The importance of being useful

The Revered W Awdry is largely unregarded as an author except in one very specific regard.

He is the creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, along with Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Percy, Toby, Duck, Donald and Douglas. Yes, I can name the engines in number order. And their colours.

The things we learn as children and stick with us into adulthood are as random as they are amusing. Only today I was able to comment to this effect. Being able to name each of Bob the Builder’s chums was essential to successful playing with my sons. No doubt they will experience a similar sensation when aged in their twenties or thirties some small child finds a poster and is astonished to learn that a grown up can identify every character with misty-eyed recollection.

As the Fat Controller (originally the Fat Director, until nationalisation, then reworked) observes, a key motive for this kind of recall is the need to be really useful.

I’m not sure how useful my recall of his engines is, but it’s not the only thing I can remember and I’m certain all that music stuff I picked up in my teens is still paying out dividends in the present.


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