Blind dates


My fear of heights precluded me ever becoming the Milk Tray man.  As Christmas approaches, thoughts turn to what we can possibly buy which will heighten our bad cholesterol count as we contemplate the annual purchase of a box of dates.

1968 saw the first Milk Tray man ad on TV and ran, with several actors, into the mid-2000s.  I was 11 in 1968 and watched as the man leapt from building to building, through numerous avalanches, combating three-headed dogs along the way to delivering his milk chocolate selection box.

If I’d been better at PE at school, I would have quite fancied that – black is my favourite clothes colour; in my mind, I was halfway there. The SAS-type training being the other half, was an aspect which needed work! I couldn’t vault over a horse during PE, so there was no way I’d be seen on UK TV screens across the land with my important package (my own personal important package being my main concern whilst attempting to leap over a wooden horse in my Tooting school gym).

“And all because the lady loves Milk Tray” – really?  Even “Perfect Praline” which isn’t perfect as so few people know what praline is?  I’m surprised this hasn’t been discontinued as it is the only one which remains in the box after the decorations are put away, the cards taken down and box of dates stored back in the loft.

Milk Tray has been around since 1916; coincidentally the sell-by date on my box of dates.

A verruca is not just for Christmas


In the seventies, I sang in a church choir in Balham (anything to get a place in Heaven). At this time of year we would visit the now extinct St James’s Hospital (I accept no blame for my singing being the catalyst for its closure).

I never had fond memories of the hospital; I was in constant fear of having to remove my clothing as we walked and sang (who said men can’t multi-task?) between wards. This fear stemmed from having to go to St James’s to have a verruca examined, only to be asked to take off all my clothes.  It was mid-Winter and I’ve never looked my best naked when there’s a chill in the air.

We would sing for an hour and then rewarded with mince pies in the hospital refectory; although, it was reward enough (as a teenager) sharing a table with loads of nurses to whom I’d have willingly demonstrated my verruca in true St James’s investigatory style. However, a teenage lad with mince pie crumbs round their mouth and all over their Christmas jumper was unarguably unattractive.

After the hospital we’d convene to The Hope on Wandsworth Common (mince pies can be very dehydrating). A consequence of this visit ensured that during Midnight Mass at least one choir member, at the beginning of each verse of “Once in Royal David’s City”, popped out to the topically holly-infested outside toilets of St Mary’s Primary school.

These were the days before pub closing times were extended, so the church was packed (with a third of the congregation wondering why the band wasn’t terribly upbeat and why were too many songs about donkeys on the juke box?). Although they were soon topped up with a Communion wine sharpener – certainly the ones who didn’t fall down the (particularly if you’ve had a few ) steep chancel steps.

This year I’ve asked Santa for a nurse’s outfit. Knowing my luck, it’ll be delivered by someone who was once in Emergency Ward 10 as they’ll be 100!

Happy Christmas, mine’s a verruca.

Having the decorators in

paper chain

Balham Woolworth’s was the only place worthy of buying Christmas decorations from when I was growing up in the sixties.

The choice was a pack of lick-it-yourself paper chains and, well, that was it really, unless you count baubles for Christmas trees made out of material which would decompose before Twelfth Night.

Nowadays houses are decorated with lights brighter than ones used at Colditz and festooned with various Christmas-related mammals on rooftops – Reindeer, Snowmen, Father Christmases or, if you lived near pagan arsonists, Wicker Men. These decorations are in evidence shortly after Easter or, at worst, after the clocks have gone back – thus taking full advantage of the darker nights.

In the sixties, my task was to stick the paper chain paper together.   It was probably the only colourful thing in our flat, unless you include the yellow ceiling courtesy of mum and dad’s JPS and Senior Services respectively.  Thankfully I wasn’t colour blind, so the lead up to Christmas (or Advent as Latin speakers call it) was like Joseph and his limited-coloured dream coat.  Only primary colours were used with these aforementioned paper chains.  But what you did get, and only for Christmas, was dehydration.  Even though we were only in a small flat, to create a chain going from the four corners of the lounge, took a lot of licking.  I’d have been more hydrated if I’ve polished off a packet of Jacob’s Crackers.

We did have a nice tree though, although neither parent got the timing of the flashing lights right and when anyone visited they’d be handed a card saying: “this lounge features strobe-lighting”.  The speed varied between the North Foreland Lighthouse to a club in Ayia Napa!

Wonder if Chris Rea’s set off yet?