THE BARRIE HUDSON COLUMN: A Christmas of fag packets and glue

Swindon Advertiser: Shining a light on Christmas past Shining a light on Christmas past

LYDIARD House has already staged one of its two excellent Christmas workshops.

The next is this Sunday, and will allow visitors to find out what was in Christmas stockings of the past, as well as making some stocking fillers of their own.

Last Sunday’s demonstration was about how Victorian families prepared their decorations, but I wish there could be one about decorations in the more recent past.

For mums and dads it’d be a great way of recreating those innocent days of yore when jobs, mortgages and stuff were for grown-ups, and the biggest worries they had to deal with were spam fritters for school dinner and the nagging fear that the bogeyman had taken up residence in the wardrobe.

The demonstration could also be a great way for the mums and dads of today to bemuse and perhaps traumatise their children – and if you can’t bemuse and traumatise your kids at Christmas, when can you?

Actors with stunt experience could be hired to play a family from any year between about 1970 and 1985.

Visitors would watch as the one playing the dad descended by stepladder – held by the mum – from a hatch in the ceiling.

He’d be carrying a great big cardboard box with generations of sticky tape over the flaps and the word ‘XMAS’ scrawled on the side in Biro-ed letters that had been gone over about nine times.

For added authenticity Dad might drink a Party Seven of Double Diamond beforehand, while Mum sank a couple of bottles of Blue Nun. Then, after Dad hit the ground and the box landed on his prone body, they’d give it a tentative shake and the audience would hear the unmistakable tinkling of a million thin shards of broken glass.

The family would then make their own baubles by covering empty fag packets in tinfoil and wrapping paper, and attaching bits of cotton.

With Dad, Mum, Grandma, Granddad, every auntie, every uncle and probably the cat and dog on 60 JPS or Players Number 6 a day, there’d be no shortage of raw materials.

The actors playing the children would make some decorations of their own by dipping pine cones in glue and glitter. It would obviously be difficult and unsafe to source and use the authentic glue brands of years gone by, so they’d just have to pretend to be overcome by the fumes and hallucinate Daleks coming through the walls.

Another concession to safety would come when the grown-ups were putting the lights on the tree and one was fiddling with the dodgy wiring to make them work.

They’d have to mime sticking their finger in the wrong place and dancing the 240-volt Pogo until somebody broke the connection with a broom handle.

On a related note, a fire safety officer would be on standby for the bit when somebody got their cigarette too close to some tinsel made from phosphorus and magnesium that was hurriedly repurposed by a weapons manufacturer when the Vietnam War ended.

Historical accuracy can only go so far before a police officer comes along and spoils all the fun by charging somebody with manslaughter.

  • IT’S good to hear that Swindon Council has managed to recover £995,114 from assorted benefit cheats over the last three years.

Not every cheat is some cynical exploiter of the system, of course – many genuinely forget to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances.

Even so, it’s nice that the local authority is doing something proactive about people who deprive the borough of much-needed cash in these hard times.

Incidentally, did the councillors summonsed a while back over unpaid council tax ever come forward to identify themselves and say why they failed to be forthcoming with what they owed?



CHARITIES, including some local ones, fear new anti-lobbying legislation might infringe on their ability to campaign.

They are right to be worried. The proposed rules, designed to rein in the rather sinister folk paid to whisper in the ears of our politicians, could end up preventing charities from speaking out on behalf of their good causes or supporting the parties who best serve those causes.

Perhaps the whole relationship between politicians, charities and ourselves should be overhauled, such as by making charities disclose prominently on their websites who they’ve lobbied and which parties – if any – they support.

Another idea might be to make any charity with bosses paid more than a hundred grand a year to disclose the fact in a caption during those heartrending adverts they put on the telly.

Every time we saw an image of, say, a starving child, we’d also see a caption saying something like: “Just two pounds a month for 20 years will pay for a single day’s salary for our chief executive.”

Thus educated, we’d be free to either hand over our cash or keep it for a smaller charity doing much the same work but with no greedy people on board.

It would also give us something interesting to discuss with those people who spring out on us in the town centre like trapdoor spiders, armed with a fake smiles and direct debit forms.



AND now a riddle.

Are you ready? Okay, here goes: What does a thug newly convicted of domestic abuse for the third time in 10 years have in common with a thug who hurled homophobic abuse at a gay man as he punched and kicked him on the ground – and then did the same to the victim’s friend who asked him to stop?

There are several possible answers to this question.

If you answered that neither of these men has the right to live with the rest of us in a civilised society, you’d be correct.

If you answered that in any sane society both of these men would be locked up until such a time as they can prove they’re no longer a danger to the rest of us, you’d be correct.

If you answered that both of these men recently strolled from Swindon courts as free as birds, you’d also be correct.

And if you managed to get all three, go to the top of the class.

Thank you, Swindon courts, for making the town a safer place – for thugs.


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