As the festive season approaches do you row about where to put the Christmas tree, asks Ian McMillan

Now that you’ve made your way to the back of this week’s magazine which, as you’ll have noticed, is all about festive interiors, I reckon there’s just time for me to tell you about Auntie’s Christmas tree and Uncle Charlie’s Radiogramme and the way they both tried to potentially inhabit the same space in the runup to Christmas one year in the distant and half-forgotten 1960’s.
Ian McMillanIan McMillan
Ian McMillan

Picture Auntie and Uncle Charlie’s front room, which wasn’t that different to so many front rooms in those days. There was a brown three-piece suite and brown cupboards built into the wall. There was a big brown TV and the doors into the room were dark. A theme is emerging here: it was like sitting inside a bowl of oxtail soup. The only time the room got lighter was the fire was really banked up or if there was something featuring snow on the TV or when it was Christmas and Auntie put her Christmas tree up.

One November, though, Uncle Charlie announced that he was buying a radiogramme that he’s seen in Mrs Parry’s shop in Darfield’s Central Business District. For my younger readers, a radiogramme was a marvel of the modern age; it was a combination of record player and radio which meant, for Uncle Charlie, that he could switch from listening to Sing Something Simple on the radio with The Adams Singers directed by Cliff Adams and listen to an LP of The Adams Singers singing the songs from Sing Something Simple. He’d got excited about it when he first saw in in Mrs Parry’s when he’d gone to buy some batteries and he’d insisted that Auntie had a look when she was buying bread from the bakers and eggs from the Co-op.

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Auntie wasn’t as excited by it as Uncle Charlie was; she liked the little radio that sat on top of the (brown) sideboard and the little record player that they kept in one of the fitted cupboards. ‘Come on, woman, get modern!’ said Uncle Charlie, his glasses glinting in the autumn sun. He pointed to the radio bit of the radiogramme, with all those magical names of half-forgotten stations. ‘Look: you can get Hilversum!’ She pointed at the solid wood of the radiogramme. ‘It’s so brown’ she said. ‘It’s really brown.’ Uncle Charlie nodded enthusiastically. ‘Aye, so then it fits wi’t rest o’t room!’ he said, patting the huge piece of singing furniture as though he already owned it.

Back home, they discussed where the radiogramme was to go, in a room that was already pretty overcrowded. Uncle Charlie gestured to a place by the sideboard. ‘It’ll fit there nicely’ he said. ‘But that’s where my Christmas Tree goes’ Auntie replied, distressed.

And so began the autumn and winter of what you’d call these days an interior design discussion. Uncle Charlie called on their son, Little Charlie, to speak up for the radiogramme and Auntie called on their daughter Madge to lobby for the Christmas Tree. Uncle Charlie’s mate from the pit, Ted, gave reasons why the radiogramme should take centre stage and Auntie knocked on the wall and asked Mrs Beck from next door to come round and give her opinion, which tilted towards the Christmas tree. I guess that this back-and-forth is being mirrored in homes throughout the county at this time of year. Where do you put the Christmas Tree?

In the end Auntie put the tree on top of the radiogramme, which felt like a good compromise until it fell off when Uncle Charlie was conducting some brass band music a bit too vigorously.

Interior design, eh?

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