THE kitchen doors were opened to reveal a gleaming new racing bike.
It was Christmas Day and probably the most expensive childhood gift either of us had ever received was waiting for its new owner. That being my brother.
It didn’t bother me. Being the sort of lad I was, I was pleased for him. “You deserve it for all the good you’ve done for the community over the course of the past year,” I told him, backing up my sincere comments with a hearty slap on the back.
That is, of course, not true in the slightest, but in the long term the injustice of this late ‘70s Christmas did not prove such a bad thing as it provided me with decades of opportunities to bring up this rank display of favouritism from my parents.
There were extenuating circumstances, but there’s no room to allow other points of view here.
After he had ridden it up and down the street a couple of times so people in other houses could marvel at his expensive present, we settled down to open the remainder of our gifts and it appeared we had the same amount — aside from his bike. Three annuals each (Beano, Dandy plus Dennis the Menace for him, Roy of the Rovers, Tiger and Scorcher and Grange Hill for me), one small gift (his was probably bigger) and my racer bike equivalent, which was a late 70s Subbuteo table soccer club edition (Continental? No. Deluxe? No. Just plain old club, but I’ll let that pass).
The green box gleamed and I carefully removed the packaging to reveal the contents: two teams (red and white and blue and white; that’ll be Man Utd and City then, a pitch, a ball, two goals with nets, some corner flags, a rule book and a catalogue).
I’ve written about this before, but I would add that I never again received a present I would go on to use so much (well, there was the dart board five years ago...).
Over the years I would buy another 30 or so teams, domestic, European and international, various types of goal, a TV gantry with cameramen, throw-in figures and corner kickers, a referee, linesman and whistle, fence surround, European and FA Cups, white Tango football, a training set, scoreboard, floodlights and stand with crowd figures you had to paint yourself — all worth quite a bit now, but unfortunately given or thrown away by my parents many years ago. For £3 I purchased a piece of chipboard from the DIY shop up the road, which would act as the base for my pitch.
Years of fun followed, interspersed with some serious glory as my favourite teams would surprisingly win trophies played out only by myself.
So if I did ever moan about that “unfair Christmas” when he got a bike (which hopefully he fell off a few times) and me what at first amounted to little more than a board game, I would like to apologise to my mother.
I’m not sure I ever did complain though and I am fairly certain he has gone on to experience decades of guilt — perhaps this will be the year the wrong of that cold Christmas is put right.