Child Two has the most Lady Bracknellesque expression of outrage on her gorgeous little teenage face. ‘I can’t believe you can get a Sylvanian chimp family now. In my day, the brown rabbit family was exotic!’ she sniffs.
I love the fact that she’s peeved that the Sylvanians have moved on, even while she’s been moving on herself. But I don’t much like it that her Sylvanian days are now so firmly in the past. She – and I – spent many happy years with these impossibly cute creatures. Now, as you’ll know, adults generally like the tasteful wooden stuff and the Beatrix Pottery, Angelina Ballerinay books, while children adore dayglo plastic, beeping electronic rubbish and stuff that’s going to break within a minute of getting home. Sylvanians are one of the very few happy areas of intersection. I loved their pretty, almost-Liberty print dresses and fluffy tails (the squirrel family was my favourite) and Child Two liked the fact that there were so many of them to weave complicated stories over. All her Sylvanians had first and middle names and family trees which made Eastenders look like Jack and Jill, with cousins, remarriages, half-sisters and adopted daughters wherever you looked. All wearing lovely frocks, of course.
I once allowed Child Two to spend all her Amazon voucher money on Sylvanians. A steady stream of tiny mouse, cat and panda babies started to arrive in the post. Eventually, we had to open up a school-cum-orphanage in the Sylvanian windmill to accommodate this massive influx of lonely youngsters. For some reason, Child Two hadn’t ordered any parents to go with the babies, so we had to put the very stern Owl family in charge of the colony. There were only two books in the whole of the Sylvanian community, but luckily one was an ABC and the other a maths textbook, so they were all set to meet the toughest literacy targets. Unfortunately, food was a problem, as I accidentally hoovered up the tea set and most of the sweet shop (have you seen the size of Sylvanian biscuits? They are barely visible to the naked eye. Don’t get me started on the lollipops. I thought the whole lot was hamster food and sucked it up in one fell swoop), but they seemed to thrive anyway.
Child Two’s last set of Sylvanians was the penguins. These were babies, again, bringing up our total of abandoned children to 28, and they were irresistibly cute, wearing pale blue scarves and each coming with its own bottle of milk, thank goodness, so they didn’t cause further strain on depleted food stocks. They had lovely furry tummies.
In Child Two’s mind, Sylvanians are but a shadow of a distant childhood phase. For me, they are still a source of fascination. Rumour has it you can now get a family of elephants. And it’s my birthday soon ….