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Column: Charlie Condou reflects on coming-of-age at Christmas

By Will Stroude

charlie-condouChristmas Eve,  1980. As usual, I had gone to bed sick with excitement.  I was determined that this was the year I would stay awake and finally meet Santa.  Of course I was asleep within minutes, but I awoke during the night and to my horror, discovered my slightly pissed Dad shoveling tangerines and walnuts into the pillowcase I had diligently laid out at the bottom of my bed.  I was devastated: Kay Scott from school was right, there was no Father Christmas.  I spent the next day in a daze of disenchantment and betrayal.

A year later, and while I’d come to terms with what was clearly the biggest disappointment of my life, it was hard to work up the same excitement.  Once again, for my main present, I’d asked for a ‘Girl’s World’ (a giant doll head with ‘life-like’ hair to style – how my parents were shocked when I came out I’ll never know), and once again, my request had been ignored: another let-down, and this time I knew it was my own parents who were the culprits.  Christmas was obviously for credulous children and I no longer felt a part of it.

My big obsession of the time was The Human League.  I desperately wanted to be Phil Oakey (okay, if I’m honest, Susan Ann Sulley) and would spend hours trying to fashion my blunt fringe into a long side-parted flick.  I can still remember the frustration I felt at trying to press record and play simultaneously on my cassette player, and time and time again missing the opening 4 bars of Love Action. Christmas morning was the usual scenario of family stress and chaos and we whipped through present opening like reindeer shit off a shovel, so that my mum and dad could get on with over-cooking the veg for lunch.

My last gift was from my big sister Niki; a big box with gold wrapping and an actual ribbon. I knew it’d be amazing and I was right.  Inside was her old record player which I had coveted for years.  But what followed took my breath away.  She’d also bought me my first ever 7″ vinyl,  Human League’s Don’t You Want Me. That record felt like ticket to adulthood and it marked a turning point for me.  Records were for grown-ups, or more importantly, teenagers. My sister had seen that I was moving into a new phase and as always helped me along the way. Suddenly Christmas was rescued, no longer something that I’d grown out of.  I still have that dusty old vinyl and I still feel like an adult whenever I look at it.

Follow Charlie on Twitter @Charliecondou

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