Aromas of moulded plastic and synthetic fur fill the enticing room. Toys from brightly-coloured cars to porcelain china dolls clothed in delicate silk dresses, line the rose wood shelves. An ocean of children, adults and the occasional teenager fill every space. Some try to squeeze past whilst others stand like statues, transfixed. Mixed expressions are displayed on faces, from bored teenagers to ecstatic toddlers. Chatter, laughter and cries of children make the room full of life and atmosphere.
A model train painted a deep ruby-red travels around the room, mimicking the noise of a steam engine. In the front sits a driver, a permanent wide smile carved on its ghostly-white face. It grins and stares straight ahead as the train glides across the tracks. A wisp of steam blasts from the miniature loco-motive.
Nearby, an exhausted mother exclaims, “Don’t put that in your mouth!” She confiscates a wooden soldier, trapped in the mouth of her child. At first he sticks out his tongue in disgust from the strong, bitter taste of the paint. Then he waves his arms wildly and wails, “I want toy!” Screams erupt around the room as it is tossed carelessly back amongst the others. The child scratches her with his little claws, turning crimson from effort and frustration. Impatiently, she grabs his pudgy hand and pulls him away. He abruptly stops shrieking, his attention is brought to the teddies nearby. He cries, “I want bear!”
Teddy-bears ranging from midnight blue to honey yellow sit proudly in the front of the rows of soft toys. With outstretched arms they block all toys cowering behind them from the customers’ view. They show off their glossy fur, soft as a newborn puppy and irresistible to tiny hands. Shiny black eyes, stare in earnest, begging to be chosen.
Somewhere amongst the chaos stands a small group of teenagers. One boy seizes a baby doll dressed in nothing but a pink t-shirt and a nappy. He twists the head around cruelly making the rest of the group snigger. A girl, caked in an inch of makeup squeals hysterically at him exclaiming, “You are so funny!” Smirking at his friends’ reactions, he twists the arms around until they pop out of place. They watch in surprise and laugh amongst themselves. The boy sniggers, “whoops...” then chucks it so that it soars across the room. The broken doll smacks against the shop window then falls into a crumpled mess on the display.
A child stood outside jumps back from the window, eyes widening at the doll that has made a bombshell of the display. The streets are silence apart from his chattering teeth and the occasional car as it drives past. He shuffles forward again, pressing frozen hands against the cool glass. He stares mournfully at the toys that line the shelves and at the horde of people bustling around in the warm, cosy room. In his thin rags, he shakes constantly in the unbearable cold. As he rests his head against the window, his breath condenses into cloudy fog. The door swings open and for a moment he is almost part of the hustle of people, hunting for their last minute Christmas presents. A classy, pretentious woman dressed in luxurious clothes crinkles her nose at his repulsive smell and filthy appearance. He glances at her warm coat miserably, then pulls his tattered hat down as far as possible to cover his frozen ears and walks away.