If, like me, you are part of the last generation who played in the street, you’ll probably guess where this post is going, if the title didn’t give it away. That’s right dear blog reader, it’s nostalgia time. This year I feel Christmas has snook up on me like a jolly fat ninja in a red suit. With just over a week to go until the big day I’m feeling somewhat underwhelmed this year.
I’m not going all “bah humbug” on the merry season. Not one bit. I’m looking forward to stuffing the hole in my face with turkey, choccies, a splash or eight of wine and spending the day in the company of family and friends.
Grab a glass of wine, a mug of something hot, and perhaps a snack or two, this is going to be a long one!
This year I haven’t had much money to splash out on gifts so I’ve given it a lot of thought before reaching for my wallet. I’d rather give a gift with good thought behind it than grabbing arm fulls of disposable junk to be unwrapped and forgotten in hours. I’m increasingly aware of how our society has evolved into one of materialistic ecstasy, where mass-produced cheap junk is gobbled down by the masses, in a futile attempt to satisfy a thirst we don’t understand.
Does recycling really work?
Before I get to the nostalgic bit I want to ask a question, well, maybe go off on a mini rant actually. A chance conversation at work today surprised me. A colleague told me about a high street supermarket who were selling off items from last Christmas at ridiculous prices. Items that would have cost, say £15 for a sweater or £4 for a scarf, were going for 10p – that’s TEN PENCE! And the reason why is because the supermarket was going to throw them away.
Can you believe that?
For them it’s more cost-effective to throw entire boxes or pallets of clothes in the bin than actually try to sell them. The same with books. Some supermarkets will rip off the back cover of a book that cost £5 or £7 and sell it for 50p. By tearing off the cover they’re essentially writing off the stock as a loss. I’ve been looking around the internet at similar stories.
Stuff, good stuff, is being thrown in the bin because it’s too costly to sell it! So, whilst we’re urged to recycle our glass, plastic, paper etc, it seems we’re still filling up landfill sites with all this other stuff simply because it’s in the way! Considering what a massively wasteful society we’ve managed to cultivate due to mass consumerism, do you think recycling really works the way it should? Are we all too happy to “do our bit” so long as everything else that can be recycled is ignored?
Seems to me that so long as we keep chucking the bottles in the bottle bank we can give ourselves a pat on the back for being kind to mother nature. I don’t know if I’m suggesting we recycle every single thing on the planet (well, maybe we should!) but imagine how much stuff is binned all over the world because it’s “easier” than trying to put it to good use.
Sell? Are you mad? That costs money you know!
All that sparkly stuff you see in the shop windows at this time of year will likely end up binned by January to make way for the New Years sales push.
Rinse and repeat for every season, every month, week, day, maybe even hour. For example, have you ever wondered what happens to all the pre-packed sandwiches when they reach their sell by date? They get binned. Sure, some places give them to homeless shelters. The majority is thrown away. Why don’t we try making less sandwiches in the first place! Think of how much food is wasted all over the world, every day. Tens of thousands of tons tossed in the garbage!
Makes me sick.
Okay, mini rant over. I had to get that out of my system.
Christmas was awesome when I was a kid. It was so unbelievably exciting. Sparkly lights on the tree, the rustle of prezzies all wrapped up, the whiff of snow in the air, the big fat turkey in the oven and the itchy tingly feeling that the big box with the bright red ribbon around it might…might, just be that special toy I’ve been dreaming off for seemingly forever – well, a few months anyway.
These days it seems kids are able to get what they want pretty much whenever they want it. Stuff is cheaper that it used to be. Old folks out there in Internetland might grumble and say: “bah, kids today don’t know they’re born” or “it’s all so expensive nowadays.”
It really isn’t.
Back when my Nan was a kid, a loaf of bread or a chunk of “meat” for a cauldron of “stew” might have cost her Mum half a days wages, or a week of washing clothes and scrubbing the neighbours fode. Right now I can feed the whole family a good meal for less than an hours pay.
The reason why things look expensive is because there’s just more stuff to buy than ever before.
Download. Use once – chuck away.
There doesn’t seem to be much to look forward to these days. Kids can download music, movies, games and so on with such ease. Lots of teenagers have part-time jobs and spend their easy come easy go disposable income on high street junk just to stay in fashion. Baa aaaa!
Okay, I’m generalising here, using my bubble as a reference. I know there are many children all over the world who go without. That disgusts me when I see people in town buying mass-produced crap simply because an advert in a magazine or the internet tells them they must have it.
I didn’t just look forward to Christmas as a kid. I yearned for it. I ached to discover the treasures locked away under the protective wrapping. My friends and I would spend endless hours debating what our parents had bought us.
This wasn’t idle chit-chat.
We didn’t shoot the breeze whilst blasting bad guys on our XBox, wondering almost absently what bit of tatt we’d get on the big day. No. We were devoted to the IDEAL behind Christmas – the magic and beauty of it.
Yes we craved those special toys, like all kids still do, to a certain degree, but it was more than that. In the 80’s Christmas had yet to become the disposable, easy come easy go, quick to forget event it seems to be these days.
Christmas didn’t arrive on an app.
It couldn’t be downloaded.
It couldn’t be summed up in an abbreviation like LOL.
My Christmas’s weren’t restricted to a games machine.
You might have read about the obesity epidemic that’s running rife through the younger generations. Too much fatty food and not enough exercise. We’ve allowed this to happen by pandering to every gadget and fashion that encourages kids to sit and stare at one screen or another instead of being active.
Like I said way up the top there, I’m part of the last generation who played in the street. I rode my bike everywhere, for fun. I played cricket and football (soccer for you Yankie Doodle Dandies) until it was too dark to see the ball! In the woods I built dens with my friends, went fishing, climbed trees and went on adventures.
And Christmas was a huge event, not merely a filler between Halloween and Summer Break.
Such wonderful toys!
One year I got the best present a young boy could ask for. The Optimus Prime rig thingy and trailer. The cab transformed into a robot! How cool is that! Well, maybe not so cool these days since kids don’t seem interested unless their socks come with Blue Tooth or WIFI or an app. Optimus Prime was the perfect ticket to Imaginationland.
I’d brum it all around the carpet, then once old Optimus had established a base camp he’d transform and go hunting my sisters Barbie dolls in order to infiltrate their sect and expose their deadly secret. Whatever that was. Joining Optimus were a mish-mash of Corgi toy cars, old and new, Action Men, bits of old Lego, Star Wars figures and a range of cardboard box fashioned into secret bases.
Every nook and cranny of the living room was a potential hide-out, a secret base, a toy friendly area where the real world gave way to a landscape of endless imaginary possibility.
One of the most memorable Christmas toys was an electronic game called Cave Man. This was pre-SEGA and pre-Nintendo (I think) and it gave me endless hours of entertainment. By today’s standards it’s as basic as you can get without using finger puppets for fun.
The entire game consisted of making the little cave man run across the screen to steal eggs from the nest of a wily Pterodactyl, then get back to his cave before he got et. Later levels included avoiding a big fire-breathing dinosaur intent on turning the cave man into a tasty LCD snack, and a rain of lava bombs from a nearby volcano.
And there he is. Cute little fella isn’t he? Ah, I’ve just remembered that the cave man had a little axe he could chuck at the Pterodactyl and knock it out of the sky. It’s weird that I can still remember every blip and beep from that game! My Dad took a photo of me playing Cave Man, arms in the air as I celebrated a high score. Wish I had a copy of it. Good times.
My sister has reminded me of a few of her memorable Christmas toys – she had a dress up nurses outfit with a medical bag, baby dolls, prams and a Victorian dolls house which she cut out of a special card book and stuck together.
Other toys included Stretch Armstrong, Big Trax, Cross Fire, Scalextric and Action Man – the space man edition with realistic voice sounds from pulling a string from his back: “Prepare to repel invaders” and “I’m going in!”
Christmas was more than toys.
My childhood Christmas’s were also about the smells. Smell is a big memory nudger for me. Here’s some of what brings back quality childhood Christmas memories:
- Turkey, obviously. And gravy.
- Mince pies. Thick gloopy custard.
- My Dad’s home-made wine – amazing aromas!
- That metallic tinge in the air from the glittery tinsel on the tree.
- The strange way clothes still smelt of damp snow after making snowmen in the garden.
- That frosty bite in the morning air that hints at snow on the way.
- Cardboard boxes. I’d always keep one or two to make a base or fort to protect my toys.
- The musty wood and metal smell in my Grandparent’s garage.
Christmas was an adventure.
Back in the day Christmas was a huge event. The build up was almost too much to bear. The day itself seemed to last weeks. Presents, food, choccies, playing, snow (when it fell) watching those films on TV you weren’t likely to see again for ages – no internet streaming or many video rental places in those days. Even after the adventure continued when I played with my friends – cruising the neighbourhood on brand new bikes, skateboards and roller boots. I enjoyed every action packed moment until school started in the New Year.
New Year school was weird and wonderful. After only a few weeks off I’d be sat in class worrying how I’d forgotten how to use a pen!
It still is, but for different reasons.
Now I look forward to good company, good food, remembering those no longer with us, and looking ahead to what the New Year will bring. Now it’s about those special moments. Capturing memories in my mind or as a photo, I take loads of photos on Christmas day! It’s about the excitement of watching family and friends open their gifts and taking time to enjoy good conversation over turkey, trifle and a glass or eight of sherry.
I look forward to the japes and jokes whilst washing up the mountain of crockery while the older folks succumb to a turkey induced snooze slouched in front of the TV.
I guess this means I’m all grown up, doesn’t it?
Maybe. But you know what, dear blog reader? I’m okay with that. Despite my change in priorities, needs, wants, desires, hopes and dreams, Christmas is still special. The build up certainly feels different but no less exciting. The day is over far too quickly for my tastes but it is still filled with memories that are equally as powerful as those from my childhood.
From childhood to adulthood, the magic of Christmas may have changed yet it hasn’t lost any of its rich potency.