The elephant that glows in the dark

By - Tuesday 24th December, 2013

Our last writer before we take a break for christmas, Terry Coleman gives us the history of a festive family heirloom

A little family tale, a conceit for Christmas.

As a child I visited my grandmother often, she lived nearby in a tiny cottage at West Croydon. It was a happy house and Nanny was a kind and generous person. The front parlour was full of knick knacks, artefacts of all kinds; some items had been brought from strange and exotic lands by my uncles who served in the navy.

There was one item that fascinated me that stood on the mantelpiece. We could look but not touch and I could tell that it was very important to Nan. It was the elephant – not jumbo, just the elephant. It had stood in the same place for many years, through the hustle and bustle of family life, through the years of the blitz when the houses shook, the elephant stood firm and survived.

I once asked my mum if she knew where the elephant had come from and she told me that many years ago Nanny and Grandad were at a bank holiday fair when Grandad had a go at the coconut shy. He was a man with a strong arm and a keen eye, and in his younger days had driven the horse buses through Croydon. Grandad won a prize and presented it to Nanny – it was the elephant.

Nanny passed away in 1956 and the elephant went to Aunty Daisy, a kind and generous person who also lived in a tiny cottage at West Croydon. Aunty Daisy was not such a large collector of artefacts and the elephant had a very nice position on her mantelpiece. It was there until Aunty Daisy passed away in 1985.

Aunty Daisy’s son, my cousin Ken, was the next custodian of the elephant. It stayed with him until 2005 when Ken decided it was time to pass it on to me.

The elephant now sits on my windowsill. I give him a wipe over with a damp cloth occasionally – he’s just there.

Sometimes on a cold winters night when the lights are low and there’s something gentle on the music centre and the eyes become heavy, I fancy I see a sort of glow coming from the elephant and that gives me a kind of reassuring glow too.

So there you have it folks – with a spot of digital magic to create the image.

I raise a glass to the continuity of family life.

Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Terry Coleman

Terry Coleman

Retired bloke having a lot of fun doing what he wants after 51 years doing what the bosses wanted. Croydon born & bred. Politics-Blairite, Faith-Agnostic, Interests-Music (mostly Ellington), Reading, Pilates, Gym.

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  • George Harfleet

    A well-painted narrative of part of your remembrances. Best Wishes for 2014

    • Terry Coleman

      Thanks for your kind words George. Best Wishes to you for 2014.

  • Jonny Rose


    Always enjoy your recollection pieces. Absolutely fascinating to get little glimpses of Croydon life from the near-past.

    Look forward to more in 2014, sir! :)

    • Terry Coleman

      Let’s make it a good new year for this old town of ours Jonny, I shall pick up the horn and blow a chorus or two for the Engineers, so watch this space. Big changes are afoot and it will be the doers like you who make them happen. Yay!