Friday, 4 January 2013


By my reckoning it's the Eleventh Day of Christmas today, and the Festive season is nearly all over. What has happened to all the toys given to children? Which were loved, and which discarded? I hope that a lot of children received a special gift that they will cherish for a long time, perhaps forever. It's one of the magic things about being very young at Christmas Time.

I had a lot of problems with my own childhood, and still do. If you want to see me cry, then bring childhood into the conversation, or sit me in front of a film in which children play an inspiring role.

But not everything was difficult. I have already mentioned how I loved the home atmosphere at Christmas when young - see my post Card games and gambling on 24 September 2012 - and another aspect that I recall with a really good feeling was waking up very early on Christmas Day morning, with presents mysteriously appearing overnight in a neat pile near my bed. All beautifully wrapped. For Mum and Dad loved their children, and had written specially to Father Christmas. They weren't at all well-off at that time (the late 1950s and early 1960s), but there was almost everything that my brother and I had hoped for.

So what can I remember? I've split it all up into four lists: what I liked very much; what I would have liked, but never got; what I got, but didn't much care for; and what I never wanted.

The Christmas presents I liked very much, and never stopped enjoying
As with all these lists, I can't now remember which toy belongs to which Christmas! Bear that in mind.

# Coloured wooden bricks.

# Sundry pencils and crayons, with plenty of paper.

# A compass, dividers and protractor set, with various rulers.

# Various magnets.

# A gyroscope.

# A snow globe.

# A large metal bubble car.

# A metal BOAC Comet jet plane.

# Various Matchbox cars and other vehicles, by Lesney.

# A leather cowboy belt with twin six-guns in holsters, and a dozen 'real' plastic bullets.

# Ordinary playing cards.

# The Sum-it card game, in pounds, shillings and pence. 

# A Monopoly set.

# Jigsaw puzzles.

# Various children's books by Enid Blighton, including most of the Famous Five series, and Shadow the Sheepdog.

# Various Rupert Bear annuals.

# Various Beano and Dennis the Menace annuals.

# A couple of Eagle annuals.

# A Z Cars annual.

# Two world atlases.

# A huge wall chart of Outer Space as known in 1960.

The Christmas presents I would have liked, but never had

# A Lego set.

# A yo-yo.

# A kite.

# A pair of really powerful binoculars, or at least a telescope.

# A walkee-talkee.

The Christmas presents I got but didn't care for, and hardly ever played with

# A red pedal car.

# A string puppet.

# A basic Meccano set.

# Various Airfix model kits.

# A basic chemistry set.

# A plastic microscope.

# A plastic rocket with a parachute inside, fired from a sling.

# A large put-together red plastic model sports car, with all the engine and transmission parts.

# A train set, running on a circular track and powered by a very big battery.

# Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

# A collection of Adventure Stories for Boys.

The Christmas presents I never wanted, and never had

# A bicycle.

# A football.

# A Scrabble set.

# An Action Man, or any kind of doll.

# A pet.

The red pedal car had useless brakes - if it had any at all - and in 1957, when five, I injured myself in it when it ran out of control down the steep lane at the back of the family home in Barry. This is what the lane looked like in 1973 - unchanged from fifteen years before, so far as I could tell:

And this was it, looking uphill, in 1999, giving a better impression of the steepness. That's M--- in the picture, by the way:

The car wouldn't stop, and all I could do was steer it into the stonework to slow it down. The scraping ruined it, and I had badly cut knees. I remember it hurt so much, more than any other pain I'd ever known then or since. I never rode in it again. Here's the offending vehicle in 1956, with me in it:

The dog was Hamish, Mum's scottish terrier. I can't remember much about him, except that he was snappy and bit a neighbour's child soon afterwards. Mum had him put down, and we never possessed another pet of any kind, unless you count the fish Dad installed in the front garden pond at our next home in Southampton.

Trans girls are supposed to want dolls, but I didn't. I already had Teddy Tinkoes from my first birthday, and my furry friend was all I ever needed. He still is.

My brother was the great one for Action Men and plastic soldiers. He developed an obsessive interest in Greek Mythology and all things heroic and muscular. He was the boisterous, adventurous one with the toy rifles and cowboy hats and swords and armour and helmets, and later on his bowie knives. He was also the reader, the thinker, the swimmer. The complete boy. He made friends easily, boys and girls alike, and had such a nice way about him. He was the one that Mum hugged, that Dad perched up his shoulders. Ah well. I hope he's all right, wherever he is now.

In fact I hope he's up there with the gods and heroes that he loved to read about so much.


  1. Another moving post, thank you.

    I have the same BOAC Comet! Want it?

    Cool pedal car, I had a red Maserati pedal car. My bother and I finally sheared through the rear axle racing it around the neighborhood. He drove and a friend and I pushed with a hockey injuries

    No dolls but I did desire my female cousins industrial green Easy Bake oven

  2. A red

    My comet was with me when I was in hospital aged 7, to have my tonsils out. No idea what happened to it. Eventually all my toys disappeared, except Ted. I think most of them went to my nephew's toybox. I must ask him.


  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Showing your age now Lucy (reminiscing)

      Shirley Anne x

  4. First signs of getting dotty, they do say, Shirley Anne!


  5. I must have made it quite clear very early on that I did not like presents, nobody quizzed me to find out why!

    Could I have ever told them and could they have ever understood the anguish at having an alien identity forced upon you?

    Would have loved a bike but my father preferred to drink his income... No idea why he had children, he was mean with us, would not even by me a dictionary, just about the only request I ever made! My grandfather gave me his when I told him so if I sometimes use archaic language you know why!

    He did bring home a rusty scrap bike and tell me to dismantle and rebuild it, it's enormous weight did help me get strong legs and live my early life out of the family home.


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