The Ghosts of Christmas (Toys) Past


Each year, a different ‘must have’present, apparently crucial to every child’s perfect Christmas bursts onto the scene. This year, if you believe a certain ad featuring Elton John, it’s a piano. Back in the day – way back in the day, actually – when I was wee, our expectations were rather different and more modest.


It was a time when toystores like weren’t prevalent and when I was a very girly little girl. If everything had come in all shades provided they are pink as they do now, then I’d have been in girly heaven. Instead, my girliness manifested itself in a love of dolls. Tiny Tears was my first crush, a real-life sized baby who cried and giggled (if you pulled the cord attached to her back) and who came with a feeding bottle and a nappy – both of which could be filled. My twin sisters, perhaps because they had each other to play with, did not share my passion for dolls, however. Setting a pattern that was to be repeated on several heart-breaking occasions, these miniature daughters of Satan were not content until they had dismembered poor Tiny Tears and tattooed her with the felt pens that had also been a gift from Santa – to me!

I graduated from Tiny Tears to Amanda Jane, a very posh little girl doll with an endless variety of outfits, all of which featured elaborate hats. My sisters decapitated her. The next step up was to a doll with boobs and there was a lot of choice (dolls, not boobs). Barbie is the obvious one, but there was also Tressy (the one with the hair that unspooled from her head with a tough yank (aka G.I. Joe), and went back in again with the aid of a key which turned in her back), or Barbie’s sister Skipper.

But I was a Sindy gal. Sindy seemed to me the epitome of glamour, with her hot pants and her air hostess outfits – at a time when it was okay to want to be an air hostess because then you could marry a pilot, in the same way as it was fine to want to be a nurse because then you’d have a chance of snaring a doctor.

I had a Sindy bed and wardrobe, a Sindy chair and even a Sindy hairdryer (the dreaded toy that didn’t come with batteries, and of course Santa forgot to put them in my Christmas stocking). I didn’t have a Sindy horse, but mine was perfectly happy using one of my brother’s trusty Timpo steeds, even if it did look like a Shetland pony in comparison to her. I wasn’t interested in wasting precious present collateral on Sindy’s ‘official’ boyfriend Paul either, so in true blind date style teamed her up with an Action Man boyfriend, also purloined from my brother, the one with the eyes that moved manically side to side – the Action man that is, not my brother!

My Sindy went the way of all dolls in our house, thanks to the handmaidens of Beelzebub, who had by then learned the new trick of scalping a doll before decapitating it. I should add infairness that it wasn’t that my twin sisters had a particular vendetta against my dolls, they meted out the same treatment to their own. 

But Christmas wasn’t just about dolls. There were some ‘standards’ that Santa brought every year, the stuff that never made my list but which I’d have been gutted if it failed to appear. The games compendium, for a start, which never lasted past January, with Snakes and Ladders, draughts and Chinese Checkers (I never got the hang of that).

Every year, one of us sisters got a tea set, starting with a plastic version when we were wee, graduating to a china version as we got older. My twin sisters loved to give tea parties, though when my mum discovered the ‘tea’ she was drinking came from the toilet bowl, she was less eager to be their guest. Fuzzy Felts were another staple, as was Lego and  Plasticine, which ended up as one big brown blob by Boxing Day. As games became more sophisticated, the compendium ceded place to Operation, Kerplunk, Mousetrap, Buckaroo and of course Monopoly, which can still cause an internationalincident in most households – though I reckon Trivial Pursuit could give it a run for its money.

And of course there were books. An annual each – Twinkle, Jinty, Bunty, Mandy, Diana or Jackie for the girls in our house; Beano, Shoot or Victor for the boys; the Broons for my father. We got a ‘classic’ book each too. Little Women, The Borrowers, Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Huckleberry Finn, Oliver Twist, and Heidi. Those books were probably the cheapest and most lasting gift – my mum still has some of them,believe it or not. They are also responsible for my lifelong passion for reading.

If a certain store’s advert iseffective, we should we expect a expect a rash of Liberace’s in about 20 years time (or should that be a candelabra of Liberace’s?) As for my sisters? They’re up for parole next year.

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