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Sunday, 8 December 2013
A TALE OF TWO SANTAS...
Christmas selection box Santa
I was supposed to go to my primary school Christmas dance that December night in 1968 or '69 - I'd already paid my 6d - but the thought of having to undergo the embarrassment of prancing about with a bunch of soppy girls far outweighed the tempting delights of ice cream, mince pies, soft drinks and whatever other seasonal delicacies were on offer that particular evening. The dance lessons in the school hall which had been sprung on us on the run-up to the occasion were bad enough - what with me falling over my two left feet and having about as much rhythm as an epileptic on speed - but the prospect of the actual event was more than I could bear. So I did the only thing I could - I claimed I had a headache and wasn't feeling well and thereby avoided the whole sorry spectacle altogether.
Later, when it was too late to attend the party, I staged a miraculous recovery and trotted over to the shops across the road from my house and spent my pocket-money on, I seem to remember, a selection box and a selection stocking. (Or was it only the stocking? I think it was both.) I no longer recall if they were by Mars or Cadbury's, but the cardboard backing to the stocking (unless I'm mixing them up) had a cut-out Santa puppet which I actually assembled but never kept. However, I did snip and save the illustration of the Santa, plus the one from the front of the box. Funnily enough, for years I had associated this night with also buying a copy of TV21, which I recollect having a fleet of FIREBALL XL ships taking off on the left-hand side of the page, either on the cover or centrespread, but the only page I can find that that fits the description doesn't match the year, so I suspect I'm mixing two separate but similar evenings into one.
Christmas selection stocking Santa puppet illo
I'm not altogether sure, but I suspect the year of the party may've been '69 rather than '68, because that would've been the last Christmas that those of us due to attend secondary school after the summer holidays of 1970 would see in our old primary. I therefore think that the dance aspect of the party was to better prepare us pimply-faced youths for our adolescent dealings with the opposite sex as we approached the next great stage of our scholastic lives. In fact, now that I think of it, there was probably a dance every end-of-year for pupils of a certain age. Younger kids would doubtless have a party with games on a different night, while older ones had to endure the humiliation of having to foxtrot for their treats.
Cut to 1972 or '73, in another house in a different neighbourhood. My mother was putting up the Christmas decorations and dressing the tree, when I heard her say "Oh, I'll put these up!" In her hands she held the two cardboard Santas which I'd cut out in a different decade and had neither set eyes on nor thought about since the night of the Christmas dance several years before. I took a look at them, and at some stage over the Festive period, tried out my new red ElTempo fibre-tip pen on them for no particular reason I can recall. They adorned the tree every year from then on, and occasionally it would occur to me to regret having 'defaced' them with the marker-pen. Ah, impetuous youth that I was, alas!
El Tempo Marker Pen
In the late '80s or early '90s, I decided to reverse my handiwork of years before and once again took a red Tempo marker pen to the red areas of the cardboard Santas. My careful application had the effect of wiping the previous marks of the tip edges from the surface, whereupon I then applied red Rotring ink to completely restore them to an unblemished state. A fine craft knife enabled me to trim any excess card outside of the lines that my less than skillful 10 year old hands had missed back in the '60s and hey, presto - my two Santas looked better than they had in a long-time.
I sometimes wonder if anyone who attended the event actually recalls much about it after all these years, apart, perhaps, from vague impressions, whereas one look at my pair of 'selection Santas' takes me right back to that night in '68 or '69, and also another one in '72 or '73. Perhaps I should've gone to the party, but I can't help but feel that my non-attendance made the evening far more memorable for me than would otherwise have been the case. And it's probably a fairly safe bet that I'm the only person from school who has two tangible reminders of that evening to help me remember my experience of it, as opposed to anyone who actually went to the thing and awkwardly tripped, tumbled, traipsed and toppled around the varnished hall floor in pursuit of bruised and battered tootsies.
Happy memories - perhaps the best Christmas gift that Santa - or anyone - can possibly give.