Tuesday, 2 December 2008

A Quick and Easy Winter Warmer

There are all sorts of Kate Bush videos more worthy of a look than this one (Sat in Your Lap, for instance, has a lot of explaining to do), but since it's that time of year, only one song will do. When everyone else was doing either stompy party Christmas songs or retro ballads, trust Kate to go for the tenuous, all-over-the-place meander that was December Will be Magic Again. (And the ambiguity didn't stop with the music - does she mean 'magic' in the witchy sense, or the Selwyn Froggit sense?) There's no proper video for this, weirdly, but the famous clip from Abba's ill-conceived 1978 Snowtime Special ('recorded in the BBC Big Top, 4,000 feet up in the Swiss Alps') will do just fine.

First up, some set notes. I don't know the technical, interior-y designer-y name for those rattan chairs with the big old 'halo' back, but weren't they all over the telly in those days? Never saw one in anyone's actual house, of course. There's no room for the damn thing, for a start. And very wasteful of precious resources in the 'Save It!' decade, too. Unless it was the same chair every time, of course. Anyway, here Lesley Judd's stuck some red velvet on it and painted in in Humbrol gold, 'to look a bit more Christmassy'.

And it wouldn't be 1978 without the traditional half-height all-silver Christmas tree. The first year, by my reckoning, of the silver tree's four-year dominance, which by surely no coincidence overlapped precisely with the golden ages of James Burke, motionless blokes hammering two notes each on keyboards on Top of the Pops, and people saying the phrase "paperless office" without laughing. To live at that time was to live in The Future. Unless you were a member of Darts, of course. Then it all went wrong, and the silver trees were melted down to make CDs of Brothers in Arms. I blame Princess Di.

The premise is simple: Kate's in wide-eyed 'little girl' mode - OK, more than she usually is - waiting excitedly for Father Chrissamuss to come down the chimberlee. Cue lots of 'find a space' Music and Movement shape-making and, strangely, some leg-stretching 'chairobics' of the type Sue Becker would urge OAPs to have a go at in mid-afternoon autumn years fitness programme Boomph with Becker. 'Have a rest if you like Mrs Murchison, it's not a race, you're doing absolutely fine!'

'No Warninks for you until you learn to sit on that chair properly, young lady! And Auntie Joan's seen your Tommy Cooper impression before!'

'You like the lining, don't you!'

The wide shot shows Kate's parents have made a decisive move with all their decorations away from the paper chain and spherical multicoloured tissue paper fold-out bells that always seem to be heavily torn even the first time you put them up, to the futuristic (and more hardwearing) all-tinfoil spiky stars and tinsel look, which is as it should be. Note also a washing line arrangement of Christmas cards top right, and lurking in the background, a forlorn-looking standard lamp. Also, it looks like someone ought to be attending to those vol-au-vents in the oven.

It may be a Christmas fantasy, but there's no denying the odd sign of the times - at the height of the drawn-out Blokes Up Stepladders with Buckets of Fake Polystyrene Snow Union strike, Kate has to use her own initiative. That year's Crackerjack Christmas Special was a sparse affair indeed.

'Now dear, Auntie Joan's a guest in this house and if she wants the King's Singers on that's what we're having on. You can watch Morecambe and Wise any time.'

A poignant moment - it's goodbye to the last Gooseberry Cream in the realm.

All well and good, but it's hardly a proper production number of madness of the sort you'd expect. Another performance, on Kate's own Christmas Special the following year, was a bog-standard 'at the piano' affair. This, however, more than makes up for it, presumably composed in honour of that unvenerable institution, the Radio 1 DJs' Christmas Party.


A Kitten in a Brandy Glass said...

I believe the correct name for that piece of wicker furniture is a fan-back chair or a peacock chair. They'll always be Jackanory chairs to me, though. Perhaps they ought to put a wobbly second-hand one in the diary room on the next series of Big Brother, in a credit-crunchy make-do-and-mend Pennywise way.

Phil Norman said...

You're right, of course! A Google image search for 'peacock chair' proves they're still popular today - although they still all look like Kate O'Mara's just got up from them to promenade on the verandah.