Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas On The 60s/70s Cusp



The great thing about this photograph is that I can’t remember a single thing about the day it was taken.

The print is actually much larger than other photos I have from this time, which leads me to believe that the whole event (probably a jumble sale) was considered so potentially memorable, the organisers hired the sort of Man + Camera you used to see lurking on seaside piers waving an ugly baby monkey at screaming toddlers.

I’m glad I still have this iconic image. Without it, the magic of that particular day would have been lost forever.

Everything about this photo brings me so much joy every Christmas, I have to decant some of it off and send it to the poor. From the undeniably serious boy in his undeniably unserious hat to the girl with the ludicrously arranged legs, this baby has everything. As for 8/9 year-old me on the far left, I can’t think for a moment why I’m smiling so much. You may not be able to read the writing on the box I’m holding, but I can confirm it’s a 260 piece jigsaw, almost certainly of a yacht. Even the most enthusiastic of jigsaw fiends couldn’t have been cheered as much as I clearly am here, so I can only presume it was the Santa Effect, radiating with all the wonder of a magical dream from the git in the cozzie sat in the chair.

My. There were no frills for us 60s kids (with our wooden teeth, our scurvy, and our imaginary friends who were actually deformed relatives hidden from view in the basement); no purpose-built Lapland style grottos resplendent with fake snow and populated by animatronic reindeer for us. Oh no.

Picture the scene, moments before the doors opened...

PHIL: Chraaaaaaaaaaaarst. There’s thaaaaaaaaarsands of ‘em. Where’s Terry?
RON: Dunno, but we’d better let ‘em in, else there’ll be a riot. I’ll go and look for him...

Moments later, after an Italian Job style screech of Ford Anglia rubber on paving slabs, Ron squeezes his way through the fag smoke in the snug of the Dog & Bastard, where an obviously inebriated Terry sits poised to bet two bob on a hand of cards he dropped into his pint glass several minutes before...

RON: Terry! What you playin’ at, mate? You’re supposed to be dressed up as Santa down the St John’s Ambulance!
TERRY: Blimey. You mean that costume wasn't for kinky sex with the missus...?

Moments later, after Terry is bundled from the pub, clutching at empty glasses, he finds himself sat on the single chair representing The North Pole In All Its Majesty, struggling to pull a cotton wool beard over his head without igniting it on his Embassy filter tip....

TERRY: I’ll get you back for this you miserable fuckin’ bleeders...
PHIL: Chraaaaaaaaaaaarst. Pack yer swearin’ Terry. There’s kids about...

Oh to have been a fly on the wall. Or the soggy egg sarnies.

15 comments:

JaneyV said...

Everything about this is eerily familiar except The Santa normally had a Kerry accent and smelt of Guinness.

I recognised young Whirl immediately. Who else would be wearing shorts in the freezing cold dead of winter and would have bothered with a tie to go meet Santa. We used to dress in Sunday best for our Santa photo although I think the ones from the sixties also saw a lot of itchy balaclava action (I believe that children used to wear them in the days before terrorism).

I would like to congratulate all the children in the photo for their eminent good sense in not sitting on that strange man's knee.

Kiersten said...

I love the knobbly knees sticking out just about the long, long socks. And of course we knew which one you were without the guide, Whirl.

But this, THIS:

My. There were no frills for us 60s kids (with our wooden teeth, our scurvy, and our imaginary friends who were actually deformed relatives hidden from view in the basement)

Oh, goodness, but you made me laugh. I'm still laughing as I re-read this comment to check for typos.

candicekennington said...

I'm a big fan of the skinny Santa with the washboard-style, curly beard, dressed in traditional, Saint Nick robes (found to be convenient for cold nights, and covering Santa's glossy,short, dark hair).

Natalie said...

I'm really digging the Santa robe. Here he wears more of a suit get up with fur trim. The robe certainly looks more comfortable.

And a yacht puzzle? Wow, lucky.

Whirlochre said...

Somewhere, Janey, I still have a balaclava knitted by my mum which doubled up as a chain mail helm during the summer. Maybe I'll dig it out and try it on. Or use it as a Guinness cosy.

And, Kiersten — those socks were the only sort available for kids in the 60s. None of this 'choice' lark. Glad the deformed relative served a useful purpose, at last.

And hello to Candice. I've just popped over to your blog and noticed that you too have submitted an opening para to the Surfer Boy of Fiction. Or is it only me who sees Nathan B as a cool cowabunga type? Maybe it's the hair. Anyhow, do stick around for the festive season. We may even have some fun.

As for Santa garb, Natalie, there does seem to have been a move away from the hooded robe to the suit and hat combo. Personally, I blame the power dressing 80s. And all those hooded axe murderers prowling the foothills of horror's rich genre...

Shona Snowden said...

It's the group 'rabbit in the headlights' expression that I love. That and the packet of cotton wool beard.

I don't think I ever saw Santa as a child. Also, we had one o' them modern houses without basement or attic, so we had to flaunt our deformed relatives in public, along with the hand-knitted garments they gave us. Oh, the shame.

Mom In Scrubs said...

Whew...for a breathless moment there, I thought you might be one to dress as Santa when the fancy hit you!

Indeed the "Santa" is frightening.

The roundish boy to Santa's left looks petrified.

The tall lanky one on Santa's right looks, well, goosed!

One might wonder where Santa's hands are, since they are obviously not in his lap...!

You certainly were an adorable child...and showing off your legs as you are wont to do. Best in the bunch!

Whirlochre said...

Talking of deformed relatives hidden in the basement, did you know that in certain parts of the UK in the late 40s, where the slums were so cramped and squalid they blended into one another like grimy brick Venn diagrams (ie Leeds), the previously isolated cousins, nieces and dogs, met and conspired with one another, eventually forming a breakaway mutant subset of the human race which (contrary to the myth of Government built 50s "new towns") went on to found Milton Keynes.

As for inflato-kid, MIS (and one of these days I'm going to slip up and call you MOM), I think he was actually one of the cheaper gifts, but the boy who won him didn't want to be photographed.

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, now my holiday season is complete! And to think I always wanted and English Christmas. Been reading too many books, I have.

Hope the writing is going well, Whirlio.

sylvia said...

Santa definitely does not look like he wishes to be there. At all.

I can die happy now that I understand about Milton Keynes. I have always wondered.

Chris Eldin said...

This is sooooo good , WO. Thanks for the morning smile.

No frills for the 60s kids? Dude, you guys had more dope than all other generations put together.
:-)

Whirlochre said...

Not at this age, we didn't. Mind you, some of my early babysitters were a bit suspect. I remember a couple called Dave and Hillary. Dave had a guitar, and probably even Hillary on the sofa, and Hillary had distinctly hippyish hair, so who knows? The downstairs living room of Chez Whirl circa 1969 might have been a haven of marijuana between the hours of seven and ten every Monday evening.

writtenwyrdd said...

Where I lived, I was actually offered drugs to buy when I was in third grade (8 years old). Nice neighborhood. So I knew what dope was in 1969 and ratted out my babysitter for smoking it on the stoop with her sleazy boyfriend.

Robin S. said...

Ahhhh! I love the way you all wear those long knee socks with the shorts over there.

Where I come from, boys would've beeen tortured if they'd been seen around other boys like that. But those little knees are so cute!

(OK- now I have to go look at the grown up version, with kilt.....)

Whirlochre said...

Who said I wasn't tortured, Robin?