Liverpool memories #1

I was first on the radio when I was about 15 in 1959.  It was Christmas Day and the programme on a local Liverpool Radio was about unwanted Christmas presents.

I recall I was in the front room in our semi at 195 Woolton Road, Childwall while my parents were watching the Queen's 3.00 pm speech to the Nation on BBC TV in the back room. I was listening to the phone-in programme after an enormous lunch where the presenter asked us, the Liverpool public to phone a special local number to swop our unwanted presents.

Every year the usual suspects gathered for Christmas Day lunch at 1.00 pm on the dot chez nous.  My parents, thin doleful auntie Gladys whose fiancé was killed in WW1, my mother's eldest spinster sister, obese gossipy auntie Gertie and her hen pecked silent husband, 'uncle' Harry who had been prisoner in an internment camp in Burma and came back minus half a third finger. The star of the show was a bachelor second or third cousin Leo Marris who was a representative-cum-ambassador for the British Scout Movement. He lived in posh Wilmslow, Cheshire and came every year without fail. A shy conservative gentleman who always brought me a box of Swiss lawn white hankies every Christmas. Did he think I had a runny nose or cried watching tear jerkers at the cinema? Or perhaps he bought a job lot and brought one out each year. No wonder he was alone because he had no imagination. It was said his brother married the lady he loved and they lived in Hove.

My silent father would sit at the head of the table lost in his own world while pretending to be deaf, ignoring gossip and chitchat while my mother was the other end of the large teak G plan table close to the hatch. Alma, her lifelong faithful Welsh home help, would pass all the dishes through from the kitchen and eventually do all the washing up after.  The table would be groaning with food. The starter would always be half a honeydew melon with sherry in the scooped out centre. Then the enormous non-kosher turkey with homemade herb stuffing and all the trimmings, tasty homemade bread sauce, crispy roast potatoes as only my mother could make, fresh garden peas and Brussels sprouts with cooked chestnuts. We would live on the cold leftovers for the days to come. Finally Christmas pudding flambé with whisky and you hoped you would get the silver 'Joey' or threepenny piece in your serving of pud with lashings of homemade brandy sauce. After, the addition of Terry's All Gold 1767 chocolates, the annual gift from 'Uncle Phil', my father's self made millionaire school friend who supplied Marks and Spencers with all their nylon nighties, slippers and quilted dressing gowns.

I was fascinated with the radio programme and the voices coming out of the old brown wooden 30s radio nestling on the sideboard. All my family had gone to listen to the Queen's words of wisdom. I took the bull by the horns and rang the number saying I had unwanted gifts. The woman at the end of the line wanted my phone number after asking what I wanted to swop. 'Childwall 1654' I heard myself boldly say. I had never spoken to a stranger on the phone before and certainly never given my parent's telephone number to anyone, let alone a stranger. She said they would call back after Elvis had stopped singing 'Jailhouse Rock.'

I sat excitedly by the phone patiently waiting. The phone rang and I jumped into 'radio' mode! The presenter then asked me my first name and the area I lived. How was my Christmas? I explained I was Jewish and therefore did not celebrate Christmas in the usual traditional way with a tree and decorations. We did, however, hypocritically exchange presents.

     'Well what do you have to swop?'
     'A Swiss box of ladies fine quality hankies' and a quilted pale pink M & S
     dressing gown.'
     'What would you like instead.'
     'A big box of Terry's All Gold 1767 chocolates in a casket.'
     'Those are very expensive.'
     'We are given a box every year from Uncle Phil for Christmas but they      
     have already been scoffed!' I said proudly.
     'OK, Jill, I'll put out the word and get back to you.'

He hung up. I was so excited to hear my voice coming magically out of the radio. I rushed into the back room to brag to my parents but had to be careful as Leo Marris was still our guest and I didn't want to offend his 'generosity.'

The station rang back again and I was hysterical with excitement. Again the broadcaster asked if I would take something else. No I replied, only chocolates but special quality chocolates not ordinary milk ones like Cadbury's Tray. Not good enough for fussy little Jill who was already showing signs of gourmet taste without knowing it at such a tender age! Uncle Phil had influenced her taste buds already, already!  A Terry's milk chocolate orange ball?  No thanks, too ordinary. The banter seemed to go on for ages. I found I loved talking on the radio, it was like talking on the telephone.

I got nothing in the end but the presenter called back after the radio programme had finished and thanked me for being such a 'good sport', wishing me a 'Merry Christmas.' He had forgotten I didn't celebrate it!

Written at Villa Perla, Kaleici, Antalya, Turkey on 28/3/17. Reading time 7 minutes.

References

Bath Chronicle - Remembering the 'joey'
Wikipedia - Terry's All Gold bitter chocolates
Google - St Michael quilted nylon dressing gown
Wikipedia - Scout Movement