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Mrs Lucas was so cross with me that for ages she would call me a thief whenever she saw me. However, I soon got proof that someone important didn't believe her and the eight year old me happily played with that proof every day throughout the summer of 1954. I wasn't worried what angry old Mrs Lucas said, because I'd been given a gift that proved that somebody upstairs liked me. This is how it happened!
I can remember being envious of the large collection of toy soldiers Tony Lucas had, but that didn't excuse my stealing two. To be accurate they were miniature cowboy's and Indian's, and I had taken one of each home with me. Later that same day and full of remorse, I'd attempted to sneak them back through the hedge of Tony's garden but the fearsome Mrs Lucas caught me. She would not listen to my plea that I was returning them and I was known by her, and her alone, as Kenny Tuffs the thief, for many years to come.
The events of that upsetting day played on my mind, for I was trying to return the toys so how could I be a thief? It was not long after that horrible day that I went shopping with my mother to the nearby town of Guildford and we visited, Jeffery's, the sports shop, where my brother Wally worked. My eldest brother no longer lived with us for he had married the previous year and so I was excited to see him. I loved going to Jeffery's, for the people who worked there always made a fuss of me, and this visit turned out to be extra special. Wally told me that a man called Jim wanted to see me in the repair shop and together we climbed the rickety stairs I would one day know so well. There were two people working there and they both said a cheery "Hello." One was called Peter and the other was the Jim who had asked to see me. To my young eyes this was a place of mystery and adventure for the room was full of exciting things that needed repairing. There were guns galore, pistols, rifles and shot guns. There was a strange machine where the man called Peter was doing something to a tennis racket, and all around there were cricket bats, hockey sticks and fishing rods. Peter showed me a real Robin Hood type bow and a pair of Ski's that could be used to move around on snow. I was the happiest of lads just being there and for a while forgot the Mrs Lucas nightmare.
It was not long before the man called Jim asked me if I'd been a good boy and, despite my guilt about you know what, I still answered, "Yes." "In that case I've got a present for you", he said, and from a shelf he took a big box which he handed to me. There are some memories that never fade and I can recall as if it was yesterday what I saw as I opened that box. It was full to the top of assorted toy soldiers including my favourite cowboys and Indians. I could not believe my eyes or believe that this treasure was now mine and, as I excitedly sorted through them, I found that the box included sword fighters and world war one soldiers. What's more, these toys were not made of cheap old plastic for these were made of a special metal called Lead! Long before that day I'd heard adults use the expression, 'The Man Upstairs', when referring to God and in the weeks that followed my young mind rationalised that, perhaps, that was what had happened to me. I had not done wrong, I was not a thief, If I had been I would not have been given all the toy soldiers by the man upstairs in the repair shop, would I? It was Mrs Lucas who'd done the wrong thing and not me!
As the years passed and I became older and wiser, I realised I'd done something that I now hate to see others doing and that is justifying bad behaviour with feeble excuses. There was nothing wrong with dear old Mrs Lucas and in time she grew to like me. On one occasion she even visited me at my home in Wales with her son, my old friend Tony. As regards to the identity of the man upstairs and the gift of the box of toy soldiers, well one must admit the timing of the gift was a bit spooky. The giver was a kind man called Jim Evans and even if he wasn't God, at that time he was certainly like my very own Father Christmas!
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