Annuals of history

Every Christmas, during the ‘60s, I would be given, alongside two tangerines; a handful of walnuts and 2-packets of last years’ dates, the mandatory annual.

Which subject would my parents choose?  Had they been listening to me throughout the year to get a feel in what I was interested in?

As, for several years on the trot, I received the Rupert annual, they clearly hadn’t.  Unless they thought I was a secret Daily Express reader, I was always slightly disappointed.  I didn’t possess a matching pair of distasteful yellow scarf and trousers – if I had been posher, I might have had; but this was Balham in the ‘60s, so that was never happening.

I’d have liked to have got the first edition, published in 1936, featuring stories where Rupert trains with Jesse Owens and Hitler invades Nutwood, with the pretence that there were German speakers living there.

After a while of the annuals still being in pristine condition the following December, my parents changed tack.

The Coronation Street annual was never the same after 1964, as it no longer featured pictures of Martha Longhurst.

I was thrilled, in 1967, to get the Man from U.N.C.L.E. annual – I’d always wanted to be Illya Kuryakin and had, as a teenager, an interest in east European female gymnasts.

My parental procurement of my annual annual stopped in 1972.  Aged 15, you really don’t want your mates coming round to your place and seeing The Clangers annual taking pride of place on your bookcase.

There were some great soup recipes inside, though.

Roy Wood, would you?

You could have been on Mars for several years and returned, not knowing what day it was, until you walked into a shop only to hear Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you” and know it was approaching Christmas – or, in some shops, early October.

It seems that Christmas music being played in shops is introduced ever earlier – it does beg the Band Aid question, do they know it’s Christmas?

I’m not sure, while looking for the mandatory bath salts for my mum, that I want Noddy Holder screaming at me; nor do I need to be reminded of the unnecessarily long car journey Chris Rea’s embarking on – move house, Chris!  Or, get an Uber.

Would I, as Roy Wood might suggest, wish it could be Christmas every day?  No, as I’d a. be skint and b. there isn’t a factory providing an infinite amount of bath salts that’s yet been built.

I’d happily rock around the clock with Brenda Lee, except I’ve developed plantar fasciitis – which is not the Latin for cactus.

It’s handy, if you’re looking for a row at Christmas, to know all the lyrics to the Pogues’ Christmas offering; if this is the case then “Step into Christmas” would be renamed “Step outside”.

And Dean Martin’s “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” would have been banned by the BBC in 1962.

The postman only rings after playtime

In December, during the ‘60s, in my Balham primary school, there would be a temporary post box put in the playground. 

Its use was for pupils to put our Christmas cards into, It was purely for our fellow pupils – although some didn’t realise this and those with relatives in far-away countries were quite disappointed that Auntie Gladys in Brisbane would moan she’d  not received a single card for years.

The cards would be delivered; unless you had siblings at the school, you tended to get twenty-nine cards – from your fellow classmates. 

I realised, after I’d finished full-time education, that you only tended to know your actual classmates, apart from the boys’ names announced at the Monday morning assembly announcing anyone with any sporting prowess or were (yet again) on detention.

Receiving so many cards was great, the problem was was that twenty-nine also had to be written.  I got very bored signing everyone “Happy Christmas, Mick” and so mixed my signature up with people I’d seen on TV or were sporting heroes.  I’d sign many as “John Drake” or “Amos Burke”; many girls in my class would wonder who Gerd Müller was, and several boys would get excited thinking they’d got a card from Nancy Sinatra or Mandy Rice-Davies.

This Christmas I shall be confusing friends and family with my Christmas signature of “Be lucky, Pol Pot”.  Confusing as a. he’s dead and b. wasn’t terribly Christian.  You certainly wouldn’t have wanted to sit on his knee, let alone enter his grotto.  Be lucky, Mick.