very early, yes

Penelope: What sort of games did you play with him?

13.29 – Marc: Strangely enough, probably more. Not so much to do with the war or anything like that. It was probably more along the science fiction thing, like your Dr Who or that sort of business, because you see, by that time Dr Who had UNIT in it, which was an army, United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. I used my Action Men to be UNIT in Dr Who. And of course we all had little dalek models and things like that. Even ended up making our own 8 millimetre films, because that’s how spoilt I was, I was given a camera to make little films with. Which we did, you know, as almost toys, and then turning into a career later in time.

04.03 – They then started I think to bring in more uniforms or different things he could wear. I remember it, I mean, I don’t think I had one, one ended up that came out with a beard. I don’t think I got one of those. And then one had moving eyes.

Penelope: So you had more than one Action Man?

Marc: Oh yes

Penelope: How many did you have?

Marc: 3 or 4 I think, but they all looked the same. So they looked like clones. But the only way you could tell them apart was by putting different uniforms . . .

04.28 – Penelope: Did you have Lego?

Marc: Prior to that we just had the, you know, the wooden blocks . . .

Penelope: Yep

Marc: . . . with ABC on it. Then yes, we had Lego. I had Meccano I remember.

Penelope: That was around already. And Airfix.

Marc: Lego, which is er, comes from Europe, um Dutch I think it is, and they er. You got just a box of Lego. You didn’t get them as pre packed, you know, make this up. You had to make your own up. So you could be quite creative. Of course most of mine were starships and things like that ‘cos I was very much into science fiction.

Penelope: I’m beginning to pick this up because you’ve talked a lot about Dr Who.

Marc: Dr Who, Star Trek, all that stuff. Um, but I remember having Lego, Meccano. Meccano I don’t think I really got on with because it looked . . . Lego looked quite modern to me. And Meccano looked quite old fashioned.

05.22 – ENDS

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26th August 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer – Penelope Nightingale
Videographer – Dan Cash

00.05 – Penelope: Marc, where were you born?

Marc: I was actually born at the Royal Free Hospital in Islington,

Penelope [talking over Marc]: Oh really?

Marc: in London but we then moved to Morden and then to Whitstable in Kent.

Penelope: So can you tell me what year or decade that was?

Marc: Well, I can’t say I’m a child of the fifties ‘cos I was born in 1960 [Penelope laughs] but I suppose it’s not too bad to be a sixties baby is it?

Penelope: I think not. But you say you moved from parts of . . . You moved around in London. Where did you actually spend your childhood?

Marc: Well mostly as a toddler in Morden, Surrey and then at the age of 3, which would have been of course in 63, I moved to Whitstable in Kent where I stayed there until I left home. In my 20s.

Penelope: In your 20s. So you left home then. So you lived with your parents?

Marc: Mm hm.

Penelope: And they were your birth parents?

Marc: No, I was adopted.

Penelope: Oh

Marc: Yes. My original mother unfortunately was, in those days was a young lady who unfortunately became pregnant. Or, in my case, fortunately became pregnant. And of course in those days it was the done thing to be put up for adoption so that’s how I ended up becoming a Sinclair rather than what was a Wise, which would have been my surname.

Penelope: So you were adopted as a baby?

Marc: Yes

Penelope: And so all your memories are of just one single family?

Marc: That’s correct, yes.

Penelope: What did you adoptive parents … Shall we call them your adoptive parents or parents? Which would you prefer?

Marc: They are my parents

Penelope: Your parents. So what did your parents do?

Marc: Well Mum, Iris, God rest her soul, who passed away a few years ago at the age of 82, she was a housewife. And my father, still with us, now 86, was a printer, and worked in lithographic printing and plate making, and went on to great success running his own business when we moved to Whitstable.

Penelope: You speak of them obviously with affection.

Marc: Absolutely adore them. I wouldn’t be where I am today, as they say, without them.

Penelope: And they clearly loved you too. So they will have given you toys. You will have had toys. The first thing I would like to talk about is a teddy bear. Did you have a teddy bear?

02.29 – Marc: Well yes, I remember it very well and it was actually bought because I was a spoilt child. I must be honest with everyone. I was a spoilt child. And at my paternal mum’s behest we’d gone to a local church thing. I was very very young but I remember it quite vividly. And I saw this teddy bear which had been hand made by one of the ladies of the local Women’s Institute. And I said “I wan’ it, I wan’ it, I wan’ it.” And I never got it, not on the day anyway. And about 3 or 4 days later I discovered that my grandma had actually bought it off the lady, ‘cos it hadn’t sold at the fete, for 14 old shillings. Which I don’t know what that equates to now in decimalisation. And I had that teddy right up until the poor thing fell apart when I was about 14 or 15. My constant comfort and friend.

Penelope: Well that’s what I was going to ask you about actually. What sort of relationship you had with this bear. Tell me about it anyway. Describe it on more detail. It was hand knitted.

Marc: Yes it was. I don’t think it was knitted. It was stuff fabric of some sort but it was furry, a bit like that sort of borg fabric stuff, which was quite modern in those days.

Penelope: How big was it?

Marc: Um, about that big [gestures with hands]. He was white.

Penelope: That looks like about 18 inches to me. Maybe more. Maybe 20 inches. That’s quite a big bear.

Marc: It was. For a little one, it was a big bear. But I mean, it was almost like having a brother.

Penelope: It must have been about the same size as you.

Marc: Well yes, I mean I must have been a bit taller than that. But he was brilliant white, with lovely, those sort of amber eyes with black pupils and he had a little button nose here like that [gestures]. A little smile there. And his paws were, you know sewn on I think. Stitched on. But I remember him very well. And he never had a name.

Penelope: Well that was the next thing I was going to ask you. Was he ‘teddy’ or did he have a name?

Marc: I just think I called him ‘teddy’.

Penelope: I think most people do actually don’t they?

06.35 – Marc: And because I sucked my thumb – this one [indicates right thumb] – until I was 8 he was there with me sucking my thumb and I think I probably grew out of childish things about 8 but I actually stopped sucking my thumb but my teddy stayed with me until unfortunately with all the wear and tear of me being a young rather industriously vibrant and energetic young person that I don’t think that he could have survived more than probably about the age of 14. When I was 14, it would have been 1974, I think that he finally had to go unfortunately into the bin.

Penelope: He went into the bin?

Marc: Yes, because he just couldn’t be repaired. We did also have a dog Petra, who didn’t do much help, I can tell you, [Penelope laughs] because she would pick it up and you know what dogs do, that [shakes head] business like that, so it was quite a shocking thing to find him one day in not too many bits, and all the stuffing had fallen out.

Penelope: oh dear, of dear. ‘Cos you were obviously very close to this bear. You had a close relationship with him.

Marc: Yeah. I think by 14 though it wasn’t as important as it had been because I went to boarding school so he came to boarding school with me and then one holiday in about 74 the dog almost ate him.

06.02 – Penelope: So when did you go to boarding school?

Marc: from the age. Would you believe, from 1967, from the age of 7, all the way through to when I actually left in 1976, having taken my O levels and completely failed all of them apart from 2. [Penelope laughs] Geography and Technical Drawing which have done me no favours whatsoever over the years.

Penelope: So this bear of yours, when you took him to school was that what other children did, or was that specific to you?

Marc: A lot of the children at Kent College. Or Vernon Home first, from 67 through to 71, and then from 71 to 76. That was the preparatory school and that was the upper school. This was in Canterbury. Most of them, a lot of them anyway, were from the colonies and a lot or worked in, their fathers and parents, worked in the army or the air force or the navy. So they were always very very interesting because they were from all over the world, although the old British Colonies. It was fascinating. Lots of little pressies from all over the world. And of course what did they always have in the majority, they had teddies. So it wasn’t a nancy thing to have a teddy, everyone sort of had it. It was very much like that Brideshead Revisited business, you took your teddy with you everywhere, as Sebastian did in Brideshead Revisited, always had his teddy with him, even into his time at university. But no, that wasn’t supposed to be any problem at all with anyone, because everyone had them.

Penelope: so did you play any specific games with him, or was he just a comfort?

Marc: A comfort.

Penelope: that was there with you all the time?

Marc: It was a comfort

Penelope: You don’t still have him unfortunately

Marc: No, I’m afraid no.

Penelope: But you have memories of him. What are your best memories of him?

07.50 – Marc: I think the excitement of Christmas because you know, unbeknown to me, you know, Santa was going to come. But I could never understand, ‘cos we didn’t have a chimney so I didn’t ever understand how Santa got in, I thought he had a key or something like that, and he . . .

[Siren in background]

‘Cos I thought Santa had a key to get in at Christmas and all that. And I would discuss this with, you know, ‘cos there was always, at the bottom of the bed, the sock and 4 o’clock in the morning teddy and I, ‘cos we didn’t want to wake the household. Unbeknownst to me we thought everyone was watching.

So I was able to put my hand in the sock and I could feel this … Never took anything out, you know. Too excited to go to sleep. And we had things like half a crown, which is 12 1⁄2 p. Once even, a 10 shilling note, which was salmon in colour. Probably a satsuma. Some sweeties. And I always used to get Edinburgh rock because my adoptive family were Scottish. So unlike the rock you get in Brighton which is very hard, Edinburgh rock is softer, so it wasn’t too bad on the teeth. I wish I hadn’t done so much because I haven’t got many of my own left now.

Penelope: Yes, I remember the Edinburgh Rock very well, and it came in a variety of pastel colours. It was that funny shape and they weren’t very long. But you shared it with your teddy?

Marc: Oh yes. Teddy. Well, pretend.

Penelope: But that’s your best memory of him, Christmas time and sharing the sock.

Marc: Sharing the sock, and almost talking to him “I wonder what’s in . . . “ Invariably it was the same thing every year because you always got. Always got the Broons annual and a Oor Wullie. They are still published in the Sunday Post now. And I got that every year. Couldn’t understand, because we lived down south, the way it was written, because it was all in this sort of Scottish Rab C Nesbitt style of speak, that sort of [*general slurring in broad Scottish accent*] type of business. We knew what we were getting most of the time. But I have great memories of him sitting there right beside me, and we’re looking down at this sock and trying to, without waking the household up, trying to actually see what else was going to be in the bottom of that sock. Sometimes we got quite a few surprises I can tell you. Luckily no mousetraps.

Penelope: No mousetrap. There’s that wonderful feeling of the sock. That’s something I remember from my childhood as well so I can understand you would want to share the pleasure of that with your companion bear. But did you at any time have any dolls? Dolls can be quite a wide range of things. Did you have any toys that were not teddy bears? Action Man or anything like that?

10.44 – Marc: Action Man came later. One thing I do remember, because I wanted one, was a playsuit which actually you turned into a dalek from Dr Who. Made of PVC.

Penelope: That was for you to wear? Rather than a doll.

11.02 – Marc: But you then became the doll. Because then you were playacting. Hence I became an actor I suppose, because I was playacting all the time. But Action Man I did get later, but that was in my teens. Much, much later on, probably when I was about, well , when I probably lost teddy, I probably went down that avenue. I do remember that he only came in one uniform. Khaki. But that would have been in the sort of early 70s, mid 70s.

Penelope: Yes, you must have grown up quite a bit by then. That would have been the early Action Man.

Marc: Oh, very early, yes

Penelope: What sort of games did you play with him?

11.40 – Marc: Strangely enough, probably more. Not so much to do with the war or anything like that. It was probably more along the science fiction thing, like your Dr Who or that sort of business, because you see, by that time Dr Who had UNIT in it, which was an army, United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. I used my Action Man to be UNIT in Dr Who. And of course we all had little dalek models and things like that. Even ended up making our own 8 millimetre films, because that’s how spoilt I was, I was given a camera to make little films with. Which we did, you know, as almost toys, and then turning into a career later in time.

Penelope: Well you know, that’s very creative isn’t it? That is indeed

Marc: Well that is …

Penelope: [talks over Marc] Well that . . .

Marc: the thing about toys.

Penelope: Well, yes, it is indeed. So that Action Man toy must have been quite important to you from a creative and developmental point of view.

12.35 – Marc: Oh yes, yes, because it became part of, part of, you know, play acting, wanting to be in the real thing, but you could do it on a much smaller scale. We didn’t make films with the Action Men, we actually dressed up as best we could, normally wearing my mother’s bed sheets actually, poor – bless her cotton socks – but we were able to instigate a doing, that formal play with dolls and things, or Action Man and robots and things like that, that then moved us into doing things that were far more creative, that we wanted to actually see later, that’s why we had 8 millimetre film.

Penelope: Experiential

Marc: Yes, yes, absolutely.

Penelope: It clearly was a very creative time for you. How did you feel about it? Did you like it? Did you enjoy it? Did you enjoy the toy itself?

Marc: Oh yes I did. Yes. They then started I think to bring in more uniforms or different things he could wear. I remember it, I mean, I don’t think I had one, one ended up that came out with a beard. I don’t think I got one of those. And then one had moving eyes.

13.34 – Penelope: So you had more than one Action Man?

Marc: Oh yes

Penelope: How many did you have?

Marc: 3 or 4 I think, but they all looked the same. So they looked like clones. But the only way you could tell them apart was by putting different uniforms . . .

Penelope: [talking over Marc] different uniforms. You were clearly very fond of your teddy and were very heartbroken when he finally went. Do you still have your Action Men toys?

Marc: Afraid not. We’ve moved too many times and I think foolishly what happens if you put away childish things and you tend to forget them. Recently. My mother died about 3 or 4 years ago now. I found out that my mother was a hoarder of all sorts of things. So I’m currently going through. I never know what I’m going to find next but the photographic evidence I have of things is extraordinary. And of course with somebody who’s so close to you, like your mum, who passes away. When somebody dies, it’s like a videotape being wiped and then suddenly that instigation of them giving you a memory that can bump start your memory into something you may have forgotten has gone. So looking at old photographs and all that does immediately secure the fact that you “oh, I’d completely forgotten about that” and all that. So I’ve got pictures of me as a toddler with my toys and I only found them about 2 weeks ago and I’m slowly going through them. Much to my shock I was quite a pretty child. I was an ugly baby but a pretty toddler.

Penelope: Well, toddlers are charming in themselves.

Marc: In themselves, yes.

15.07 – Penelope: Do you remember who gave you the Action Man? Who introduced Action Man into your life? Your father or your mother?

Marc: Probably my father. But as I say, although I was adopted I couldn’t want for anything. I was, really, both my sister and I, because Valerie was also adopted, were spoilt. Totally spoilt. Anything she wanted she got. If she wanted a pony, she got one. And she did. Called Star. And guess who had to muck it out. Big brother.

Penelope: [talks over Marc] I can’t possibly imagine.

Marc: Big brother, yes. She was . . . I don’t think . . . She was . . . She were quite debutante in her manner. So her toys were live things. Of course I got a dog. But I didn’t have to muck the dog out. Her toy was a pony of what, 14 1⁄2 hands.

15.55 – Penelope: So were you . . . I mean, you’ve talked about the creative kind of play that you had with the Action Men. Were you also quite a practical person? If you were mucking out ponies and things that seems to me that you might be quite practical.

Marc: I was quite practical, but terribly lazy at school.

Penelope: Well, did you . . . The reason I ask about the practicality is because I wonder if you had construction toys, if you had building toys. My son was, my first son was born in the same year as you, and my recollection is that the first construction toys for really little children came in round about that time and that was Lego.

Marc: Mmhm

16.32 – Penelope: Did you have Lego?

Marc: Prior to that we just had the, you know, the wooden blocks . . .

Penelope: Yep

Marc: . . . with ABC on it. Then yes, we had Lego. I had Meccano I remember.

Penelope: That was around already. And Airfix.

Marc: Lego, which is er, comes from Europe, um Dutch I think it is, and they er. You got just a box of Lego. You didn’t get them as pre packed, you know, make this up. You had to make your own up. So you could be quite creative. Of course most of mine were starships and things like that ‘cos I was very much into science fiction.

Penelope: I’m beginning to pick this up because you’ve talked a lot about Dr Who.

Marc: Dr Who, Star Trek, all that stuff. Um, but I remember having Lego, Meccano. Meccano I don’t think I really got on with because it looked . . . Lego looked quite modern to me. And Meccano looked quite old fashioned.

Penelope: Well, of course, Meccano was much older. And so was Airfix. I remember my brother, my older brother, having that. The wonderful smell of glue.

Marc: Oh yes

Penelope: But when you were born, when you were a toddler, a young child growing up, Lego was coming in. And it was actually quite basic wasn’t it? It was just a few different shapes with none of the very complicated stuff that you can get now. You must again, have been quite creative with that.

Marc: Oh yes. The thing that I remember mostly about Lego is my mother complaining totally all the time about hoovering.

Penelope: Ah

Marc: Because it would block her hoover.

Penelope: Did you enjoy playing with construction toys?

Marc: Not particularly.

Penelope: You were much more creative than . . .

Marc: There was more creative. You know, yes. And of course I played the piano as well so I was actually more along the, more along the arts side of thing and media, that sort of thing. Very interested in television, all that sort of business. And of course doing things with construction toys, I said “oh no, no”. That’s something for scene people to do. There’s set designers and all that who can do that. That’s not in my ken. I’d either rather be in front of the camera acting or behind the camera directing. Doing the rest of it, to me, was I thought quite mundane. I wouldn’t be able to sort of carry on enjoying it.

If I hadn’t have been an actor I’d have been a chef but I found out what the hours were like being a chef and that could have become a chore so I ended up being an actor. Of course, being that creative in my youth and certainly in the 60s, when things like Star Trek and Dr Who and all that started, it did open a new universe of, literally a whole new universe, of creativity and imagination. And I thank Dr Who many many times for it. And it’s still on today.

Penelope: It certainly is. With a new actor.

Marc: With a new Dr.

19.19 – Penelope: With a new actor. I want to go on then. We’ve talked about your teddy bear, we’ve talked about your Action Men, we’ve talked about the practical toys, the construction toys. And we’ve also talked about . . . You’ve mentioned the fact that you really wanted that teddy bear and were quite sad when you didn’t think you were going to get it. Were there other toys that you would have like to have had that you didn’t have?

Marc: Well, not so much toys because what I really wanted was a dalek. But there were only about 6 of them made for the programme so apart from getting a cardboard box and painting circles on it and all that, no, that wasn’t going to be, at least not in my youth. Though I did buy one from Elstree film studio when I was 17. But . . .

Penelope: You talked about being very spoilt so I reckon you were given most of the things you wanted

20.13 – Marc: Oh, I really. If it was available. We’d go up Christmas to Fortnum and Mason’s, Harrods, Dad would go and get all his stuff from Austin Reed. We’d go and see the Christmas lights. Have a meal out, probably at an Angus Steak House or something like that ‘cos it was very posh in those days. But we’d certainly go to Harrods, and that’s where everything I wanted, and my sister wanted. I don’t think we got the pony from Harrods, but I can tell you . . .

Penelope: But they could have got the pony from there.

Marc: They probably could have. You could get anything from Harrods in those days. If you wanted an elephant you could probably buy an elephant in Harrods.

Penelope: You could

Marc: No, I was very, very, very spoilt. Both of us. And when my father remarried after my parents got divorced back in ‘72 he then had another 3 children of his own rather than the adoptive version, my stepbrother and 2 sisters and they weren’t in the same situation as being as spoilt as I was and Valerie. And I think that probably made them better people because I then had the . . . I found out how the world is actually quite wicked and you have to make your own way. You can’t expect it to be landed on a silver platter. And it’s that “I want, I want” is what I actually was. Quite a nasty little piece of work I think. But Valerie of course, being the little girl didn’t have to say anything. She just got.

21.35 – Penelope: Well, I wanted to ask you something slightly more personal. I was considering whether to ask you this or not, but the way you’ve talked about yourself, you’ve talked about childhood and the toys and things. You make no secret at all of the fact that you’re gay and very very happy to be gay. I wondered whether you were aware of that from the earliest days and, if you were, whether that influenced the way you played games with your toys, whether it actually influenced the kind of toys you wanted.

Marc: Well, to be honest with you, I, like any other little boy, I didn’t sort of have the wish to dress up in ladies’ clothing or anything like that. I mean professionally I have had to do that at panto occasionally over the years. No, I think as a child I had me cycle and I’d go out cycling and all those things. The one thing I hated doing was sport at school. I couldn’t see the point of it, it was an absolute waste of time.

Penelope: But you were not deprived of those things . . .

Marc: Not at all. And I . . .

Penelope: There was no hint that anything was unsuitable and so you couldn’t have it.

22.43 – Marc: Well, I wasn’t sitting there playing Barbie dolls. I was quite happy of course playing with Action Men of you get my drift.

Penelope: I do

Marc: But of course when you’re very young you don’t really know in the majority what you’re going to do. You may have strange feelings you’ve got, through adolescence but I’m absolutely convinced that from the day when I came out of – Madeleine was her name, my blood mother – from her ‘area’, let’s put it that way – I think I was just born gay and it never . . . I mean, I had girlfriends but they became, they were more companions, they were a bit like teddy, the girlfriends. And the majority of my friends these days at my gross age is the fact that they are actually females. I have very few male friends. Apart from my hubby of course and he’s much younger than me and I’m sure that – I think he’s blind as well but that’s another story – he understands you know that, having more years on him, he can probably actually see why I’ve changed through my life from being that spoilt brat and being gay has really actually had nothing to do with the fact of being different or all that. I was different at school and I have often asked them certainly, you know, around the time of your Larry Graysons on tele and ‘shut that door’ and all that, people always used to call you queer or poof or anything like that. At the end of the day when I’ve seen friends that were at school, who are still friends now – and thank goodness for Facebook after all these years – and I would say “but why were you so wicked to us, shall I say more ‘fey’ of the fraternity?” And they would say “to be honest with you we didn’t know what we were saying, we didn’t understand what it was.”

Penelope: The only reason I ask was because the context of toys, the context of a boy, a young boy and his toys at the time that you were growing up is completely different to how it is now and I wondered if there had been any difference, any discernible difference between what you were able to have and what you were not able to have, and what you might have wanted and didn’t get, but it would appear not.

Marc: Not a problem

24.47 – Penelope: So of all the toys you’ve had, the ones we’ve talked about, so the bear, or the Action Man, not so much the Lego, I think it didn’t excite you quite so much, what were your happiest memories of either of those two? The teddy bear or the Action Men?

Marc: That morning my late grandmother, god rest her soul, Elisabeth Lumsden was her name, Elisabeth Lumsden Sinclair, gave me that teddy, I remember it . . .

Penelope: It was clearly very important to you.

Marc: Very clear. And she would sit down with us, I think we had, she was a great soup maker, “Och, they’re lovely” she would say, “Och, they’re lovely”. I never knew what ‘they’ were but obviously it was the soup but I remember that day she’d actually . . . And it was 14 shillings, which in those days was a lot of money. Of course she must have been in her mid 60s I think, so she was on her pension. And she bought it. Dad didn’t buy it. Or Mum didn’t buy it. And there we have it, you know. And I had that for basically 10 years I would have thought. Probably 10 years.

Penelope: A good long time. A good long time. A good long time. So that’s your happiest memory of your toys. Is actually receiving that. And of course the love of your granny.

Marc: Yep. And especially because she didn’t have a tooth in her head and I could never understand why her teeth were so perfect. And of course if they went to a dinner dance Granny would take her teeth out. You know I’d have my teddy, and Granny and my sister there, and she would gurn the whole thing and we used to fall about with laughter the way she would screw her face up. You know, that memory. I’m sure that teddy quire enjoyed it too.

Penelope: Did teddy gurn as well?

Marc: Not really, no. There may have been a bit of gurning when he fell apart, I don’t think he can have been too happy when the dog got him.

Penelope: No, I imagine. So that’s your happiest memory. And I think you’ve probably told me anything you would want to tell me about your toys. So I think I’m going to say thank you very much Marc for a very enjoyable interview. I have enjoyed it a lot and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. All these lovely memories of your life.

Marc: Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure if I may say so and a privilege. Thank you for the opportunity.

Penelope: Thank you very much for participating Marc: I loved it. Thank you.
26m 58s – ENDS

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26th August 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer – Penelope Nightingale
Videographer – Dan Cash

Penelope: Okay. Marc, where were you born?

Marc: I was actually born at the Royal Free Hospital in Islington,

Penelope [talking over Marc]: Oh really?

Marc: in London but we then moved to Morden and then to Whitstable in Kent.

Penelope: So can you tell me what year or decade that was?

Marc: Well, I can’t say I’m a child of the fifties ‘cos I was born in 1960 [Penelope laughs] but I suppose it’s not too bad to be a sixties baby is it?

Penelope: I think not. But you say you moved from parts of . . . You moved around in London. Where did you actually spend your childhood?

Marc: Well mostly as a toddler in Morden, Surrey and then at the age of 3, which would have been of course in 63, I moved to Whitstable in Kent where I stayed there until I left home. In my 20s.

Penelope: In your 20s. So you left home then. So you lived with your parents?

Marc: Mm hm.

Penelope: And they were your birth parents?

Marc: No, I was adopted.

Penelope: Oh

Marc: Yes. My original mother unfortunately was, in those days was a young lady who unfortunately became pregnant. Or, in my case, fortunately became pregnant. And of course in those days it was the done thing to be put up for adoption so that’s how I ended up becoming a Sinclair rather than a what was a Wise, which would have been my surname.

Penelope: So you were adopted as a baby?

Marc: Yes

Penelope: And so all your memories are of just one single family?

Marc: That’s correct, yes.

Penelope: What did you adoptive parents … Shall we call them your adoptive parents or parents? Which would you prefer?

Marc: They are my parents

Penelope: Your parents. So what did your parents do?

Marc: Well Mum, Iris, God rest her soul, who passed away a few years ago at the age of 82, she was a housewife. And my father, still with us, now 86, was a printer, and worked in lithographic printing and plate making, and went on to great success running his own business when we moved to Whitstable.

Penelope: You speak of them obviously with affection.

Marc: Absolutely adore them. I wouldn’t be where I am today, as they say, without them.

Penelope: And they clearly loved you too. So they will have given you toys. You will have had toys. The first thing I would like to talk about is a teddy bear. Did you have a teddy bear?

02.24 – Marc: Well yes, I remember it very well and it was actually bought because I was a spoilt child. I must be honest with everyone. I was a spoilt child. And at my paternal mum’s behest we’d gone to a local church thing. I was very very young but I remember it quite vividly. And I saw this teddy bear which had been hand made by one of the ladies of the local Women’s Institute. And I said “I wan’ it, I wan’ it, I wan’ it.” And I never got it, not on the day anyway. And about 3 or 4 days later I discovered that my grandma had actually bought it off the lady, ‘cos it hadn’t sold at the fete, for 14 old shillings. Which I don’t know what that equates to now in decimalisation. And I had that teddy right up until the poor thing fell apart when I was about 14 or 15. My constant comfort and friend.

Penelope: Well that’s what I was going to ask you about actually. What sort of relationship you had with this bear. Tell me about it anyway. Describe it on more detail. It was hand knitted.

Marc: Yes it was. I don’t think it was knitted. It was stuff fabric of some sort but it was furry, a bit like that sort of borg fabric stuff, which was quite modern in those days.

Penelope: How big was it?

Marc: Um, about that big [gestures with hands]. He was white.

Penelope: That looks like about 18 inches to me. Maybe more. Maybe 20 inches. That’s quite a big bear.

Marc: It was. For a little one, it was a big bear. But I mean, it was almost like having a brother.

Penelope: It must have been about the same size as you.

Marc: Well yes, I mean I must have been a bit taller than that. But he was brilliant white, with lovely, those sort of amber eyes with black pupils and he had a little button nose here like that [gestures]. A little smile there. And his paws were, you know sewn on I think. Stitched on. But I remember him very well. And he never had a name.

04.32 – Penelope: Well that was the next thing I was going to ask you. Was he ‘teddy’ or did he have a name?

Marc: I just think I called him ‘teddy’.

Penelope: I think most people do actually don’t they?

04.41 – Marc: And because I sucked my thumb – this one [indicates right thumb] – until I was 8 he was there with me sucking my thumb and I think I probably grew out of childish things about 8 but I actually stopped sucking my thumb but my teddy stayed with me until unfortunately with all the wear and tear of me being a young rather industriously vibrant and energetic young person that I don’t think that he could have survived more than probably about the age of 14. When I was 14, it would have been 1974, I think that he finally had to go unfortunately into the bin.

Penelope: He went into the bin?

Marc: Yes, because he just couldn’t be repaired. We did also have a dog Petra, who didn’t do much help, I can tell you, [Penelope laughs] because she would pick it up and you know what dogs do, that [shakes head] business like that, so it was quite a shocking thing to find him one day in not too many bits, and all the stuffing had fallen out.

Penelope: oh dear, of dear. ‘Cos you were obviously very close to this bear. You had a close relationship with him.

Marc: Yeah. I think by 14 though it wasn’t as important as it had been because I went to boarding school so he came to boarding school with me and then one holiday in about 74 the dog almost ate him.

05.58 – Penelope: So when did you go to boarding school?

Marc: from the age. Would you believe, from 1967, from the age of 7, all the way through to when I actually left in 1976, having taken my O levels and completely failed all of them apart from 2. [Penelope laughs] Geography and Technical Drawing which have done me no favours whatsoever over the years.

Penelope: So this bear of yours, when you took him to school was that what other children did, or was that specific to you?

Marc: A lot of the children at Kent College. Or Vernon Home first, from 67 through to 71, and then from 71 to 76. That was the preparatory school and that was the upper school. This was in Canterbury. Most of them, a lot of them anyway, were from the colonies and a lot or worked in, their fathers and parents, worked in the army or the air force or the navy. So they were always very very interesting because they were from all over the world, although the old British Colonies. It was fascinating. Lots of little pressies from all over the world. And of course what did they always have in the majority, they had teddies. So it wasn’t a nancy thing to have a teddy, everyone sort of had it. It was very much like that Brideshead Revisited business, you took your teddy with you everywhere, as Sebastian did in Brideshead Revisited, always had his teddy with him, even into his time at university. But no, that wasn’t supposed to be any problem at all with anyone, because everyone had them.

07.28 – Penelope: so did you play any specific games with him, or was he just a comfort?

Marc: A comfort.

Penelope: that was there with you all the time?

Marc: It was a comfort

Penelope: You don’t still have him unfortunately

Marc: No, I’m afraid no.

Penelope: But you have memories of him. What are your best memories of him?

07.45 – Marc: I think the excitement of Christmas because you know, unbeknown to me, you know, Santa was going to come. But I could never understand, ‘cos we didn’t have a chimney so I didn’t ever understand how Santa got in, I thought he had a key or something like that, and he . . .

[Siren in background]

‘Cos I thought Santa had a key to get in at Christmas and all that. And I would discuss this with, you know, ‘cos there was always, at the bottom of the bed, the sock and 4 o’clock in the morning teddy and I, ‘cos we didn’t want to wake the household. Unbeknownst to me we thought everyone was watching.

So I was able to put my hand in the sock and I could feel this … Never took anything out, you know. Too excited to go to sleep. And we had things like half a crown, which is 12 1⁄2 p. Once even, a 10 shilling note, which was salmon in colour. Probably a satsuma. Some sweeties. And I always used to get Edinburgh rock because my adoptive family were Scottish. So unlike the rock you get in Brighton which is very hard, Edinburgh rock is softer, so it wasn’t too bad on the teeth. I wish I hadn’t done so much because I haven’t got many of my own left now.

Penelope: Yes, I remember the Edinburgh Rock very well, and it came in a variety of pastel colours. It was that funny shape and they weren’t very long. But you shared it with your teddy?

Marc: Oh yes. Teddy. Well, pretend.

Penelope: But that’s your best memory of him, Christmas time and sharing the sock.

09.25 – Marc: Sharing the sock, and almost talking to him “I wonder what’s in . . . “ Invariably it was the same thing every year because you always got. Always got the Broons annual and a Oor Wullie. They are still published in the Sunday Post now. And I got that every year. Couldn’t understand, because we lived down south, the way it was written, because it was all in this sort of Scottish Rab C Nesbitt style of speak, that sort of [*general slurring in broad Scottish accent*] type of business. We knew what we were getting most of the time. But I have great memories of him sitting there right beside me, and we’re looking down at this sock and trying to, without waking the household up, trying to actually see what else was going to be in the bottom of that sock. Sometimes we got quite a few surprises I can tell you. Luckily no mousetraps.

Penelope: No mousetrap. There’s that wonderful feeling of the sock. That’s something I remember from my childhood as well so I can understand you would want to share the pleasure of that with your companion bear. But did you at any time have any dolls? Dolls can be quite a wide range of things. Did you have any toys that were not teddy bears? Action Man or anything like that?

10.22 – Marc: Action Man came later. One thing I do remember, because I wanted one, was a playsuit which actually you turned into a dalek from Dr Who. Made of PVC.

Penelope: That was for you to wear? Rather than a doll.

12.50 – Marc: Hence I became an actor I suppose, because I was playacting all the time. But Action Man I did get later, but that was in my teens. Much, much later on, probably when I was about, well , when I probably lost teddy, I probably went down that avenue. I do remember that he only came in one uniform. Khaki. But that would have been in the sort of early 70s, mid 70s.

Penelope: Yes, you must have grown up quite a bit by then. That would have been the early Action Man.

Marc: Oh, very early, yes

Penelope: What sort of games did you play with him?

Marc: Strangely enough, probably more. Not so much to do with the war or anything like that. It was probably more along the science fiction thing, like your Dr Who or that sort of business, because you see, by that time Dr Who had UNIT in it, which was an army, United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. I used my Action Man to be UNIT in Dr Who. And of course we all had little dalek models and things like that. Even ended up making our own 8 millimetre films, because that’s how spoilt I was, I was given a camera to make little films with. Which we did, you know, as almost toys, and then turning into a career later in time.

Penelope: Well you know, that’s very creative isn’t it? That is indeed

Marc: Well that is …

Penelope: [talks over Marc] Well that . . .

Marc: the thing about toys.

Penelope: Well, yes, it is indeed. So that Action Man toy must have been quite important to you from a creative and developmental point of view.

Marc: Oh yes, yes, because it became part of, part of, you know, play acting, wanting to be in the real thing, but you could do it on a much smaller scale. We didn’t make films with the Action Men, we actually dressed up as best we could, normally wearing my mother’s bed sheets actually, poor – bless her cotton socks – but we were able to instigate a doing, that formal play with dolls and things, or Action Man and robots and things like that, that then moved us into doing things that were far more creative, that we wanted to actually see later, that’s why we had 8 millimetre film.

12.56 – Penelope: Experiential

Marc: Yes, yes, absolutely.

Penelope: It clearly was a very creative time for you. How did you feel about it? Did you like it? Did you enjoy it? Did you enjoy the toy itself?

Marc: Oh yes I did. Yes. They then started I think to bring in more uniforms or different things he could wear. I remember it, I mean, I don’t think I had one, one ended up that came out with a beard. I don’t think I got one of those. And then one had moving eyes.

13.21 – Penelope: So you had more than one Action Man?

Marc: Oh yes

Penelope: How many did you have?

Marc: 3 or 4 I think, but they all looked the same. So they looked like clones. But the only way you could tell them apart was by putting different uniforms . . .

Penelope: [talking over Marc] different uniforms. You were clearly very fond of your teddy and were very heartbroken when he finally went. Do you still have your Action Men toys?

Marc: Afraid not. We’ve moved too many times and I think foolishly what happens if you put away childish things and you tend to forget them. Recently. My mother died about 3 or 4 years ago now. I found out that my mother was a hoarder of all sorts of things. So I’m currently going through. I never know what I’m going to find next but the photographic evidence I have of things is extraordinary. And of course with somebody who’s so close to you, like your mum, who passes away. When somebody dies, it’s like a videotape being wiped and then suddenly that instigation of them giving you a memory that can bump start your memory into something you may have forgotten has gone. So looking at old photographs and all that does immediately secure the fact that you “oh, I’d completely forgotten about that” and all that. So I’ve got pictures of me as a toddler with my toys and I only found them about 2 weeks ago and I’m slowly going through them. Much to my shock I was quite a pretty child. I was an ugly baby but a pretty toddler.

Penelope: Well, toddlers are charming in themselves.

Marc: In themselves, yes.

Penelope: Do you remember who gave you the Action Man? Who introduced Action Man into your life? Your father or your mother?

Marc: Probably my father. But as I say, although I was adopted I couldn’t want for anything. I was, really, both my sister and I, because Valerie was also adopted, were spoilt. Totally spoilt. Anything she wanted she got. If she wanted a pony, she got one. And she did. Called Star. And guess who had to muck it out. Big brother.

Penelope: [talks over Marc] I can’t possibly imagine.

Marc: Big brother, yes. She was . . . I don’t think . . . She was . . . She were quite debutante in her manner. So her toys were live things. Of course I got a dog. But I didn’t have to muck the dog out. Her toy was a pony of what, 14 1⁄2 hands.

15.51 – Penelope: So were you . . . I mean, you’ve talked about the creative kind of play that you had with the Action Men. Were you also quite a practical person? If you were mucking out ponies and things that seems to me that you might be quite practical.

Marc: I was quite practical, but terribly lazy at school.

Penelope: Well, did you . . . The reason I ask about the practicality is because I wonder if you had construction toys, if you had building toys. My son was, my first son was born in the same year as you, and my recollection is that the first construction toys for really little children came in round about that time and that was Lego.

Marc: Mmhm

Penelope: Did you have Lego?

16.35 – Marc: Prior to that we just had the, you know, the wooden blocks . . .

Penelope: Yep

Marc: . . . with ABC on it. Then yes, we had Lego. I had Meccano I remember.

Penelope: That was around already. And Airfix.

Marc: Lego, which is er, comes from Europe, um Dutch I think it is, and they er. You got just a box of Lego. You didn’t get them as pre packed, you know, make this up. You had to make your own up. So you could be quite creative. Of course most of mine were starships and things like that ‘cos I was very much into science fiction.

Penelope: I’m beginning to pick this up because you’ve talked a lot about Dr Who.

17.13 – Marc: Dr Who, Star Trek, all that stuff. Um, but I remember having Lego, Meccano. Meccano I don’t think I really got on with because it looked . . . Lego looked quite modern to me. And Meccano looked quite old fashioned.

Penelope: Well, of course, Meccano was much older. And so was Airfix. I remember my brother, my older brother, having that. The wonderful smell of glue.

Marc: Oh yes

Penelope: But when you were born, when you were a toddler, a young child growing up, Lego was coming in. And it was actually quite basic wasn’t it? It was just a few different shapes with none of the very complicated stuff that you can get now. You must again, have been quite creative with that.

Marc: Oh yes. The thing that I remember mostly about Lego is my mother complaining totally all the time about hoovering.

Penelope: Ah

Marc: Because it would block her hoover.

Penelope: Did you enjoy playing with construction toys?

Marc: Not particularly.

Penelope: You were much more creative than . . .

Marc: There was more creative. You know, yes. And of course I played the piano as well so I was actually more along the, more along the arts side of thing and media, that sort of thing. Very interested in television, all that sort of business. And of course doing things with construction toys, I said “oh no, no”. That’s something for scene people to do. There’s set designers and all that who can do that. That’s not in my ken. I’d either rather be in front of the camera acting or behind the camera directing. Doing the rest of it, to me, was I thought quite mundane. I wouldn’t be able to sort of carry on enjoying it.

18.43 – If I hadn’t have been an actor I’d have been a chef but I found out what the hours were like being a chef and that could have become a chore so I ended up being an actor. Of course, being that creative in my youth and certainly in the 60s, when things like Star Trek and Dr Who and all that started, it did open a new universe of, literally a whole new universe, of creativity and imagination. And I thank Dr Who many many times for it. And it’s still on today.

Penelope: It certainly is. With a new actor.

Marc: With a new Dr.

Penelope: With a new actor. I want to go on then. We’ve talked about your teddy bear, we’ve talked about your Action Men, we’ve talked about the practical toys, the construction toys. And we’ve also talked about . . . You’ve mentioned the fact that you really wanted that teddy bear and were quite sad when you didn’t think you were going to get it. Were there other toys that you would have like to have had that you didn’t have?

19.43 – Marc: Well, not so much toys because what I really wanted was a dalek. But there were only about 6 of them made for the programme so apart from getting a cardboard box and painting circles on it and all that, no, that wasn’t going to be, at least not in my youth. Though I did buy one from Elstree film studio when I was 17. But . . .

Penelope: You talked about being very spoilt so I reckon you were given most of the things you wanted

Marc: Oh, I really. If it was available. We’d go up Christmas to Fortnum and Mason’s, Harrods, Dad would go and get all his stuff from Austin Reed. We’d go and see the Christmas lights. Have a meal out, probably at an Angus Steak House or something like that ‘cos it was very posh in those days. But we’d certainly go to Harrods, and that’s where everything I wanted, and my sister wanted. I don’t think we got the pony from Harrods, but I can tell you . . .

Penelope: But they could have got the pony from there.

Marc: They probably could have. You could get anything from Harrods in those days. If you wanted an elephant you could probably buy an elephant in Harrods.

Penelope: You could

Marc: No, I was very, very, very spoilt. Both of us. And when my father remarried after my parents got divorced back in ‘72 he then had another 3 children of his own rather than the adoptive version, my stepbrother and 2 sisters and they weren’t in the same situation as being as spoilt as I was and Valerie. And I think that probably made them better people because I then had the . . . I found out how the world is actually quite wicked and you have to make your own way. You can’t expect it to be landed on a silver platter. And it’s that “I want, I want” is what I actually was. Quite a nasty little piece of work I think. But Valerie of course, being the little girl didn’t have to say anything. She just got.

21.31 – Penelope: Well, I wanted to ask you something slightly more personal. I was considering whether to ask you this or not, but the way you’ve talked about yourself, you’ve talked about childhood and the toys and things. You make no secret at all of the fact that you’re gay and very very happy to be gay. I wondered whether you were aware of that from the earliest days and, if you were, whether that influenced the way you played games with your toys, whether it actually influenced the kind of toys you wanted.

Marc: Well, to be honest with you, I, like any other little boy, I didn’t sort of have the wish to dress up in ladies’ clothing or anything like that. I mean professionally I have had to do that at panto occasionally over the years. No, I think as a child I had me cycle and I’d go out cycling and all those things. The one thing I hated doing was sport at school. I couldn’t see the point of it, it was an absolute waste of time.

Penelope: But you were not deprived of those things . . .

Marc: Not at all. And I . . .

Penelope: There was no hint that anything was unsuitable and so you couldn’t have it.

22.41 – Marc: Well, I wasn’t sitting there playing Barbie dolls. I was quite happy of course playing with Action Men of you get my drift.

Penelope: I do

Marc: But of course when you’re very young you don’t really know in the majority what you’re going to do. You may have strange feelings you’ve got, through adolescence but I’m absolutely convinced that from the day when I came out of – Madeleine was her name, my blood mother – from her ‘area’, let’s put it that way – I think I was just born gay and it never . . . I mean, I had girlfriends but they became, they were more companions, they were a bit like teddy, the girlfriends. And the majority of my friends these days at my gross age is the fact that they are actually females. I have very few male friends. Apart from my hubby of course and he’s much younger than me and I’m sure that – I think he’s blind as well but that’s another story – he understands you know that, having more years on him, he can probably actually see why I’ve changed through my life from being that spoilt brat and being gay has really actually had nothing to do with the fact of being different or all that. I was different at school and I have often asked them certainly, you know, around the time of your Larry Graysons on tele and ‘shut that door’ and all that, people always used to call you queer or poof or anything like that. At the end of the day when I’ve seen friends that were at school, who are still friends now – and thank goodness for Facebook after all these years – and I would say “but why were you so wicked to us, shall I say more ‘fey’ of the fraternity?” And they would say “to be honest with you we didn’t know what we were saying, we didn’t understand what it was.”

Penelope: The only reason I ask was because the context of toys, the context of a boy, a young boy and his toys at the time that you were growing up is completely different to how it is now and I wondered if there had been any difference, any discernible difference between what you were able to have and what you were not able to have, and what you might have wanted and didn’t get, but it would appear not.

Marc: Not a problem

24.43 – Penelope: So of all the toys you’ve had, the ones we’ve talked about, so the bear, or the Action Man, not so much the Lego, I think it didn’t excite you quite so much, what were your happiest memories of either of those two? The teddy bear or the Action Men?

Marc: That morning my late grandmother, god rest her soul, Elisabeth Lumsden was her name, Elisabeth Lumsden Sinclair, gave me that teddy, I remember it . . .

Penelope: It was clearly very important to you.

Marc: Very clear. And she would sit down with us, I think we had, she was a great soup maker, “Och, they’re lovely” she would say, “Och, they’re lovely”. I never knew what ‘they’ were but obviously it was the soup but I remember that day she’d actually . . . And it was 14 shillings, which in those days was a lot of money. Of course she must have been in her mid 60s I think, so she was on her pension. And she bought it. Dad didn’t buy it. Or Mum didn’t buy it. And there we have it, you know. And I had that for basically 10 years I would have thought. Probably 10 years.

Penelope: A good long time. A good long time. A good long time. So that’s your happiest memory of your toys. Is actually receiving that. And of course the love of your granny.

Marc: Yep. And especially because she didn’t have a tooth in her head and I could never understand why her teeth were so perfect. And of course if they went to a dinner dance Granny would take her teeth out. You know I’d have my teddy, and Granny and my sister there, and she would gurn the whole thing and we used to fall about with laughter the way she would screw her face up. You know, that memory. I’m sure that teddy quire enjoyed it too.

Penelope: Did teddy gurn as well?

Marc: Not really, no. There may have been a bit of gurning when he fell apart, I don’t think he can have been too happy when the dog got him.

Penelope: No, I imagine. So that’s your happiest memory. And I think you’ve probably told me anything you would want to tell me about your toys. So I think I’m going to say thank you very much Marc for a very enjoyable interview. I have enjoyed it a lot and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. All these lovely memories of your life.

Marc: Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure if I may say so and a privilege.

INTERVIEW ENDS – 26m 49 sec

Marc

Marc was born in Islington in 1960 and adopted as a baby. His father was a printer and his mother was a housewife. He grew up in Surrey and then Whistable. He went to boarding school from 1967 to 1976. He is now a professional actor. In the short version (5m 22s) of his interview he mentions his teddy bear, Action Man and Lego. In the full version (26m 58s) he discusses these in more depth and also shares other memories of his childhood.