So it's strange that the book I write about here, which I love above almost all others, is so incredibly simple. I was reminded of it a few weeks ago; the Little Helper has discovered our family's love of books (he is currently asleep in his cot upstairs with four board books), and the books that we (and my parents) read to him most are the Topsy and Tim books. I don't know how much he understands but he will sit absolutely still and with utter concentration as we read them to him. He loves Topsy but doesn't seem to have much time for Tim and won't mention his name.
My favourite of this series (and by the way I am talking about the books as I first read them in the 70s - not the redrawn and rewritten editions of the 80s and 90s which I find boring and mediocre) is Topsy and Tim's Friday Book. There is just so much to love about this book: a Party invitation! Dressing up! Burnt cork moustaches and pretend earrings! Party tea! Prizes! It sums up the best of my childhood. We did all of these things frequently. My mother organised the most marvellous parties and created delicious teas (oh, the sophistication of party dip and crisps!) with homemade cakes made to look like Dougal from the Magic Roundabout, individual jellies with the colour from the hundreds-and-thousands melting across the surface and tiny pink meringues. My father made up amazing games - eating crisps noisily through a microphone or filling in the noises in a story. And then there was Hunt the Smarties - dozens of small girls in long party dresses (this was the 70s after all!) scouring the house for hidden stashes of Smarties to fill up empty Smarties tubes.
So here are my favourite pictures from the story:
I love this picture - Mummy in her lovely dress at her sewing machine making dressing up outfits for Topsy and Tim and what I like most is the yellow ric-rac she's sewing on the waistcoats (I had an identical waistcoat and matching trousers in royal blue, but with red ric-rac). I like to think that maybe this picture inspired my love of sewing for children.
Here are Topsy and Tim on their way to the party, and there's Mummy, always in her hat and gloves, and look, there's Tony Welch dressed as a box of matches. Incidentally, it is impossible to say the words "Wait for me" to me or my two sisters without us completing the phrase "...called Tony Welch's voice, I'm a box of matches". I know it must annoy everyone, but it invariably makes us laugh.
And my favourite picture, the party tea. See, none of your cut up carrot and cucumber sticks or cherry tomatoes here. This is what party tea should be - sticky, sweet and an unadulterated treat.
I love this book because it makes me happy. It makes my children happy. It is uncomplicated and true and I will never grow tired of reading it.