Shamleys

Turns out, its pretty difficult to buy ninja weapons at toy shops anymore. Its political correctness gone mad, nanny state gone bananas and anti-ninja laws gone bonkersarooni. I remember back in the day when you used to be able to pop down to your local Toys R Us and buy a playschool bath toy, followed by a cannon, some garottes and a selection of grenades. Long gone are those days. All I wanted to buy yesterday were some nunchucks. Some frikkin’ nunchucks. Could I find them anywhere? Could I blimey. I’m not sure what that means but I heard someone say it once and I liked it. For those that are uninitiated, nunchucks isn’t some sort of sport for holy women. No, its a sophisticated ninja weapon combining two rather hard sticks and a chain to connect them with so you can fling them in people’s faces. Or do a proper Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon stylee and smack up some peoples proper like. I need some for the play thingy this afternoon and I searched the realms of the West End all the way to Kilburn High St, where shops happily sell lighter fluid next to party poppers, but alas none of them had nunchucks.

The biggest disappointment was not the lack of nunchucks, but more my brief visit to Hamleys. I haven’t been to Hamleys in quite some time, but it used to be a magical house of wonder. I remember scrambling up the stairs and running around all the different sections from pirate costumes to transformers toys to small furry monkeys and the sort of things built with Lego that you could only dream of making, when in reality you know you’d lost the last corner bit you’d need for Darth Vader’s head. It had that old Victorian building feel where you might expect to pop into the loos and end up in Narnia. It was incredible and truly held aloft its title as best toy shop in the world ever. As I strolled in to look for ninja weaponary of the more plastic kind, I was excited to have a bit of a look around without looking like a dodgy lone man in a kid’s toy shop.

Its Hamley’s 250th anniversary and what they’ve done to celebrate is to entirely gut the whole place and rip all of its enchantment and wonder out. There is now just one floor for boys, one floor for girls, and the other three contain the sort or pap that even Tiny Tim would say ‘bullshit’ about on Christmas Day. Gone are the acres of fancy dress and when I asked one of the ‘not-very-helpers’ where to find it, he pointed me to a selection of four costumes, containing two wizards, one knight and one spaceman, complete with a huge lack of imagination. I was about to storm out in anger, when I turned around to see two imperial Stormtroopers, Leia in the bounty hunter costume from Return of The Jedi and some shit characters from the prequels that noone cares about. Suddenly, much like a child, I got a bit excited. Then several men in hi-vis jackets pushed me out of the way and it became clear as they left the ‘party area’ that this was part of some rich child’s over elaborate birthday party. All the other excited kids where shoved out of the way and like a tiny emperor, snooty boy and his family lorded over the force.

I can only assume someone has handed Hamleys over to the dark side. You want to know why kids are obese and stabbing people? Because you no longer have a whole wall of pointless bendy straws and gyroscopes, Hamleys, thats why. You have deprived the imagination to the point where these kids will go home, bereft from the lack of attention from an imperial guard (who in all rights shouldn’t give them attention anyway as Vader wouldn’t allow softness like that) and instead seek solace in eating till they burst or stabbing friends with the real versions of the ninja toys they couldn’t buy in their in the first place. Probably. Maybe I’m just jealous I couldn’t have a pic with General Grievous.

Forgot to post this yesterday, but on my way back on Friday night, I tuned into the ever brillant God’s Jukebox on Radio 2, Mark Lamarr’s brilliant show. His guest was a man called Geno Washington, who, in my mind now joins the ranks of James Earl Jones and Tom Waits in the stakes of voices I’d like to have for a day. Check him out, listen, then imagine asking for a cup of tea with those tones. Amazing.

Lastly, last time I’ll plug this, but despite footie and tennis boredom, there is culture happening today. Come along to the Pleasance for 4pm for some of this:

ITCH: A SCRATCH EVENT

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