This article originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 12 November 2011.
When I was a young boy, the July school holidays usually meant a trip to the UK to visit my father, who spent half the year in Europe and the UK on the professional golf tour. The highlight of the trip (besides saying hello to dad of course) was a visit to some family friends – Mr and Mrs Young. Each year the Young’s would give me fifty pounds to spend on whatever I fancied, a lot of money back in the 1980’s. My usual approach to spending the money was to nag my parents into taking me to Hamleys toy store on Regent Street, apparently the largest toy store in the world, with seven floors of fun and adventure. I would usually be dropped off at the store in the morning and told to be outside the front door four hours later, giving me plenty of time to explore every inch of the store, with my fifty pounds burning a hole in my pocket.
And there were plenty of temptations. Should I get some more dinky cars for my collection? What about a remote-controlled truck? Or a Meccano set? Or an army of little tin soldiers? Perhaps I needed another model aeroplane to build or a character from the Masters of the Universe? Whatever you fancied, it was there, hidden somewhere in the 54,000 square foot of toys toys and more toys. Often the sheer number of toys and goodies on display would simply overwhelm me, and with the four hour deadline fast approaching, I would have just minutes to choose something….anything….and would invariably end up handing over my fifty pounds for something made of plastic and with lots of flashing lights. I’d rush home with my new toy, break it within ten minutes, and then spend the rest of the day reflecting on my sad life and the fleeting and ephemeral joy one derives from spending whole lot of money on complete rubbish.
It wasn’t until many years later that I finally figured out what I really should have been buying with my fifty pounds – shares in BHP Billiton. If I had the foresight to spend my fifty pounds on BHP shares each year, I would now be sitting on a tidy investment worth just over $23,000. A little deposit perhaps towards the fast red sports car that somebody wants for their fortieth birthday. I guess the toys never change, they just get bigger and more expensive