I was never a dirty kid growing up, but the moment I discovered you got free plastic soldiers in packets of Tide, I became a mudlark overnight.
I would seek out dirt and puddles round the back of my Balham block of flats to increase the necessity of clothes washing: therefore, more soldiers.
My desire was to create my own Terracotta army (only in plastic – and slightly shorter).
Looking back, my mum could have taken in a year’s washing for the entire SW17 postal district and I’d have still come up short of the 8,000 soldiers which the aforementioned army comprises. That’s a lot of Tide. As Balham’s not in a monsoon area, we would never have had enough puddles.
Growing up in the 60s there were often things inside grocery packets – PG Tips and their cards being an obvious example – cereal packets would have toys inside too (small, blue, twisted packets of salt weren’t toys by the way), but this seems to be a thing of the past. My journeys accompanying my mum to the supermarkets on Balham High Road would always be governed by my desire to buy products with free items inside – never mind the quality, feel the gift!
Washing powder has now mainly been replaced by washing liquid – the last thing you want to be doing is fishing out a soldier covered in a viscous cleansing agent; it’d make a mess of your fort for a start!
And if I’d been challenged on my doorstep – I’d have always taken two packets of Tide.