Lucky guy that I am – in so many ways – I must have received many gifts in my life that would generally be considered as memorable. However, I have an abiding memory of one Christmas when I was about seven or eight years old.
I can’t even remember for sure if I still believed in Santa Claus at that stage. I suspect not, given (a) my innate cynicism (one gift that has never left me) and (b) the fact that I don’t recall registering any great surprise or disappointment when, late on Christmas Eve, I was lying awake in my bed when the door quietly opened and I watched, unmoving and quite possibly unmoved, as my father gently deposited a sack at the foot of the bed, in the time-honoured fashion.
I lay there for a while, until I judged that the coast was clear, then scrambled down to get stuck into my presents. So many years on I can’t recall the full list of everything that the sack contained, but there would certainly have been a tangerine (there was always a tangerine) and undoubtedly some chocolate.
As regards ‘proper’ gifts, though, I can remember two quite clearly. One was a book: Charles Dickens’ ‘A Child’s’ History of England’ and the other was a toy army tank that actually fired a plastic rocket-shaped projectile from its gun turret. It was a time before political correctness and health & safety had gone mad.
The book was a hardback and had an embossed image of Dickens on the front. I used it for target practice until I eventually fell asleep.