Here at last we arrive at Christmas 2011 and now the candles flicker and glow, casting a warm, shadowy play of light all around the living room of the Lancaster Street home of the Crambie family.
Now it’s time to relax as, for the 44th year in succession, my dear wife Ruth has served up a truly noble festive feast that Fezziwig himself would have been justly proud. As the Christmas tree lights shine out with shimmering symmetry, son Shaun and his latest beau settle down on the settee enjoying a glass each of the finest brandy. Meanwhile daughter Janette and Darren are both savouring a slice of Christmas cake (complete with cheese) while grandson Nathan and Libby send each other a text on their phones, as their smiling faces light up the room.
Ruth arrives from the kitchen to the bedecked living room with her sumptuous home-made trifle which brings loud cheers from all of us as I settle down into my cosy armchair with my chocolate marzipan and a trusty bottle of Captain Morgan rum.
The television screen shows the beginning of the ultimate Christmas film, Frank Cappa’s classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, from 1946 and, as old Mr Gower says the film’s opening lines, “I owe everything to George Bailey, help him, dear father”, I slowly sink down in my comfortable armchair. Suddenly, I’m startled by a loud shot: “Less noise, less noise!” Why, this is a voice I haven’t heard for over 50 years and there in his corner is dear old Joe Bleasdale, shining his torch into where I’m sitting. Joe moves to his favourite spot as my hands feel the plush velvet of the seat I’m sitting in. This isn’t my leather armchair - where on earth am I?
Just nearby, I see a wall poster which reads: “A Special Christmas Day matinee, Tuesday, December 25th, 1956, at 2 p.m. For tickets, adults at half-a-crown and children, one shilling, with free ice creams for all, please ring the manager, Lew Askew, at the Savoy Cinema on Colne 293. Our film is the much requested, “Rock Around the Clock” with Bill Haley and his Comets; book early”.
Just then, the huge cinema screen I’m now facing erupted with the joyous sound: “One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock; five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock rock; nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock rock; we’re gonna rock around the clock tonight”... and there, as large as life, is a smiling, Bill Haley, filling the screen with his six Comets rocking it up behind him. My mind boggles, 1956? I’ve gone back in time 55 years!
As Bill sings out, I look around to see teenagers now bopping in aisles and then to great surprise, I look along my row and sitting alongside me are my school pals from Primet, over a half-a-century ago! Why, here next to me is my great pal and class-mate, Trevor Riddiough, then Graham White, Keith Carradice and David Heaton who would within a few years, become Colne Dynamoes football legends. On my other side are three more Dynamoes immortals -Gordon Ellis, Trevor Lonsdale, Keith Gibbons, all seven from my class at Primet School during the rock and roll years, 1954-58.
Also here I see Granton Burrows and Herbert Whitaker, both leaping around to the music as are Primet schoolgirls, Vivienne Duxbury and Rita Pearson whose flared skirts whirl round in time to the sound of Bill Haley now singing, “See you later, Alligator”!
Just then, I hear loud singing along with Bill from the seats on the back row of the Savoy and, as I turn to see who they are, I see four of the best known Colne teenagers of the 1950s, Bob (Teddy Boy) Thompson is here bopping in his blue suede creepers as his matching electric blue, velvet-collared, drape jacket swirls almost to the Savoy’s plush carpet. Alongside Bob and also dressed in ‘50s style are Brian (Bris) Clark, Bryan (Coco) Corbridge and Ian (Fanny) Stansfield, all singing and having the time of their lives, as indeed are every single one of us on this wonderful Christmas day.
Now a change of mood as on to the screen appear the glorious singing quintet of the Fifties, the Platters. Now the Savoy is hushed as lead singer Tony Williams performs his stunning single “The Great Pretender”. A tear comes to my eye as I see, standing by the side of the screen, an immaculate, dark-suited, Lew Askew and dear old Joe Bleasdale, both singing quietly along with the Platters; it is a moment of true magic.
Suddenly, the Savoy has Bill Haley back singing the song that changed the world of popular music forever - “Rock Around the Clock - echoes throughout the cinema with everyone on their feet going slightly berserk as Bill and his legendary Comets - Johnny, Billy, Rudy, Frank, Al and Ralph - play the title track of the film that made being a teenager truly worthwhile. As I gyrate around with my string tie swinging about to the music, suddenly a loud bang goes off in my face! My eyes blink open as grandson, Nathan, stands over me with a party popper in his hand. “Wake up Grandad, your favourite film’s ending,” I look and see George Bailey and his family round the Christmas tree!
From all of us to everyone, may you have the Christmas of your dreams.