Thursday 4 October 2012

Tootles the taxi and other rhymes

so I bring you some excerpts from Tootles the Taxi
by Joyce B. Clegg
illustrations by John Kenney.

 A trip to the pillar box at the top of our road
was my first solo outing.
It felt as though I had walked miles.
The responsibility of posting that letter weighed heavily.

 The verse that is missing from my edition  goes:
I'm Billy the baker's van,
Painted bright red;
I carry the sugar buns,
Pastry and bread.
I take all the orders
Round to each door,
And all of my customers
Come back for more!

We had just such a van calling at my primary school,
and the baker, clad in a brown overall, carried
an enormous wicker basket full of loaves.
He called me Lucinda which I found
simultaneously flattering and worrying.
The bread at home, two white bloomers,
was delivered by Michael on his bike
from O'Brien's the grocer.
The sugar buns were collected from the corner shop 
at the bottom of the road.
That was my second solo destination
and I had a to buy a pot of strawberry jam.

 We didn't have a car so an inordinate amount of time
was spent waiting for trolley buses.
I have never had such cold feet again.
I remember the high banks of filthy snow at the kerbside
during the winter of 1963.

Our first milkman had to pull his trolley
which was a battery assisted cart.
I asked him to name a new doll and he said,
'Why not call her Mary Ann?' so I did.

 Learning to ride a bike was an all or nothing business.
No training wheels, no helmet, just
a swift push on the bumpy driveway
down a steepish slope and a messy crash
into a rhododendron bush.
Later I used to cycle round the block.
A girl called Pamela West waved from across the street
 and invited me to tea.
I said I would have to go home and ask.
When I got back, she had disappeared 
and I didn't have the nerve to knock at the door
of her large and silent house,
so I went home again.

A trip in a taxi was a rare event
and certainly not a casual jaunt for lone children.
A man called Wallace was sometimes booked 
to take us to the station when we went on our annual holiday.
The luggage had been packed in a huge tin trunk 
and sent ahead of us to one or other seaside hotel,
sometimes Cornwall, often Bournemouth.
This meant dressing in very odd clothes until we left.
Goodness that sounds antediluvian.

In fact we may well have stayed in school uniform
as the boys here and in Just William always seemed to do.


  1. Those faces on the vehicle illustrations put me in mind of "Thomas the Tank Engine". Do you know if they were they closely contemporaneous?

    1. Tootles the Taxi first pub.1956, Rev. Awdry started in 1945. See also interesting post and comments here:

    2. The illustrator of this also illustrated a number of the Railway Series books by the Rev. Awdry

  2. What a lovely, nostalgic post, Lucinda. (Still flattering and worrying?) I was always cross that I narrowly missed the tin trunk era.

    1. Because he was a grown up it was almost as though he knew better than me what my name was. I didn't much like being teased but I was getting attention!

  3. Goodness, I remember that book. I think my cousin had a copy.

  4. I read that book to my Son every night for a year, twenty odd years ago. Happy times.

  5. A brilliant post, just brilliant from start to finish. The binmen used to call for me when I was little and I was allowed to go with them. They would prop me up on the front seat and I could do the rounds with them. When we got back my mum used to give them a cup of tea and cakes.

    1. I just love the picture you have conjured up, riding with the bin men! Imagine that now! Did they wear cor blimey trousers?

  6. Thank you for such an enjoyable post. It was different in Scotland. Something came on a horse and cart. I think it may have been coal. Sometimes we got a delivery of lemonade and a tin of Smith's crisps. Does anyone else remember those big tins full of crisps with the blue twist of salt? On Saturdays Fisher & Donaldson, the bakers, would come all the way to our village with treats for Saturday teatimes. My sister and I would get a Tunnock's teacake and my mother would get a sort of fudge and chocolate thing with a half walnut on top which she christened "a sinker"! The joys of a Scottish diet.

  7. Ha! Ha! Can't remember the trousers or whether they lived in council flats! Years later when I married and was living on an RAF base, the binmen used to wear officers' hats and it used to make me roar with laughter. They must have taken them from bins...........

  8. Catching up today after a couple of weeks absence...not sure anyone noticed :)
    Anyway, of everything here in these latest posts it is the Japanese laundered shirts that grab my attention, and remind me of the year I spent as an ESL assistant at my college. Gifts from the Japanese students included exquisitely wrapped mundane items such as coloured sugar cubes for tea.
    I read many books like the one above as a child - but American versions with children named Tommy and Patty.

  9. We had "Tootles the Taxi" as well - in fact we probably still have it. Must look. I think I remember that we also had a more modern edition, with greatly inferior pictures. Our son (the youngest child) was and is a great fan of vehicles.

  10. I can remember the big boys making slides on the ice in 1963.

  11. My boys loved me reading this to them when they were little! This lovely post brought back some wonderful memories.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger