Through the rose tinted specs… One thing’s for sure, it wasn’t an old-fashioned Christmas

Since he turned 50 last year Darren McCann has been getting all nostalgic and hankering after the “good ol’ days”. Each month he’ll to be sharing his memories of some of the things that shaped him growing up. He wants your feedback too… were they really the good old days? Or is Darren just seeing everything through a pair of rose-tinted glasses?

Who was feeling nostalgic over Christmas? Sitting there eating a stale mince pie while watching Harry Potter?

Lockdown – Tier 3 or 4, whatever you or I were in at the time, it made me think about when I was a child and the bottles on the sideboard in the living-room alongside the – much bigger than we get today – tins of Roses and Quality Street that mum had bought but, my two brothers and I weren’t allowed to touch… why?

The much longed for Action Man.

I’d be looking forward to the Action Man I’d asked for;

  • Would I get a Jeep or a Helicopter with it?
  • Would I get Eagle Eyes or the plain Action Man?
  • Would I get a selection box of chocolates that mum would hide on top of the big green cupboard in the kitchen?
  • Would I get a box of sweets that contained my favourite shrimps and black jacks that left my tongue a weird colour?
  • Would I get a catapult?
  • Would I be allowed some fizzy Corona and then be able to take the bottle back to the shop to get some pennies on?
  • Or would I, even, be able to sneak a small sherry? Disgusting stuff it was too!

Who remembers the HUGE decorations the size of Big Ben that hung from the ceiling?

The Christmas cards sent from friends and relatives hung on string in a loop all around the living room, with many more perched around the TV or on the shiny tiled fireplace – where have they all gone?

No it’s now a ‘Faceache’ or ‘Insta’ message instead. Does it remove the personal touch? Or am i just whining about the Uncle Albert Old Days again? 

A real treat – fizzy Corona

While I’m whining – okay yes I admit it – where are the new decent Christmas songs? If today’s musicians and artists are so good why are we still loving songs made over 40 years ago and new artists are having to cover – very badly – the originals? 

I remember being so excited when mum and dad bought me my first new Grifter bike; you remember the one with the gear change on the handlebars, just like a motorbike? I loved it!

Then there was my new digital watch with a Spurs motif emblazoned on the top, I couldn’t stop wearing it.

What else I clearly remember was my uncle Pat being asked to babysit myself and my two younger brothers. Mum and dad left the house around 7pm and Pat started on the sherry. He put the TV on and proceeded to get drunk. So with my two younger brothers I watched Hammer House Of Horrors and The Big Match, then mum an dad came home, drunk, at around midnight, to find uncle Pat even more drunk than they were!

Pat couldn’t even speak let alone stand, we had stripped his pockets of what coins he had in them and left him on the living room floor comatose for mum and dad to find him… strangely and disappointingly for us, he was never asked again.

Penny sweets.

As I got in to my teens, I remember the Sunday lunchtime gatherings in a thing called a ‘local pub’ where people would meet, stand next to one another, drink Double Diamond beer, a pale ale, light and bitter and play shove ha’penny.

I’d have to take the ‘bus stop’ round for the meat raffle, people would chat, hug when very drunk and every now and then throw a rubbish punch that hit nothing but air, and then hug again too. 

Running through these memories this year made me feel sad for the too many people around the country unable to see friends and family due to the current crisis.

Instead of having been part of a huge family gathering in a packed living room, sitting on the floor or around a large table with lovely food all made by a loving family, many were sitting alone in a nursing home, a hospital or even in their own home unable to even hug or see their loved ones.

So while this Christmas has been somewhat pants and people like me like a good old moan as we hanker for the (good?) old days, let’s make it a brilliant one next year and in the meantime let’s just be thankful for the little things in life, after all neither West Life nor Cliff Richard made it to number in the hit parade! 

Happy New Year ya filthy animals!

About the author

Darren McCann is Hastings born and bred, his family have lived in the town for generations.

He has recently become a glutton for nostalgia: “I think its my age, I recently turned 50…” he says.

In the coming months he’ll be taking a look back not just at TV, music and radio but at the things about his hometown that mean so much to him and he’ll be sharing some of his stunning photography too.

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