Saturday, December 25, 2010

Advent Day 25

I know that most advent calendars only go up to 24, but this is one Christmasier, isn't it? So without further ado, let's see what is behind the fairy at the top of the mast ...


Again, a slight lack of pl-
anning ahead, but this is a time for goodwill to all, so:


Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent Day 24

And behind the ridiculously tiny sail (how on earth is Father Christmas planning on getting round the world in one night with that?) is ...

A nativity scene!

Blimey. Compared with the Christmas cake this is like the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I suspect that the labour got divided up and this is one of my sister's efforts. Whilst you all admire it, let's have a round-up of the year before tomorrow's final window:

We didn't move house, saving that particular joy for next year.

My shoulder, which was very painful in January, is loads better, but as of Saturday I've now got a sore neck which is making it difficult to sleep. I have definitely reached the age where it's best not to ask me how I am, unless you have quite a lot of time on your hands.

I'm afraid there was no more Rothkowatch as the writing project was put on hold due to lack of funds, which was annoying for all concerned, especially me, to whom those funds should have gone. It may one day be resurrected, or the picture might be auctioned off to pay creditors. Who knows?

Things That I Will Probably Never Get Round to Doing #4 would probably be 'Some More Blog Posts About Things That I Will Probably Never Get Round to Doing'.

But this advent calendar means that I've written the most posts since 2007 (when, in absolutely no coincidence, MY LOVELY SON was born). And it's been wonderfully nostalgic fun as well as a good exercise to have to write one small thing each day about a subject I have no control over. I hope you've enjoyed it. If you did, please do leave a comment. With the advent (geddit?) of feed readers I now have little to no idea if anyone is still reading this.

Don't forget tomorrow's window in all the excitement.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent Day 23

And behind the jack is ...

A stocking!

That's pretty clear, isn't it? Let's see what's in the stocking:

It's Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses, the best Christmas song ever!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Advent Day 22

And behind the ensign is ...

Happy Birthday Grandad!

I spent all but one of my first 15 Christmases with him (I believe that the snow was too bad for the drive north one year), and I have happily taken on his festive role of winding up small children with tall tales. The 22nd was also his wedding anniversary, which was a great piece of planning as it would make the date difficult to forget. Though maybe there wasn't a lot of choice if you were getting married in 1939... Happy Birthday Grandad!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advent Day 21

And behind the ship's stern is ...

A present!

Hang on - we've already had one of those on the 5th (behind the crow's nest):

And the rule was definitely that there had to be a different thing behind each door. Nooooo! Have I just discovered that my whole childhood was a failure? Did I not really achieve all the things I set out to, like scraping a pass in my Grade 4 violin? Has my entire life been built on a lie?

Ah, no wait a minute, let's look at today's present again:

Look - it's got a vertical pencil line coming out of its top, so that clearly shows that this isn't a present, but a present-shaped Christmas tree decoration. And that's totally different. Hurrah! And anyone who says that I've just drawn that line on is lying. You can get it carbon-dated if you want (what with pencil lead actually being graphite, a form of carbon) and it will definitely date from around 1979. And anyone who says that I have kept a pencil from around 1979 in case I ever needed to doctor the advent calendar in any way 30+ years on is lying.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent Day 20

And behind the green present is ...

An anvil? An upside-down cross-section of railway line? I am going through something similar with my LOVELY SON at the moment where I look at his scribblings and have to work out what they are, so I now sympathise with what my parents must have gone through every morning. The only difference being that I was at least six years older. But I am going to say that it is ...

A wine glass!

Note to other nine-year-olds contemplating making advent calendars for their parents: red wine works better. See?

Also, your linking of Christmas with alcohol at such an early age is rather worrying.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent Day 19

And behind part of the blue present is ...

A teddy bear!

A sort of greeny-grey teddy bear. Unless it's a greeny-grey gingerbread man. Either way, the 11th was now definitely a soldier, as the rule was that the thing behind each door had to be different. An entirely self-imposed rule, but a rule nonetheless, and without rules there would just be anarchy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Day 18

And behind part of the red present is ...

Break up Yipee!

We break up!
We break up!
We don't care if the school blows up!
No more English, no more French!
No more sitting on the old school bench! [What a hardship that was.]
If the teacher interferes,
Tie her up and box her ears!
If that does not serve her right,
Blow her up with dynamite! [Or gelignite, depending on your preference of high explosive. Unlike dynamite, gelignite doesn't sweat unstable nitroglycerine, so can be safely stored, handled and moulded to fit your teacher.]

Ooh, hang on. If we broke up on the 18th, then I might be able to work out what year this was. OK, December 18th was a Sunday in 1977, so that's out. It was a Monday in 1978, and I can't see us having gone back to school for just one day after the weekend, so that makes it 1979 (a Tuesday) at the earliest. Or possibly 1980 (a Thursday), though I definitely had fischertechnik that year, not an Inter-City 125 set (though I perhaps already owned that and just wanted to draw a picture of it). Surely it can't be 1981 (a Friday)? I can't still have been making homemade advent calendars with my sister at the ages of 11 (me) and 14 (her)? OK, that is possible, but I think that I would have been more likely to draw a ZX81 in 1981, so I'm going to go with 1979, though there may be more clues to come, either this year or next.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent Day 17

And behind the long row of portholes is ...

Activate zoom ...

An Inter-City 125 in original 1970s British Rail livery!

Which means it is entirely possible that I had one of these that Christmas (as I definitely had this at some point):

Note that I didn't try to write 'Inter-City' or attempt the tricky BR logo - I had obviously learned from the Christmas cake debacle (if it was a Christmas cake). The Inter-City 125 (surely today they'd drop that hyphen and just have an intercapped 'InterCity') wasn't launched till 1976*, and Hornby didn't bring out their model till 1977 (see below), so that means that the earliest this advent calendar could date from would be 1977, though I'd kind of worked that out already from the standards of handwriting, cutting out and mention of orchestra parties.

My sister had a friend whose dad worked for British Rail, and I remember her cheerily informing me that the people standing by the railway line on the catalogue cover would be sucked into the air surrounding the speeding train and killed. Merry Christmas!

* They are still going strong today, despite the rest of the world having moved on from high speed diesels.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Advent Day 16

And behind the bauble is ...

Er, let's take a closer look ...

Nope. Closer still ... ?

Hmm. 'HAPPY something'? I'm going to take a guess and say that it's a Christmas cake with HAPPY CHRISTMAS written on the side (as we always have a round Christmas cake, so this must be a side view). The light blue edging does look a bit like how my Mum ices cakes. I don't know what's on top though - a little Christmas tree next to a red blob? Is that Father Christmas? Or are the green and red together meant to be a piece of holly? If so, it's a pretty big piece of holly. Or a pretty small cake.

I think this is the worst illustration yet, even including Tinselgate. There are a couple of lessons to be learned here: firstly, when drawing something that is going to have a message on the top, don't draw it from the side. And secondly, if you're writing text inside a limited space, than always

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent Day 15

And behind the star is ...

Another star!

That actually made me laugh, 30+ years on. If you then opened that star would there be another slightly smaller star behind it? And so on into infinity? No - we only had two pieces of A4. I still love it though. The only thing better would be to open the door and just see the phrase 'ceci n'est pas une ├ętoile'.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Day 14

And behind the anchor is ...

A bauble!

OK, not much to say about that, so here's an early Christmas present:

(Office Party by Helen Arney & Paul Richards, featuring Terry Saunders, from the album It's Going to Be an Awkward Christmas, Darling.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent Day 13

And behind the scary (and rather topical) shark's fin is ...


OK, I am now officially stumped. The plot has thickened from the 11th's suicidal soldier (they're changing the guard at Buckingham Palace - this one's topped himself) and is now resembling an episode of 3-2-1. I'm afraid to open any more windows in case I win a dustbin.

Let's look at the clues. Er, it's an autonomous community of southern Spain. And I'm pretty sure we didn't actually go to Spain for a day, so all I can think of is that we went to a Spanish restaurant on the evening of 13th December 1970-something. Which was still pretty exciting for the 1970s. I expect that we all ordered omelettes. I've Googled andalucia+restaurant+town near our village, but if they did exist 30-odd years ago they've gone out of business since. Perhaps their unimaginitive clientele mostly died of high blood cholesterol.

But if it was a restaurant, then it does mean that my pre-teen life, with its orchestra parties and foreign dining, was actually a complete social whirl compared with December 2010. The highlight of this year's advent calendar would read 'Get new tyre before VAT goes up'.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent Day 12

And behind the banana-y moon is ...

Take a guess. Go on. It will be more fun than charades. What's that, you say? A twig? No, it's not a twig. A brown railway line on a map? No, it's not that. A very hairy caterpillar? Nooooo. I think this game could go on a long time, so I will put you all out of your misery by telling you that it is ...

A piece of tinsel!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Advent Day 11

And behind the last square window is ...



A teddy bear? I think I'm actually going to say it's one of those soldiers like a Coldstream or Grenadier guard (the difference is all in the button placement, so I don't think we're ever going to be able to say for sure which). Is that Christmassy? Not sure. I think that it's meant to be a Christmas tree decoration, dangling on a string. Either that or the soldier has hanged himself. Merry Xmas - War Is Over (Because You've Committed Suicide).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Day 10

And behind the fourth square window is ...

A Christmas pudding! That's pretty clear, isn't it? Ah, Christmas pudding. Grandad used to wind us up as we were looking for the 5ps in our slices by claiming he'd found 50p in his. Every year. Every single year. A tradition that I have been proud to carry on with my niece and LOVELY SON (adjusted for inflation to £2 - I guess in a few years' time I'll have to claim to have found a higher-value RFID cash replacement swipecard).

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Advent Day 9

And behind the third square window is ...

Father Christmas!

It is. Go on, squint a bit. Stop thinking of Roman Catholic cardinals and try to think about a blurry, beardless glove puppet version of Father Christmas. OK?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Advent Day 8

And behind the second square window is ...

Happy Birthday MUMMY!

Hang on - that means it's her birthday today too. Should probably get her something. Good job I had this 30+-year-old advent calendar to remind me - it is as useful as Facebook in that respect (provided all your family and friends' birthdays are from December 1st-25th inclusive, and their names are short enough to fit behind the tiny doors).

Note the ambitious H in felt tip, before switching to biro to fit the rest of the message in.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Advent Day 7

And behind the first square window is ...

Orchestra Party!

Er ...

Now, that really did surprise me. I had no idea what would be behind that door when I started doing this advent calendar thing, though I suspected it might be a bit of tinsel or a badly-drawn bauble. I am now dreading what might be behind some of the other doors, because once you've started opening a 30+-year-old advent calendar and blogging about it every day it's something of a hostage to fortune. What will be revealed about my childhood next? "Doctor's appointment re: bedwetting"? "Trip to zoo - cancelled due to lack of friends"? "Psychologist's appointment re: crossdressing"?

OK, the orchestra party. In my defence, that's my sister's handwriting, but if I wasn't in the orchestra that year then I was in later years, and would have taken part in the annual debauchery that is the orchestra party, with its heady mix of crisps and rosin. Strange to think that just a few years later I would have killed to be at a party where slightly posh girls outnumbered boys by about 20 to one, but at that younger age playing the violin was pretty much the uncoolest of many uncool things about me. I gave it up as soon as I could, swearing I would never pick up a violin again. But in a strange coincidence, I found out only last week that I briefly bowed and plucked next one of these guys:

How was I to know that if I kept practising that playing the violin would become cool? (I am also slightly ashamed to report my schadenfreude on seeing that I still have loads more hair than he does. Who is cooler now, eh? You with your international music career, or me blogging about a 30+-year-old advent calendar?)

I eventually broke my pact about not picking up a violin again when I picked up a violin to pretend to play one for some cutaways in a documentary about stage fright. I only got the job because I knew both the director and how to hold a violin. Unfortunately, my hands had grown in the intervening years, and the violin had proper strings instead of rubber ones they usually put on for actors, so the poor camera crew had to listen to take after take of some truly awful noises as I couldn't work out where to put my fingers (apart from in my ears). But maybe that goes to show that learning to play the violin (and go to the associated orchestra parties) was actually a good thing, as I looked quite cool in the slow-mo black-and-white, and no one wrote to Points of View to complain that I wasn't holding the bow properly.

That was all quite cathartic, but I'm pretty sure that what's behind tomorrow's door will be simpler and much more pleasant.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Advent Day 6

And behind part of the big red present is ...

Three wise men following a star! Note that the star has five points - I remember my mum (who was also my teacher for a couple of years) teaching me how to draw these without taking my pencil off the paper, though one point of mine always ended up a bit bigger than the others (oo-er!). For more star-drawing fun, watch this:

Of course, the gospels make no reference to the number of wise men - it's just been assumed from the number of gifts that there were three. [Insert "what the heck is myrrh?" stuff here.]

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Advent Day 5

And behind the crow's nest (and now thankfully mostly obscuring it) is ...

A present! And a missed opportunity to put another crow in the crow's nest - it might have been one of those jokes which only becomes funny with endless repetition, like [insert name of any inexplicably popular sketch show]. Perhaps there's a crow inside the present.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Advent Day 4

And behind the lower bit of the ship's bow is...

A reindeer pulling a sleigh! Hmm ... Despite this being the more traditional method of Christmas present distribution, I think this explains why we didn't go for 'reindeer' in the main picture. Not exactly a Stubbs, is it? Though maybe we were combining two festive traditions and it's actually an anatomically correct portrayal of a pantomime reindeer. With an enormous arse.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Advent Day 3

And behind Father Christmas is ...

Another angel who looks like Bod!

OK, there's a Bod/angel in the main picture too, but at least this one has feet, despite being drawn in such a small space.

And as there's no statute of limitation on crimes in this country, please don't sue us, person who drew Bod. We were young and foolish, and unaware of such concepts as plagiarism and copyright. It would also be difficult to measure your losses as we received no money from our parents for the advent calendar (which I now realise is a trick that we missed - we could have either bundled the advent calendar in an annual package with homemade birthday/Christmas/Father's and Mother's Day cards, or sold it on a pay-per-view basis for opening each door). If it comes to court I will argue that the halo and wings either constitute a different character, or are a fair use parody. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Advent Day 2

And behind the manically grinning angel is ...

A carol singer holding a lantern! Or possibly a man with no hands poking a long stick at a small, high window. But just look at that excellent scissor-work cutting open the door.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Advent Day 1

And behind the weird-looking fish/dolphin is ...

A Christmas tree! That's pretty clear, isn't it? Red pot, brown trunk, green Christmas tree shape and a yellow blob on the top that's meant to be a star, even though we had a fairy on top of our tree (because stars are easier to draw). When we were in our 20s, our mum decided it was time to get rid of the battered old fairy and try something new. Needless to say, we revolted, and the fairy was restored to her rightful place (albeit with a new bit of tinsel).