Lily Fisher and the Gonk
Ronnie Fisher died when I was still quite small but his name came in useful for years when pushy sales reps were trying to get The Communist to buy things he didn't want to stock in his chemist shop.
"I'm sorry, but I'll have to consult my partner, Mr Fisher, and he's not here at the moment."
I don't remember much about Ronnie Fisher except he used to smoke a pipe and I loved the smell of the smoke. I remember him being very tall - - but then, everybody used to be tall when I was little. And, let's face it, most of them still are.
Ronnie Fisher was married to a lady called Lily and they had two sons called Harvey and Raymond who always seemed to be doing boy-scouty-type things. They were much older than I was.
I think Lily must have wanted a daughter too, as she was always very nice to me. One day, when I was about ten, she offered to take me to town to buy me a gonk for Christmas. Of course, I called her "Aunty Lily" - all grown-ups were called aunties and uncles in those days.
If you weren't a child of the Sixties, you are probably wondering "What's a gonk?" Ahhh, you poor things. A gonk was the Sixties must-have cuddly toy - - it was basically an egg-shaped creature made of cloth, or sometimes knitted, with little arms and legs. Like Humpty Dumpty. In fact the world's most famous gonk was probably Humpty on Play School on television.
So, off I went to town with Lily Fisher. I remember her as being much smaller than Ronnie, and I don't remember much else about her - but if I saw a photo of her at that time, I know I would recognise her straight away.
Usually, when I went to town with a grown-up, it was on some kind of grown-uppy shopping expedition to buy dull things like socks and school uniform. My mother hated shopping as much as I did so would wait until there was a whole, huge pile of Very Dull Things Indeed that needed to be bought. We would trail round town for hours. Weeks. Decades. Until finally we had bought all the Very Dull Things, or until we could stand it no more and we went home.
Usually I was so bored that I would fall asleep on the bus on the way home and I deeply resented being woken up and having to walk the hundred yards or so back to our house.
This expedition with Lily Fisher was different. The sole purpose - the SOLE PURPOSE! of this trip was to buy me a gonk. Heaven!
So we looked around several Gonk-Selling Shops, discussing the merits of gonks of different sizes, and the fabrics that they were made of, and the expressions on their faces (always vital to me on any of my large and important collection of dolls and cuddly toys).
Finally, after some time, we found a gonk that I liked. And then it was time for tea in the cafe in Schofields, which was a large and fraightfully refained Department Store. Sandwiches and a bun and a drink of milk in the optimistic days of the mid-Sixties, with some great pop music (that I never heard at home) playing in the cafe! Hurrah! My cup runneth over, all right, I thought: though probably not in those exact words.
Lily Fisher died years ago. I wonder whether she ever knew what an afternoon of bliss she gave me, and how much I loved the gonk she bought me. I hope she did.