The ghosts of Christmas presents

BEING a baby boomer, born when the storm clouds of World War II were still dispersing, I had the satisfaction of growing up without the persistent interruption of TV, mobile phones or electronic games. In fact the latter two had not been invented. It was

BEING a baby boomer, born when the storm clouds of World War II were still dispersing, I had the satisfaction of growing up without the persistent interruption of TV, mobile phones or electronic games. In fact the latter two had not been invented.

It was an age when Christmas was exciting and not a commercial shockwave on the brain or the finances as it is today. In fact until I was eight years old we didn't have a TV but my small wireless was enough to transport me to far off places with music and news reports from around the globe, and my favourite serial Journey into Space.

There was no central heating until I was well into my teens but my bedroom had an open fire and the flames cast amazing and eerie shadows on the ceiling and often frost covered windows in the winter.

I try and replicate some of the wonderful things I enjoyed with my parents and grandparents on their farm deep in the Dorset countryside with my own children and grandchildren.


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Some of my choices of presents reflect my childhood and they will again get a selection of books and annuals that will feed their imagination.

My late father encouraged me to read from an early age and many of the great annuals I received every Christmas, I still have today.

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In fact, I have some wonderful Christmas volumes from the 1930s collected by my father, Pip, Squeak and Wilfred annuals that contain wonderful tales of derring-do, tips on how to do magic tricks, woodcraft and wizardry as well as poetry. Dog-eared but still wonderful reading and with superb artwork.

My collection of Christmas memorabilia also contains Eagle and Dan Dare annuals, Charles Buchan's Football Monthly, and annuals once owned by my eldest children like Rupert the Bear. Other books I adored were the pocket Observer series, I-Spy and Ian Allen's journals on steam trains.

From annuals I of course progressed to the Biggles books by Capt WE Johns, who penned 103 books of adventure after his years as a WWI pilot officer, Treasure Island, Moby Dick, Moonfleet, Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans, and other tales of adventure.

I have always believed that books allow you to use your imagination and immerse yourself into another world, something many children ignore or are not urged to do in the 21st century of fast technology and spoon-fed entertainment. But books can also be a legacy to hand on to the next generation of your family.

This week I walked around the book shops in Stevenage and there were fewer customers in them than the major stores selling the usual festive presents.

I returned home to scan my collection of books many of which are signed by my parents and grandparents with the dates of Christmases of half a century ago which my children will inherit and hopefully cherish.

My wife occasionally nags me to throw them out to a charity shop but I steadfastly refuse.

A book should be for life. They bring back wonderful memories, unlike most modern Christmas presents that will be abandoned by the end of January and others abused and thrown away before another Christmas comes around or when the batteries run out.

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