I still remember that day vividly. I was returning home from the school. It was late afternoon. There was snow on the ground and it was bitter cold. Yet I was in a completely empty state of mind to ignore everything around me.
My father was sent to London on duty. He was coming back home. And I knew he was going to bring me an electrical train set. The nirvana of all toys at the time.
Neither snow, nor bitter cold, nor people and cars, nothing mattered. My legs were gliding on the ground. I was moving in a time travel tunnel. Images around me were blurred. It was the year 1965.
Every boy has a special toy. Mine was that train set.
My obsession with train sets had started the year before. I was 5+ years old back then and I already had an enormous apatite for books. I was able to read newspaper articles thanks to my patient mum who gave in my nagging and taught me reading (I was too little for school). We also had comics at home. One of them was a black and white copy of the comic book titled “The Valley Of the Cobras” by Herge the creator of TinTin series.
In 1935, six years after Tintin had first appeared in the pages of Le Petit Vingtième, Hergé was approached by Father Courtois, director of the weekly French newspaper Coeurs Vaillants (Valiant Hearts). Coeurs Vaillants also published Tintin's adventures, but while Father Courtois enjoyed Tintin, he wanted a set of characters that would embody classical family values — a young boy, with a father who works, a mother, a sister and a pet — in contrast to the more independent Tintin who, the whole of his career, has had no mention of relatives at all. (*)
I was literally fascinated by the Valley of the Cobras that I read it countless times. One of the scenes I was very fond of was the one showing a rather mean character with the name “Maharajah of Gopal” who was playing on the floor with a toy train joined by Jo, Zette and Jocko (the monkey) in a chalet that belonged to an engineer "Monsieur Legrand" who had given the Maharajah a beating on his buttocks for his ill manners a few days ago while skiing outside. The Maharajah upon realising his meanness decides to behave and buys a toy train for the engineer’s kids Jo and Zette. The real purpose of the Maharajah was to offer Monsieur Legrand a job in his Himalayan province to build a bridge.
Now you understand why and how much I was thrilled two years later on that bitter cold afternoon, as I was gliding towards home, my mind completely absent of anything around me and I was imagining nothing but playing with my train set, just like Joe and Zette in that warm cosy chalet in Switzerland with Maharajah of Gopal.