Friday, May 25, 2007

The one that got away

Every tin soldier collector has a story or two to tell. A collector, with pride will tell you of their most cherished piece. Sometimes the collector will stand between you and the shelf where the favorite piece is located. With this subtle body language posturing he is letting you know he wants you to listen and admire his pride and joy. HOWEVER, don’t even think about reaching out to touch it.

He might hold it up for you to admire from his zone of comfort. If one leans too close, or reaches out for it a collector can make his cherished piece disappear in the wink of an eye, faster then any slight–of–hand carnival magician. Only to have it reappear moments later on a higher shelf safely out of reach.

.........and then of course, every collector with a long face and moist eyes can tell the story of "the one that got away".

It is the second type of story I wish to address today.

It happened in October of last year. I was walking through an open air market enjoying the fresh air and the used items for sale. My grandson pointed out a metal figurine sitting all alone on a rickety old card table.

“It wasn’t a soldier.” I thought to myself. “It’s only that logo for “Beefeater’s Gin.” The figurine was the perfect size for my collection; the colors were bright and unscratched. But it wasn’t a soldier. At the best it was only a tour guide at the Tower of London. For a lark I asked the price. It was almost a “steal” if only it was a soldier. My collection was growing and I didn’t have more room for....... just figurines. I wanted only real warriors, I replaced him in the center of the old table and grasping my grandson’s cold hand we returned to our warm house.

The first thing I did was run a search engine hunt for Beefeaters. I found out their real name is Yeomen of the Royal Guard. Henry VII appointed them in 1485. As I read their story my head slowly bent forward hanging only inches above my keyboard when I read a paragraph something like this;

Today there are only thirty-five Yeomen of the Royal Guards, Warders of the Tower of London and one Chief Warder. One of their every day duties does consist of tour guide duty at the Tower. Now comes the sad part. Before they are even considered for the post a Yeomen Warder of the Royal Guard must have served honorably and retired from the Armed Forces as a senior non Commissioned officer. Not only are the “Beef Eaters" soldiers, they are thirty-six of England’s BEST.

The open air market is a weekly event and every week since that brisk October day I have walked through it with my head hung and dragging my feet as I vainly search for the one that got away
Ron Miller

Britains, Hanks, Renvoise, Timpo and would you believe, Soldiers' Soldiers, No 328, all produced Beefeaters, and the gin factory was at Lambeth, only a hop, skip and a jump from the Soldier Shop. What a tonic!

John Tunstill