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Image copyright Tess Kincaid
The day I was given my kaleidoscope was one of the happiest of my childhood. I was entranced by the colours and the ever-changing patterns. I took it to Danny’s house, excited to share my new treasure with him. Danny was older than me and more worldly but I could see he was impressed.
He said, ‘How does it work?’ and I showed him but he shook his head impatiently.
‘No, I mean where do the patterns come from?’
I didn’t really understand but mumbled something my father had told me about mirrors and pieces of coloured plastic. Danny scoffed, ‘I don’t believe that.’
I asked him how he thought it worked and he pondered a while and then said there might be a small roll inside like a musical box but with pictures instead of spikes. I was struck with his knowledge of things mechanical and cautiously agreed that he might be right but I was sure my father had mentioned mirrors.
Danny said, ‘Let’s find out.’
I was reluctant but he was insistent – and older – and I really wanted him to carry on being my friend, so I went along with his suggestion. Danny took out his penknife and prised off one end of the kaleidoscope. A shower of bright plastic shapes fell onto the floor and Danny conceded that my father had been right about those. He maintained his suspicion about the mirrors, however, and quickly ripped open the other end of the cardboard tube.
When he saw the mirrors, he grunted and said that though his idea about the roll of pictures had been a good one, the mirrors and coloured plastic worked just as well. I nodded miserably, tears threatening, and asked Danny to put my kaleidoscope together again. He did his best with sticky tape but it didn’t really work properly. Danny was better at taking things apart than mending them, I realised.
Our friendship continued for a while after that but then we drifted apart, going to separate schools in different towns. I never forgave Danny for breaking my special toy, though it was more than fifty years ago.
The day I was given my kaleidoscope was one of the unhappiest of my childhood.