HOW do you spell your surname I asked?

Mike replied S-l-o-c-o-MBE and said that was the nearest he would ever get to being awarded an MBE.

Who says working in the most famous toy shop in Taunton for 60 years does not give you a sense of humour?

It would not only give you a sense of humour but a sense of pride matched by the loyalty of your customers.

The Mike Slocombe of whom I speak is the owner and proprietor along with his wife (Marlene) of Watkin Toys at 6 East Reach in the town centre.

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He has been working at the shop for 60 years but has owned it since 1989, when original owners Mr and Mrs Watkin called it a day and he stepped up to the plate to buy the business.

Even though they called time on their working careers, their name has stayed above the shop door.

This is because it is a landmark in the town and probably in South West England.

Walking into Watkin Toy shop is like entering an Aladdin’s cave of colour which overwhelms your senses.

Even the oldest person will be instantly transported back to the days of their youth when ‘real toy shops like Watkin could be seen the length and breadth of the country.

But how many are left today?

In Taunton, Watkin Toy s hop has stood the test of time since 1940 when it opened its doors as a cycle shop but over the preceding generations has changed from a bicycle shop into a toy shop.

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And now it is landmark, the oldest toy ship in Taunton, which for Mike is a badge of pride which he wears with honour and delight.

It sells everything you would expect a toy shop to sell and probably a bit more you did not.

On the shelves are toy cars, dolls, jigsaws, wooden toys, train sets, Scalextric sets, chemistry sets, skipping ropes and hoola hoops to name but a fraction of the stock.

Mike said: “What has it been like working in a toy shop for 60 years?

“It has been a pleasure.

“What has kept it all going is the loyalty of the customers.

Without that we would not be here.

“The young children who first came into the shop in the last 60 years are still coming in, even though they are adults.

“They still like to buy a jigsaws or bits of kit for their railway sets.

“Lads these day are buying Lego and that is not surprising, as it is aimed at those aged between nought and 100 years old.

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“The girls are still buying Barbie dolls and dresses for the dolls.

“What is astonishing is what I have seen in the last few years is children and even adults are going retro. (Buying what you would describe as traditional toys and games)

“They are going back to traditional games, traditional toys which were bought for them by their grandparents and who in turn bought them for their children.

“It seems those who were brought up on computer games missed out on traditional toys and now want their children to enjoy these, if you would, retro toys.

“What people (children and adults) are looking for when they come into the shop is magic.”

And at Watkin Toys, this magic is experienced by young and old.

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Mike told a number of stories to me like the 80 year old who came in and bought a match building kit which allowed him to build a model steam engine.

Mike said what was good about it was it gave the old gent something to do, it helped with his hand and eye co-ordination and it was something he could tell his grandchildren that their grandfather had built this with his own hands.

There were the children, like the young girl who would leave the shop without a large toy dog.

She had seen the dog on a previous visit and would not leave on her second visit without the dog.

She would not allow Mike to wrap it up she wanted her dog just as it was in the shop.

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The joy enjoyed by customers who go into Watkin Toy shop was the main thing on Mike’s mind when he attended the first major toy fair of the year.

This is the main fair which toy manufacturers and toy buyers come together so the buyers can see what the toys will be which are set to be in their shops this Christmas 2018.

Mike said: “It is interesting to see how toys influence children’s choices for job later in their lives.

“We had a child how came into the shop and they only bought helicopters, he went on to work for Westlands (manufacturer of helicopters).

“There was another who bought Meccano who went on to be a builder of a boy who bought Lego and went on be be an engineer.

“I had a mum come into the shop with her daughter and asked her what she would like.

“Her daughter said she wanted a doll, nappies etc the whole thing you would need if you were looking after a child.

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“The mum said didn’t she (her daughter) think she was too old for all that as she was eight years old.

“I asked the mum what she did as a job and she said she was a nurse.

“I said your daughter is only trying to be like you.

“She didn’t believe me (at the time) but in the following weeks she came back in and bought the lot.”

Working in the shop as Mike said has given him pleasure but also employment.

This has meant he has never been out of work and is busy every day.

Mike said: “When the Post Office was open in East Reach, the mums would take their children along with them but a number would go missing.

“When the police got the message they used to head for two shops, the pet shop and the toy shop.

“They would find the kids in one of these.”

And today the Watkin Toy shop is still weaving its magic as young and old find themselves enthralled with what they find on the shelves.

A toy shop makes kids enjoy being kids and makes adults feel like they are children again.

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The colours, the amount of toys, dazzle your senses and leave you unable to take it all in.

It is a magical and happy place for everyone.

For many they must feel like Peter Pan and wish for a moment they had never grown up.

Maybe someone in the right tier of power in Taunton or maybe a number of customer should nominate Mike for an MBE, then he can be given an honour for his work with the community or his contribution to business.

But more than likely it would be a perfect to his very own Toy Story.

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