It’s the 7th December, 2015. I am 44 years old, writing this from my little flat in the village of Avebury. I am single, living with a cat, and currently unemployed. As Fat Boy Slim once said, “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby.”
I was born in Wales, raised in Cwmbran, a small town in the south of that beautiful country. Small to me, of course, as during the thirty-odd years I lived there, I explored the vast majority of it. I know about the two small lime kilns on Garth Road that were restored in 1988, for example, that not many Cwmbran-ites know about. Though I only know because I lived around the corner and stood there as it happened, my 17-year-old eyes watching inquisitively as the workmen attached the round ‘kilns of historical interest’ plaque to the knotted stone wall. I’m not sure if knotted is the best adjective to describe a stone wall, but as I say, I’m 44 and I’ve got to that age when one’s adjectives slowly run out.
But this is a blog about my Christmas memories so I need to curb my digressions. You know I love a good digression, and this is one right here, but it’s going to hit a kerb right now, so to speak.
I never remember my father around much for Christmas. Probably because he buggered off when I was 9 years old. I have no memory of sitting at a table and eating a Christmas dinner with him, and that realisation just occurred to me, out of the blue. Where does the phrase ‘out of the blue’ come from? Why not ‘out of the green’ or ‘out of the that peculiar shade which is in-between orange and black’? Anyhow, I have no memory of enjoying that special Christmas moment with him. I have no memory of waking up, opening my presents, and then running into his arms to thank him. Because I don’t think he was ever there in the morning. He may have slouched downstairs, sometime in the early afternoon and then hogged the telly. Mostly – and this is an odd thing – he wouldn’t mind my mum, my sister and I going to my Nan & Bamp’s for Christmas day and enjoying dinner with them. That’s where the real magic happened.
One year I remember asking not only for a TomyTronic 3D Sky Attack game but also Demon Driver. Now I just did a little research on those two games on the internet, which leads me to believe this must have been the Christmas of 1983, when I was 12 years old. I loved being twelve. The last year before being a teenager. Once I was 13 I knew I would be expected to start smoking, drinking and having sex, and the thought of it petrified me, especially if I had to do it all at the same time. So being 12 was the last year in which I could still enjoy reading Whizzer & Chips without being ridiculed, or to hopefully play Demon Driver on the morning of Christmas Day without being scoffed at. I was sensitive to scoffing. A scornful scoff is just the worst thing. Nearly as bad as a laudable laugh.
Of course, the way I got to know about Demon Driver was through the Argos catalogue. These days, I guess kids know about the latest toys through adverts on social media, or just adverts in general, targeted at ‘hip’ and ‘trendy’ web sites that kids visit. Back in 1983, all that any kid needed was an Argos catalogue. I would spend the weeks, if not months, leading up to Christmas reading the Argos catalogue. While my mum and sister would be watching Rising Damp or The Six Million Dollar Man, I would be sat there, with the Argos catalogue open on my lap, scrutinising all of the toys. Demon Driver must have stood out at me that year due to the little wheel controller that it used, which was quite a novelty back then. Even if the size of the wheel was the size of a ten pence piece, it was still a wheel, and that’s what mattered. And the idea of racing formula one cars, with a wheel, was just too good to miss! Demon Driver was at the top of my Christmas wish list.
So on the morning of Christmas Day, 1983, I awoke. I’ve no idea what the time was. Probably 7am or so, and then I would just count down the minutes, one by one, waiting for my mother to stir. I would never, ever race into her bedroom, shouting “Merry Christmas” and all that jazz. I wasn’t an exuberant child. No. The way I would try to get attention would be with a cough. Just a small one to begin with. Just one cough, every five minutes or so, getting louder and louder until I actually started coughing for real and would end up convulsing on the floor, screaming “Water! Water!” between trying to gulp down mouthfuls of air.
Eventually my mother called out to me and my sister that we could get up and she followed us downstairs. I, of course, took four or five steps at a time, holding the banister with one hand and the wall with another as I took great bounds down that staircase that seemed so steep at the time. We would then race into the living room. My sister’s presents would be all piled up on one part of the sofa and all my presents would be piled up on the other. I tore open a few parcels at random – 1983 annuals of my favourite comics – Whizzer & Chips, Cor!, Buster, The Beezer and The Topper. All well and good.
I tore open another parcel.
There it was. Demon Driver. Demon fucking Driver. It was mine. It was mine and I had batteries for it too. I hurriedly opened the box, took out the little console, inserted the batteries. Demon Driver. I actually had it! Wait until all my friends in school heard about this. I owned Demon Driver! I flicked the on switch and raced my little 12 year-old guts out for five minutes.
Right. Got it. Next.
I began opening the other presents. This was turning into a great Christmas!