Right, 'tis Christmas week. Since my TV blog and my book blog are both going to be (ever so slightly) themed around the season I figured, why not go for a clean sweep and have everything I post this week be Christmas based?
I quickly ran into a problem. That being, try as I might, I can't remember any Christmases from my early childhood. Not any particularly memorable gifts, not any specific family get-togethers, nor any major Christmastime fallings out for that matter. Seriously, I'm sitting here racking (wracking?) my brains but it's like Christmas never happened when I was a kid. Now I know I've made things sound pretty bleak on here in the past but I'm fairly certain things never got so bad that we canceled Christmas. Maybe I'm repressing, I don't know.
So I'm going to tell a story about my birthday instead. It falls in August, which is nearly Christmas, right? And it has presents too, so it's practically the same thing. Also, it's pretty much lacking in misery, depression and domestic violence. I don't have many of those in my arsenal so the festive season seemed like the time to bust one out.
On this particular year, my birthday fell during the fortnight that my father had booked a caravan at the coast. This would be the first year ever that the family would have an actual holiday ( i.e, going away from home) during the school summer holidays. As it turns out it would also be the last. Anyway, I wasn't going with the. I'd like to say that this was yet another example of those terrible parents, grr, excluding and neglecting me, but in truth (at least as far as I remember) it was my idea that I not join them.
I was to stay with my Aunt Michelle, known to one and all as Micky, and her boyfriend Maurice. The idea of staying with them was a novelty that I got very excited about. After all, seaside or not, I would be with the same people I saw every day if I went with my parents. At least this way I was getting to spend time with someone different.
The night before we were due to depart I was allowed to open a birthday gift, so that I could have at least part of the birthday experience with my parents present. I have no memory of what the gift was but the rest were all packed into my uncles car to be opened on the day and the next morning I (and my gifts) headed off in one direction and my family headed off in another.
Nothing particularly special happened during those two weeks. I'd get up, tun to the shop for a pint of milk, have breakfast, go to the park which was right outside their front door for a couple of hours and -whenever possible - sneak down into the woods that bordered the park. In the afternoons we'd watch TV, I'd read a little (yes, I was already a swotty little bookworm who *gasp* read for pleasure) and then we would receive the Royal Guest. Anne, Maurices niece.
Anne was the same age as me and, well, she was really loud and annoying and an attention whore. And pretty. In short, all the things that little boys profess to hate in little girls but actually wouldn't be without. Anne was my first love, no doubt about it. I never told anyone - though the adults made constant jokes about it, much to my embarrassment, I always denied - and I certainly didn't act like it towards her, but I'm man enough to admit it now.
We made the most of the time though. In between bouts of arguing and announcing that we hated each other we spent many long hours climbing the Everest like slide at the park. Remember them? Massive things they were. You'd get to the top and you could see over houses. You could have used them for Para training. Gone the way of the Viking Ship see-saw and the Witches Hat roundabout/climbing frame. And swings that you can actually get a bit of momentum on. Anyway, we'd take turns trying to impress each other by climbing the steps without holding on, or coming down backwards or whatever. How do pre-pubescent kids show off to their crushes these days? Get to 8 years old and you're taller than most of the stuff on a modern playground. Anyway...
Half way through the fortnight my birthday came and amongst other gifts that I can't remember I got one of those miniature air hockey table things that were all the rage before Jim Nintendo invented the Master System. Maurice would kick my arse at it, because letting a kid win on his birthday would have just been silly, wouldn't it? Then I'd play Anne, and kick her arse at it, because letting her win would have been nice, and I couldn't do that. Happy times.
The fortnight ended and I had to go home. Anne came to say goodbye, which was nice of her and in my head meant that she loved me as much as I loved her. Never mind that she came every day anyway, this time she'd come for me, dammit. Waving goodbye to her broke my ickle heart. But wave goodbye I did,and left, never to return.
For a while anyway. In truth, Mickey, Maurice and that house, park and wood (though sadly not Anne) would come to feature very heavily in my future. Then though, the novelty would wear off and the experience would be slightly less exciting. And a lot less pleasant.