We didn’t get much pocket money when we were young. We never went hungry or anything but there wasn’t a lot of money around at the best of times.
Then one December the TV broke down. It was unrepairable, the man said. I told my mum and dad that I’d save up all my pocket money to help buy a new one.
Mum started to cry. Dad looked distraught. “Sorry, son, we don’t have enough money to give you pocket money and Christmas presents,” he said. “So we’ll have to do without TV this Christmas.”
No TV? No Morecombe & Wise? I hated that programme but it made my dad laugh. No Coronation Street Christmas Special? It was a pile of crap as well but it made mum forget her troubles for a little while and smile at the sight of Albert Tatlock toddling down to the pub to make everyone in the Rovers Return feel miserable. “There’s always someone worse off than you,” she’d say. “Look at these poor devils, drinking up and bailin’ out before Albert starts havering on about food rationing.”
And here I was with no pocket money, thinking not so much about food rationing as fun rationing. And what about the news? How were we going to know what was happening in the world without a TV in these pre-Twitter, pre-Herald website days?
“You’ll think of something,” dad said.
So I did. Well, he did. Every night at ten o’clock he sent me out into the garden, opened the curtains and arranged the family round the window so that I could read the day’s events from the people next door’s Scotsman by the light of the lamp on a miner’s helmet he’d traded some old books for in the church jumble sale. It was, he assured me, better than the telly.
All the correspondents reporting from the trouble spots and football grounds – which sometimes amounted to the same thing – looked the same. They, well, we all wore miner’s helmets and spoke with increasingly trembly voices. Because it was bloody cold out there wearing just my dad’s jacket, shirt and tie as if I – or we – were reporting from cosy studios or sunny warzones. And as December wore on the snow made it harder to pretend I had a scoop coming direct from some desert or other.
Still, at least I got a round of applause at the end of the programme and it made me think about my grandad telling us how they made their own entertainment in the old days.
So every year to this day I make my own entertainment at Christmas time. It’s called the Advert Calendar, because you open a door every day in December to reveal – och, you’ve beat me to it – an advertisement for something you really need to buy or go and see this Christmas. It’s here: http://www.robadamsjournalist.com/index.asp?pageid=661913
And you don’t need to part with your pocket money to see it.