The Ghosts of Christmas Presents…

“Santa’s been!! Santa’s been!!”


santa's sleigh

As I wrote my note for Santa this year, my mind drifted back to those happy far-off days of childhood, when gifts mysteriously arrived in the middle of the night, closely followed by a manic Dad running up and down the hall shouting “Get up! Get up! Santa’s been!!”. We knew to get up quickly, because otherwise Dad would have the toys unwrapped and be playing with them before we got to them…

Most of my Christmas pressies are long forgotten, I fear, but here are a few that stood out… for one reason or another…

* * * * * * *

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Edward came into my life on my first ever Christmas and has been a true and steadfast friend ever since. He’s had a hard life. My brother threw him into the fire one day, because that’s what brothers do, resulting in some brutal scorch marks and a melted paw. Then my childhood poodle, in a fit of insane jealous rage, savagely attacked him, eating his stomach and detaching an ear. BigSister carried out emergency surgery, which lasted until Trix the Tomcat savaged him again several decades later. But as you can see he has again been patched up and battles bravely on, though he has been known to look askance at Tuppence from time to time…

310110 004 - Copy

* * * * * * *

The first record I was ever given was made of red plastic and played only on a special wind-up toy record player… another gift. But the wonders of youtube mean that you too can now share in the unique joy that is…


(*tries so hard not to think of the Professor and Nick… but fails*)

* * * * * * *


Ah, how I loved my Spacehopper! It arrived on one of our fairly rare White Christmases when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. So I had to wait for two whole days before I was allowed out to play on it – a looooong two days, since my Mum for some reason wasn’t keen on me bouncing around the house on it. Mothers, eh? Let me tell you, there is nothing in this life quite like bouncing around on a giant orange rubber ball with a face! And it was tough! It even survived bouncing into the middle of the neighbour’s prized rose bush! Though when my neighbour saw it, there was some doubt for a moment as to whether I would survive…

* * * * * * *

The first record I ever specifically requested was this one. Don’t judge me! I don’t know whether it was his voice or his jumpers I loved most…

* * * * * * *

But with age comes sophistication. And gonks. Really, if you didn’t have several gonks to call your own it was pretty much grounds for the Social Services to take you away and do your parents for child cruelty. Small gonks, large gonks, gonks on keyrings, gonks stuck on the ends of pencils.

Where are all those gonks now? They’ve probably formed an underground movement and are plotting revenge for our adult forgetfulness. My favourite gonk was much like these, only white…


* * * * * * *

At least my musical taste was continuing to develop…

(Ooh, I want a hat like that!)
* * * * * * *


Probably in a desperate bid to wean me off gonks, my Mum and Dad Santa gave me a gift that I have treasured ever since. Enid Blyton had already directed me towards crime fiction, but Sherlock Holmes became my ultimate hero and has remained so ever since.

Though these days I actually prefer dear old Watson – loyal and true, and with a romantic heart! In the many years since, I have received various Holmes editions and collections, Holmes pastiches, books about Holmes, but this original book has outlasted them all. It rarely sits on a bookshelf – it lives beneath my bedside table to be dipped into any time I need something comfortingly familiar…

* * * * * * *

But finally childhood must give way to those angst-ridden, rebellious, pimply teen years. I think my Dad was lulled into a false sense of security when his Val Doonican loving daughter asked for an innocuously entitled album by a singer with the pretty name of Alice. However, as we followed our usual Christmas Day tradition of playing all our musical gifts while Mum cooked the dinner, I fear his complacency was shattered forever…


It was round about that time that he began to sound nervous as he yelled… “Santa’s been!! Santa’s been!!”

* * * * * * *

Last year Santa gave me Dickens and Rachmaninov – loved and appreciated both. But you know… well… they’re just not a Spacehopper, are they?

* * * * * * *

Whatever Christmas brings you this year, may it make you want to bounce!

tigger and pooh christmas


62 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Christmas Presents…

  1. What a thoroughly gorgeous post FF. Whimsical and witty, and guaranteed to raise a cheer, and, even the surreptitious wiping of a tear. Who would have thought such a fine and analytical mind in the analysis of matters literary, once lay spellbound under the lure of singing pigs, uncly jumpers and strange orange bouncy objects.

    However, the real hero was clearly BigSister, with her needle and thread. Your Edward does look incredibly bedraggled considering he can only be, by my not always reliable maths, no more than twenty years old if he arrived on your first Christmas. Isn’t that right, give or take a decade or so?

    But I confess myself SHOCKED beyond measure that you didn’t work in a picture which oft appears on these pages of some chap in a wet frilly shirt. Possibly photoshopped wearing a red hat

    • Aw, thank you, LF! I hoped you would like it – I know you enjoy tales from childhood. Haha! Yes, given my musical taste it’s really just as well I became a reader. How awful would it be if I admitted that Pinky and Perky still make me laugh…?

      So right! (Thank you! Here, have some chocolate… ) He’s aged so badly – I suspect it may have been the trauma of my Mum’s washing technique. Through the spindryer and then hung out on the line by his ears!!! In public! I protested of course – but to no avail! Mind you it was worse when it rained – then she would hang him between two spars of the pulley by his neck…

      I know! But the kiss-curled one didn’t make an appearance in my life till a good deal later – indeed, not until the pimples had gone, thankfully! Most of them, at least…

  2. Oh, this is such a great post, FictionFan! Spacehoppers and gonks and of course, your steadfast friend Edward, too. What more could one want? Oh, yes, you got crime fiction, too. I love it! Have a wonderful Christmas, and I hope Tommy and Tuppence give you the day off. 😉

  3. You being in Aberdeen an’ all, I’m surprised your dad said “Santa’s been!” rather than “Santy’s been!”, which is the way we all pronounced it when I was a bairn there.

  4. Aw, this is just so doggone cute, FF! What a neat glimpse into your Christmases Past! I didn’t get one of those bouncy balls (nor did Domer) — the times must have been wrong or something. I do, however, remember what you call gonks (and we called troll dolls). Domer never liked them, but I recall having cute little outfits for mine! (Still giggling over your comment about the Professor and Nick, heehee!) Happy Christmas to you and yours, my friend!

    • Thanks, Debbie – glad you enjoyed it! Yes, Spacehoppers seem to come and go, fashion-wise, but mine was the original phase, when you could get any colour you liked, so long as it was orange! D’you know, I think dressing the trolls must have been an American thing – I spotted it when I was looking for images, but I’m embarrassed to admit that our trolls remained as naked as the day they were… er… made! (Haha! Couldn’t resist!)

      Have a great Christmas, Debbie! 😀

  5. Nice to see Edward still alive and kicking – he has had a full and adventurous life, hasn’t he? I wonder why spacehoppers went out of fashion – I was too old for them, but I thought they looked like fun. Merry Christmas!

    • He’s looking good, isn’t he? Considering… They seem to go in and out of fashion, but I believe you can get adult ones now! I’ll ask Santa if you can have one… 😉

      Merry Christmas!

  6. Wait just a second! Your childhood is the Scottish version of MY desert dwelling childhood, FF! But Pinky and Perky was Alvin and the Chipmunks, we called Spacehoppers Hopper Balls and mine was yellow (I launched myself far enough to break my arm twice before it was viciously stabbed by my brothers), Val Doonican was The GoGos, gonks were called trolls (had one in every color that I used for playground currency and ran a troll cartel like a mob boss), The Tams were the Jackson 5, Holmes was Judy Blume and my rebel music was every terrible hair band imaginable. But sadly, I didn’t have a big sister to wipe the tears only a brother can inflict… Merry Christmas to you and BigSister! Great post!

    • Haha! Had to youtube Alvin and the Chipmunks – can’t decide whether they’re cute… or disturbing! Now I’m kinda scared to youtube The GoGos… Broke your arm twice?! Goodness! Your Spacehopper must have had extra bounce! Aren’t brothers awful? Though they do improve with age, I find! 😉

      Have a great Christmas, DD! And try not to break any bones… 😀

  7. A wonderful post, full of memories and humour – I’d have loved to see your Dad’s face upon first hearing Alice Cooper! Hope you have a very generous and fun Santa this year!

  8. A wonderful run through a young life of Christmases, FF. I remember mine fondly, and offer this vignette in return for your wonderful Christmas present here:

    Nights weren’t all created equal in that house on Lullaby Lane. There was Christmas Eve.

    Grandma Sullivan had been a single mom since her kids were toddlers. She always spent Christmas Day at our Uncle Ted’s, the older of her two children, which meant we opened our presents on Christmas Eve—the best present of all because we didn’t have to wait the extra twelve hours.

    She would arrive from her apartment in Hollywood as evening was coming on, bearing hidden bags of presents and studio-size film-cans full of Christmas cookies. Around seven she’d pile as many of the nine young ones as she could fit into her ’49 Chevy, and drive us around “to look at the lights.” The San Fernando Valley was full of houses with elaborate Christmas decorations, but that wasn’t the point of the trip: An hour or so later, when Grandma figured we’d been gone long enough, she’d arrive back at Lullaby. We’d all run for the front door—which was locked, until all of us made it out of the car and up the steps to gather behind it—because year after year, as the younger ones among us were about to learn, Santa had come while we were out.

    “It’s open,” Mom called finally. We pushed in, the door heavy against a crush of presents piled wall-to-wall and waist-deep around a Christmas tree that stood in the bay window. Mom and Dad didn’t buy into the theory that good things come in small packages when it came to Christmas presents—the bigger the box, the better. After the initial storming of the pile a bucket brigade was formed. Presents with red wrapping were passed to oldest sister Anne, green ones to Paul and blue ones to Mark on down the line, for Mom and Anne (and later Mary and Donna) had wrapped them all by color code to facilitate things. Results were hollered out to add to the pandemonium. Any clothing the older boys received was of interest, for it would make its way down to the rest of us in time. I usually got sports equipment of one kind or another, which I’d run to show Paul because he, too, cared about such things. Anything from Grandma elicited a grateful visit to her quiet place on the fringe. But often as not you couldn’t reach Mom or Dad, who were packed into the vortex with the youngest, grinning with the merriment swirling round them.

    We kids exchanged presents, too. I’d give Anne a book Mom would have put me onto and maybe paid for. I’d get Paul a pack of baseball cards or later on some wax for his surfboard, and Mark a Hardy Boys book or a package of .22 ammo. Peter was always hard to shop for: Anything he wanted was either illegal or he’d stolen it already. John’s interests were eclectic from the start, but by the time we were teens a Che Guevara button would do. I always had to ask Mom or Anne what to get Mary and Donna, for girls were a mystery to me.

    All my shopping I had done earlier that same day, at the big shopping mall near the house in Panorama City. And to this day, though my Clare and I start humming Christmas carols around Halloween, I leave all my shopping for the 24th. If it’s crowded and noisy and festive, it just feels like home to me.

    Merry Christmas to all.

    • Aw, thank you, Matt – a lovely story! Yes, the secret to a great Christmas is lots of children and adults who work to make the thing special. My poor mother spent most of the day banished to the kitchen which is why Dad figures so strongly in my stories. Plus he never did grow out of his enthusiasm for toys. I remember the track he built for my brother’s train set – a train set that he got for himself at least as much for my brother! Haha! Big boxes! Oh, yes! That could later be turned into pirate ships or houses for Edward and his teddy friends (I never liked dolls). I sometimes laugh now because the cats love Christmas just for the boxes – and it makes me realise how much we have in common! And hand-me-down clothes! As the youngest of the three girls I remember spending much of my young life waiting for my sisters to grow out of favourite dresses so I could acquire them. It was a tragedy when my middle sister took to mini-skirts – being several inches shorter than me, what looked attractive on her, looked positively indecent on me, so the days of hand-me-downs had to sadly draw to a close…

      Merry Christmas! And enjoy your Christmas Eve shopping! 😀

  9. Oh goodness, I had that Scottish thingy that’s in with the gonks, he’s made of wood and material, not a gonk as such. How funny, I’d forgotten all about him! Many books in my Christmas parcels this year, so I need to be reading madly and making space for them!

    I also have a Pinky and Perky record …

    • I had a similar one, but instead of a club it had a little placard that said ‘Home Rule’ – I can’t for the life of me remember who gave me it, but clearly someone who thought it’s never too early to get kids involved in politics! Oh, you’re lucky! My Pinky and Perky record seems to have gone off to the vast record store in the sky – my Mum was terrible for getting rid of things once the initial interest had gone. Probably why I’m such a hoarder now!

      Have a great Christmas – I hope the books are good ones! 😀

      • I suspect the book-shaped parcels have some lovelies in them, but I’m also getting on well with my TBR now to make the space. I’ve even picked Ken Livingstone off it, finally!!

        • Woohoo!! That should make a space big enough for at least three normal size books, and think of the sense of achievement when it’s over… 😉 I’m not sure I’ve finished reading all the books Santa brought me last year yet…

  10. Haha. I loved this.


    Love that your dad was as excited as you! So, the bear is yellow, too! A wonder. I think, the sudden, you must like yellow things.

    I had one of those bouncy things! Well, my brother did. I stole it, tho. And, yes, I bounced it all over the house. Was great fun when you didn’t bang into something.

    *laughs* Okay, I do look a bit like that pig… But who is the dancing goose?

    Gonk! That’s so close to Gronk. I’ve seen those things before, can you believe. Odd looking things.

    Will be always shocked about Alice Cooper!

    • *laughs* Yes, Dad never really properly grew up! He loved Christmas – and toys! You were quite likely to get the toy he wanted rather the one you did in our house! I do like yellow – maybe it’s because of Edward…

      *laughs so much* The idea of three bouncing Professorial brothers gives me too much pleasure! Your poor mother! Outnumbered!

      I’m so sorry about that – couldn’t resist. But honestly, you and Nick are much cuter than… pigs! I suspect it might be BUS! *runs off, giggling*

      Yeah, I think they must have come back into fashion – which seems very odd! Happily I don’t feel the same compulsion to collect them as I once did…

      *laughs* You’re sounding just like my Dad now!

      • That is so cool! I hope he got you lots of cool army toys. That’d be something. Haha.

        Completely outnumbered. But she managed to win all the crucial victories, I think.

        *laughs* Poor BUS! I bet she might roar. Did she see the new Star Wars? I know she likes Harrison Ford.

        How many do you suppose you had at one time? Goodness.

        But I like him, so there’s that!

        • Mainly sporting stuff – and gadgets! Boy, did he love gadgets! My poor mother had a kitchen full of fancy choppers and slicers and mashers – none of which actually worked very well. When you see these ads for incredibly silly things that make you say ‘Who on earth would buy that?’ the answer is my Dad would have!

          *laughs* Awww! I’m proud of her suddenly! She must be a mighty warrioress!!

          Well remembered, sir! I don’t know – I’ve never heard her mention Star Wars, though oddly she was singing the praises of Arnie Schwarzenegger the other day! *stunned look*

          5 or 6 million I think! And each one had a name…

          Awww! *smiles bigly* Me too!

          • *laughing lots and lots and lots* But you must admit, those gadgets always do look very, very cool!

            She is! That’s where I get it from, of course.

            No way! Schwarzenegger? What a wonder! It does make sense, though, now that I think on it. I mean, I like him too, I think.

            What’s the first name that pops to mind?

            Yes, Ms. I-Don’t-Like-Rock!

            • They do! And quite often they’ll actually solve a problem you weren’t even aware of – like the pods I was just sent for review for making tea in a coffee machine. I’d never realised putting a teabag in a cup was such an issue…

              *laughs lots* I’m a bit scared of her now, I think…

              You do? Urghh! I’m surrounded by Arnie fans! I wonder if BUS would like Mr Wilfork…

              Gary! (I was an alliterative child, and anyway I had a crush on a Gary at school at that point…) I still have a teddy called King Pellinore though… and another one called Kaiser Franz Thilo Goal-a-Game Gerdi Amman Muller Beckenbauer von Nuremberg. WOB named that one…

              *laughs* Oh! I thought you meant my Dad! Suddenly had a vision of him dressed as Alice Cooper…

            • You mean you’ve never put a teabag in a cup before? *laughs*

              Oh no, that’s silly. She’s not scary. I’m the scary one, remember.

              I bet BUS would! Wilfork is cool, after all. And must be really, really strong, too!!

              *laughing* Did you ever have speaks with Gary? Wow!! That is some name. It’s a chore to remember it, I bet.

              Well, him too! AC does have a cool disguise.

            • *laughs* No, I meant it’s so easy to make tea already it seemed a bit of a waste of time for them to have come up with a whole new system!

              Well, yes, but I’m not scared of you because you’re my warrior! It’s my enemies who should be scared of you… *proud look*

              Yes, he must be, to be able to hold that belly up…

              *laughs* We may have had the odd chat, but Edward was the one I told all my secrets to. Fortunately he has a beer mat round his neck with his name on…

  11. Despite my giggling, I would never judge you for preferring Val Doonican. 🙂
    Thanks for this great post! Loved seeing your gifts over the years. I was also given Sherlock Holmes as a gift. 🙂
    I’ve seen something similar to a gonk before.

    • *laughs* Secretly, I still like him… but don’t tell anyone!

      Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 Sherlock Holmes is a great gift – hopefully lots of ten-year-olds will be getting it this year. Wish I could read them for the first time again…

      Yeah, I think gonks have had a revival recently from the pics on google images. Strange things!

      Have a great Christmas, L. Marie! 😀

  12. What a brilliant post – I desperately wanted one of those space hoppers although it sounds like you were lucky to survive to get to listen to Alice in a future Christmas following the escapade with the Rose bush!! Have a good one this year 😊

  13. As I scrolled down through your post, I said ‘Oh My God!’ so many times, my family demanded to know what was up! So many childhood favourites of mine cropped up, I got quite sentimental. Gonks – I’d forgotten those owl-like ones existed until I saw your pic, spacehoppers, and best of all – pinky and perky! Brilliant! 🙂

    • Haha! There’s probably a huge silent Pinky & Perky fan-club out there, if only we knew! I love the way the puppets don’t actually move! They seemed so amazing at the time too…

      Yes, there’s something about childhood toys – I didn’t even mention my bike, which for several years was actually my trusty horse – we used to go off and solve mysteries together… (my favourite books at the time being Enid Blyton and Prince Among Ponies… ) 😉

  14. Wow! Christmas through the years. I loved this slice of a few parts of your life. Some of them were very similar as mine but with different names. I saw more snow. One year I got in trouble for looking for Christmas gifts. Except I hadn’t. It might have if I’d thought of it. Another present I did look for…after all, someone put the idea in my head. Mostly clothes. Thinking back, it must have been dreadfully dull. Seldom did I get a book. For the life of me I can’t imaging why not. I guess the libraries would take up the slack there. New clothes were seldom to my taste but my mother’s. I do recall one year when I wanted a shawl. To my surprise, I got it. I loved that bit of joy. Turned out my dad bullied her a bit and carried the cause. My most delightful Christmases were the ones we lived in in Portugal. Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

    • Yes, we tended to get clothes too, and Mum’s pick, but luckily she was pretty good at it – when we were young at least. Once we became teenagers, we were more likely to rebel! But we always got books too – or book tokens, which I loved. It was something to look forward to after Christmas – going to the bookshop and spending hours picking what we wanted. Haha! Yes, we used to attempt to search the house too, but it was more than our lives were worth if we got caught! And our parents had a deal with the neighbours for anything big that they’d swap and hide each others gifts – so sometimes you’d come across a bike-shaped parcel and get all excited, only to see the neighbour’s kid out on it on Christmas Day…

      Hope you had a good Christmas this year, Susan! 🙂

      • I had a great Christmas, thank you. Got to see all of the kids and grands and it was a noisy, fun and delightful time. I need to bring my youngest grand child…she is fascinated with cleaning the house. She took her child size broom and swept that floor over and over. I need to get her over to my place to clean. This year I stopped making Harry wait until Christmas to open presents. He would get so excited that he went over the top and wore himself to a frazzle. Ahhhh – at last — peace on earth.

        It was delightful hearing from you. I am juggling three books at the moment. A Happy New Year to you and you and yours.

        • Ha! Make the most of her while it lasts! You’ve reminded me of another favourite toy – a little vacuum cleaner that I think did actually suck up dust. I was so enthusiastic! Now my vacuum cleaner sits in a corner whining about being neglected… 😉 Glad you had a good time – my brother and I are off up to Dundee tomorrow for a belated Christmas with my sister, so I’m still attempting to maintain my seasonal jolliness…

          Happy New Year when it comes, Susan. 🙂

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