1969 / 70 were probably the first xmases i paid any attention to.
There was definitely a visit to Father Christmas, probably in Debenhams (or Dingles?). My memory is of a grotto, lots of lights, fake, possibly animatronic, reindeer, elves and whatnot. And a real flesh and blood Father Xmas who gave me a small crappy toy.
Since my birthday was near Xmas, it’s surprising that in my memory there is no issue with the two events getting mixed together. In fact, there’s always been a decent gap between the two, that seemed like an age when I was a kid, but was only three weeks.
My birthday ritual was that I’d be given a catalogue of toys for ideas in the run up and on the day, or near as dammit, my mum would take me out and buy me a few things I wanted. It was a very exciting shopping expedition as it enabled me to pick out and obtain things I really wanted. Usually it was toy cars. But by time I was 8/9 it could have been Airfix models, books, tho not yet records.Exciting and marvellous for gradually ratcheting up my consumerist urges. No doubt this is how it works for everyone. the love and attention we get along with new things sets up associations for life which we never really shake off.
On Christmas Eve the excitement was palpable. I don’t remember any cookies and milk crap; I may have written letters early on, but all I remember is writing want lists...good consumerist child that I was. The ads on during kids telly from about Novemebr clearly helped set up an absurd level of expectation.
One year I woke up some time after going to bed on Xmas eve, all excited, I’d been asleep and assumed now it was morning. When I went downstairs my parents were still up watching tv. It was still Xmas eve!
We’d wake up absurdly early and wait for mum and dad to wake up. I think my sister would come into my room. She came into my room quite a lot as my room was huge and her’s was tiny. Then we’d go downstairs into the living room, still in PJs, and mum would give us a large bag of presents. Actually I remember one year we didn’t go downstairs, but went into mum and dad’s bedroom. I remember playing with a toy soldier set she got me – think it might have been at Keyham when I was 4 or 5.
We got given a lot of books each, some novelty toys and usually games. I liked toy cars. Clothes were uninteresting and not wanted! Comic annuals, Blue Peter Annuals,
Later on my asks grew into electronic stuff – calculators, watches. I probably asked for a computer. Did I get one? No!
Only from 1979 did I start asking for records. Then records and books became my main things, as they have been ever since!
We always had lots of games. I had a tiered tower with hinged legs. The idea was to flick the legs in turns until the tower collapsed. As I tended to play by myself, I made up elaborate games. I also had a football game which consisted of a cardboard pitch and little plastic players. Two teams, blue and red. You had to flick the ball (a plastic counter) from player to player, without it going near the opposition, and then to flick it into the goal. I played this with my Dad mainly. It wasn’t exactly subuteo but I enjoyed it for a while. I roped in my little football players to be extras in my made up games. I put them on various levels of my jenga style tower, and had cars going up and down on the “road” next to the tower, with a few football players also on the pavement. Then I would engineer a tower collapse. The resulting carnage would then allow me to play a game of disaster management. I’d bring the police cars in. Identify the dead and remove their bodies. Any players not standing up were dead.
I also used to play a game of death football, inspired by Rollerball, the idea was to flick the ball hard at the other players. If they fell down they were dead, and removed form the pitch. So by a combination of aggressive flicking and goal-scoring in the convential way, a side could win.
I was big on playing games by myself. Sometimes making up leagues of teams / players.