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
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 the hatch 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
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
'A Swiss box of ladies fine
quality hankies' and a quilted pale pink M &
'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
'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 Milk 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
at Villa Perla, Kaleici, Antalya, Turkey on 28/3/17.
Reading time 7 minutes.
Bath Chronicle - Remembering the 'joey'
Wikipedia - Terry's All Gold bitter chocolates
Google - St Michael quilted nylon dressing gown
Wikipedia - Scout Movement