I’m ridiculously nostalgic when it comes to Christmas, so a film that brings a 1980s Christmas back to life is an absolute must-see.
A Child’s Christmases In Wales was made by BBC Four as a ‘modern’ adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ story of the same name.
I say ‘modern’ – it actually takes us back to Christmas past with a hat-trick of seriously retro 1980s Christmases.
And it comes complete with all the tat that we remember from the brash, loud and over indulgent decade.
The film is set in South Wales and tells the story of Owen Rhys as he reminisces on three separate Christmases in 1983, 1986 and 1989.
Each year, Owen’s two uncles, Gorwel (a man who squats in an aquarium and drains the drinks trolley of whisky each year) and Huw (a successful carpet salesman who once sold a rug to Tom Jones) descend on Owen’s house, with Owen’s melancholic cousin Maurice in tow.
And every year, Owen’s father Geraint struggles to negotiate a reasonable rate with the carol singers, whose prices keep going up, while his mother Brenda prepares the house with military precision, measuring carrot batons and creating perfectly symmetrical pyramids out of pink loo rolls.
There are rows, fights and aggressive Hungry Hungry Hippos tournaments, but eventually, the family finds peace and harmony.
Just in time for the 90s.
To top it off, the cast includes the fantastic Ruth Jones (Gavin and Stacey), Paul Kaye (otherwise known as ‘Dennis Pennis’ as some readers may remember), Mark Lewis-Jones and Steve Speirs.
And it’s funny, too – the screenplay was written by comedian Mark Watson.
So I’m going to use this film to take us all back to the highs and lows of a 1980s Christmas.
Let’s celebrate 1980s decor at its finest and look back at the technology that will make you thankful for your iPhone.
Brenda’s perfectly preened home will bring back a whole load of childhood memories.
A Charles and Diana commemorative mug sits on the kitchen bench; there’s a drinks trolley in the corner loaded with Advocaat and vermouth; the cups of tea are delivered on a doily-dressed saucer and the wallpaper does not apologise for what it is – namely a brown-hued, floral flock.
Then there is the fire place: an electric fire with plastic coal and wood, and a ‘flame’ effect that was basically made from a back-lit cut-out that looked, well, nothing like a flame.
Brenda has her house decked in foil decorations and tinsel for Christmas – remember those beauties that we used to hang from the ceiling?
And as she refuses to buy the tree until Christmas Eve, because she’s broken too many hoovers vacuuming up pine needles, she’s absolutely delighted when brash Uncle Huw arrives with an artificial silver Christmas tree.
There is plenty of vintage tech in this film too.
Brenda wants a phone line installed but Geraint doesn’t go in for all the new tech – he would rather take a walk in the bracing winter air to the town’s only phone box.
But this is the 80s, the decade on the cusp of the digital revolution and the computer has arrived – courtesy of (surprise, surprise) Uncle Huw.
Huw rocks up with the new toy and a ‘fascinating’ game called Planning Permission (press A to be the council chief, press B to be the secretary etc).
Of course, the game doesn’t load, so the lads revert to the trusty old Subbuteo – until Brenda crushes the little men under her feet while carrying the tea and the doilys.
The CD makes an appearance too, as the carol singers’ conductor tries to up his profits by flogging Owen their brand new Christmas tracks.
And finally, the video recorder, which belongs to Huw, allows them to watch Max Boyce on demand – although Huw isn’t keen on pausing or stopping the tape when the carol singers interrupt in the belief ‘it’ll wear out the tape’.
So there you have it.
If you want to experience a 1980s Christmas in technicolor (it took Brenda a few more years to finally give in and agree to a colour TV) then give this film a watch.
Sadly, due to modern technology, I lost my recorded version when I switched Internet provider, so I had to hunt it down on eBay.
I suddenly had renewed sympathy for Huw and his rubbish computer. I guess some things never really change.
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