Sunday, 14 July 2013

Toy Soldiers.

17:09:00 Posted by Shaun Brookes , , , 2 comments
What a week! We've had scorching weather, an Ashes win (the latest of many, hopefully) and are due a royal baby any day now. Summer is officially upon us, and the summers of my childhood were spent playing out.
We got up to allsorts of stuff over the years- had all kinds of crazy adventures with various sets of figures, cars and spaceships. We did the cowboys and indians thing, cops and robbers, hostage and captor (yes- things got a little stranger once we were all a little older) but if I had to name the one set of toys I felt resonated most with me out of the whole set-it would have to be a box of soldiers.

I say resonated most because whilst I was a child I can't really remember any proper wars. They were happening, sure, but I am in that age group that didn't really become aware of any British involvement in war until mid high-school, probably about twelve or thirteen. This gave me some sort of detachment. Our parents weren't in the army and neither were their friends. It was a pretty good game to play actually- whether that meant fighting in the woods or playing with soldiers- and as boys, it could never do us any harm, could it?

That was then- a now golden time when you couldn't google anything as it wasn't an option and when computer games came in 16-bit cartridges. We enjoyed the video games, of course we did, but you can't even begin to compare the eras. War games I played either came from my imagination or those of my particularly twisted friends. We lined soldiers up and made carnage happen- with casualties of war in the shape of a semi-deformed, hog tied Barbie we had acquired for such occasions. We made them up though, with no way of attaching those ideas in the real world, which I feel was important.

Kids now play computer games so realistic they might as well be simulators- glamorising the idea of war with no real thought about what kind of messed up ideas they will come away with. Sure, you can't blame a thing on computer games and I'm certainly not for censorship but, and it is a J-Lo sized big butt, surely we should apply some logic to the situation and stop encouraging teenagers to wire themselves in for realistic battle and be sucked into an army lifestyle they might otherwise not choose.

Today's kids aren't taught about war any more than we were. They don't tell them at school about the Panorama report about more soldiers and veterans commiting suicide in Britain than being killed in Afghanistan last year. They don't tell them that they do that as a result of seeing women and children maimed. They don't tell them about the lack of aftercare if you don't fall through the right cracks in the system. No, most kids learn through the newspapers and through war games that vibrate at them, use their own image on screen and increase their standing with every head shot. The pinnacle of cool. A new hero every day. Honour in death. It all sounds so enticing, doesn't it. You'd have to shoot me first.


I had a box of toys when I was ten
A bucket full of green, cast molded men
Each stood upon a tightly molded base
Frozen in time, in pose, with blanked out face.

That box of toys got broken over time
Each leg and arm attributed to mines
Never because of me, in heavy shoes
Most soldiers found the bin when not of use.

One afternoon in boredom we put a squadron on wall
Just knocked them all off- massacred- with a peppering of balls.
They were cannon fodder by design, so what could they expect
Two heavy handed tyrants smashed the lot off to their deaths.

Occasions like this soon led the numbers to dwindle,
My initial conscription of 1000 were dead
I replaced a few, but found they were still getting broken
So I stopped playing war- it wasn't good for my head.

Thanks for reading,