We’re back from midnight mass. As I open the door of our old Rover, I see my frosty breath as I impersonate a steam train. The sky is clear and the stars are putting on a show for free. Christmas tree lights in the window across the road. The sound of front door closing, just as we opened ours. Once in the house, we're hit with a delicious smell of turkey - it's been roasting since we went to mass and will continue slowly throughout the night. Mince pies are on a tray. “Tomorrow”, says Mum.
From the turkey to the tree as the rich aroma of Norwegian spruce fills our tiny living room. A tin of Quality Street on the coffee table, a bowl of nuts, a pack of dates, some After Eights, and a net of satsumas. It’s not a lot, but it’s everything.
A string of Christmas cards across one wall of the living room with the larger ones on the coffee table beside our little black and white telly. There’s silver and red tinsel on the tree, tiny coloured lights, satin baubles, wooden toys, plus some Father Christmas chocolates.
My bedroom - strewn with thin strands of left over tinsel from wall to wall and affixed by lumps of blue tack. I put on my Star Wars pajamas and slide under my duvet.
I can taste the Blue Minty Gel toothpaste as I listen to my parents getting ready for bed. After a kiss goodnight, my light is out and I struggle to fall asleep.
When I next open my eyes, it's 5am. There...at the door, is a pillowcase with presents. They'll be a few more under the tree, but Father Christmas always made a special delivery to my bedroom door. I knew it was my parents, and they knew that I knew, but we all kept the magic alive for as long as possible.
Mum and dad appeared at the door, yawning and bleary-eyed, but putting on a good act as I start to open presents, reading out-loud the messages on the little tags.
Beezer and Dandy annuals, an Action Man plane, a model car, a chocolate selection box, a West Brom diary, a joke book, An Action Force soldier, a teddy, a remote control car, a siren for my BMX, and my stocking with chocolate coins, a couple of satsumas, some nuts, and a yo-yo. I’m a lucky boy, I thought, as I sat in my bed of gifts under a sea of paper and tags.
It was more than just the presents for me, it was decorating the cake, playing board games on the last day of school, buying the Radio and TV Times from the village newsagent, decorating the tree together, and waiting to see Dad drive down the hill on his last day of work. He’d flash the headlights as he pulled into the drive.
They headed back to bed and I ate chocolate coins and satsumas as I read my annuals. Eventually I do drop off, and I'm awoken by the sound of mum downstairs singing Bing Crosby. I look outside and hope for snow, but not yet. Jason is riding his new BMX in the rain.
Dad is shaving and listening to carols on Radio 2 with his tiny radio - I pop in to give him a hug and a kiss as he taps his razor on the sink.
I race downstairs with my Action Man in hand. The tree lights are on. I can smell the wrapping paper. I hold mum tightly as the Bing music plays. Dad is here now, smelling of shaving cream and soap. We have tea and toast as we unwrap our presents. Outside, it’s a mixture of sleet and rain. Our little electric fire is also on, and the faux coal gives off a beautiful glow. Behind our house is the edge of Dartmoor which is covered in the lightest dusting of snow.
There we were, just the three of us in our little house in South Brent back in 1983. It might be in the past, but I can go back there whenever I want, all I have to do is close my eyes.