Last Night’s TV – James May’s Toy Stories

by Lynn Connolly

James-May-Toy Stories

This was one of those ‘ahhhhhh’ shows, and how nice to see one in amidst a TV line-up of surgeries and ‘deep’ issues.

And nobody could’ve been better placed to present this meander back into childhood and unearth those rosy-tinted memories, bringing them squinting into the light of present day. Albeit that the kids he hoped to wow with Airfix quite obviously were only humouring him – because there was a camera around – his affection for his subject made me want to go out and buy a kit.

The group of children he enlisted to help him build a life-size Airfix model probably all hoped to be the next ‘big thing’ to come out of having been on telly, and if not, well, they’ve got it on DVD to show their own kids in years to come. For them, one got the distinct feeling that Airfix was not going to be one of their cherished childhood pastimes.

But James’s love of Airfix was touching, as were his poetic reminiscences of hours and hours of studiously putting the things together. Even his mum and dad got involved in the tale and despite the fact that James is a grown man, the little boy lurks not far beneath the surface, and it was really rather charming to watch.

I’ve always liked James; I’ve always felt he takes the flak on Top Gear with great personable good humour, and though he’s often slated for being the “plodder”, if I had to have a lift from one of the Top Gear team, he’d be my first choice for likely-to-get-me-there-in-one-piece.

He doesn’t live life in the fast lane, he’s clearly a bookish sort and more of a fine Cognac than a WKD, but that said, he understands that sometimes, an explosion is required to retain the interest of others, so he duly obliged the reluctant Airfix building kids by promising them a film of their blowing up their creations. And finally, the light turns on and the kids are interested. Oh dear.

And later on, undeterred by the doubting and numerous voices who suggested that a life-sized Airfix model would be too rickety to function on any level, James was determined to make one, and he did. It was too rickety to function on any level, so a new steel-reinforced one was made and wheeled out to an indulgent crowd, some of whom were actually interested.

And I really liked the life-size James as the giant Airfix’s pilot. It was spookyily like him.

So was there really a point to this show? Nope, not a one, but that was part of its charm. It didn’t ask us any awkward questions about politics or suggest to us that the world’s going to implode and it’s all our fault for leaving the porch light on, so for me, it was a guilt free breath of fresh air.

And being of a ‘certain age’, James’s eulogising about Airfix took me back to my own childhood and memories of my brother, his tongue between his teeth in rapt concentration, his thumb firmly glued to his forefinger, adding a teeny weeny bits of plastic to an indeterminate model of similarly teeny weeny bits. Good times.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.