NEWS

2011-12-12

Christmas shop house

IT looks like every child's dream, a 1930s style toy shop packed with treats, warming up for the festive season.

But in fact this antique Santa's grotto is actually a modest pensioner's home, who says it's the only way he celebrates Christmas every year.

Great-grandfather Don Talbot, from Willenhall, West Midlands, spends all year finding unique little knick-knacks and trinkets to fill his home.

The house is adorned with tin plate cars, trains and vintage dolls lined up along a wall, while an ageing Christmas tree proudly displays its antique baubles.

And it doesn't stop there - as 600 fairy lights shine in the hallway alone, along with three Christmas trees - one of which dates back to 1933. 

Countless musical reindeer and Santa ornaments as well as expensive statues from all over the world also fill his house.

Don said he just likes the place "looking jolly" and spends three days decorating the place with the old trinkets.

"It is over the top - I fully admit that," said the 79-year-old, who still works as a mechanical design engineering consultant.

"But it's okay because it's Christmas. It's only a few weeks and it makes everything brighter. I like it looking so jolly."

The vintage tree which dates back to 1933 was bought as a present for his wife Sheila when she was one and sits in pride of place in the back sitting room.

Several of the decorations bought alongside the little tree have also survived the decades, including a painted cat, a red and gold painted bauble featuring a cherub's head and the 'fairy' on top - a 1920s celluloid doll who has been dressed in tinsel as her original clothes fell off through age.

His daughter Michelle, 50, lives nearby and said she always enjoys it when her parents start bringing down the decorations and putting them up - a lengthy, three-day process involving hours of delicate arrangements.

"I think it's lovely. I always offer to come round and help but usually they have it all done themselves," she said.

"I love the shop, of course, but I think my favourite thing has to be the tree. It brings back so many memories as we used to help decorate it when we were little."

The front room is now know as the Toy Shop throughout the holiday season after  someone commented on the style of the glass wall separating the room from the hallway.

The panels of glass, some with puckered centres, just looked like an old store window,   and inspiration struck, said the grandfather-of-two.

He set about building a shelving system which largely slots into place, held to the wall by just two screws, and started filling them with vintage knick-knacks from his daughters' childhood, plus toys his antiques collector sister Margaret had picked up over the years.

And he constantly adds to the collection throughout the year.

"Whenever I'm out, if I see a little shop selling things like this I pop in," he said.

"I usually pick up things which are colourful and small enough to fit on the shelves. Most of them are replicas of old toys as the originals can be quite battered and worn.

"I also like to buy things that remind me of when I was a boy - tipper trucks and old games, things like that.

"Our decorations were completely normal until I made the toy shop and it has just gone on from there."

Children from the neighbourhood, work colleagues and his great-granddaughter Ella-Louise, one, pop in regularly throughout the holiday period to enjoy the grotto-like home and play with some of the toys.

One of his prized decorations, which sits on the mantelpiece in his front lounge, is an expensive ceramic Santa riding a train full of presents.

He bought it while on his summer holidays in Spain four years ago after spotting it in a special Christmas shop, and had to struggle with it all the way home on the plane.

"I love steam trains so I have a lot of those," he said.

"It's all just good fun and the kids enjoy it. We love having the children around. What with the visitors and our musical ornaments there's never a quiet minute over Christmas."