I was wasting time on one of the forums I frequent today - yes, I'm an Internet geek - when I stumbled across a thread extolling the virtues of the Stylophone.
The Stylophone was a miniature synthesiser which was operated by a stylus. Small, battery operated and annoyingly loud, it became a 'must have' Christmas gift for the children of Britain. Rolf Harris was the face of Stylophone. Each new item came with a floppy disc with Rolf taking the owner through the instructions in his excited Australian accent. I can't remember what year it exploded on the UK market, suffice it to say that I'm pretty sure it was somewhere between 1973 and 1976. Every kid wanted one and my brother Mark and I were no different.
Presents were not put under the tree and opened as a family in the SSS household. An ordinary pillowcase was stuffed with presents and every now and then a handful of Quality Street sweets were thrown in. There was also a Selection Box and an annual of some description. Father Christmas (aka Dad) used to leave our presents in our bedrooms. When questioned on this he says it's what his parents did when he was a boy but I strongly suspect it was a ploy on the part of our parents to be able to sleep in past 6am on Christmas morning. Generally it worked. Not, however, in the Year of the Stylophone.
I have no idea what time it was when I woke that Christmas morning but I think it was probably around 4am. I switched on the light, saw the presents and got stuck in. About a third of the way into the pile I found it. My Stylophone. I immediately rushed into my brothers bedroom clutching my electronic musicmaker. Mark was hard at work, ripping into paper and eating sweets.
"Quick," I shouted. "Look for this. You must have one!" He rummaged about for a bit then found his Stylophone. Foolishly, my parents had given us both batteries. Initially we just ran the stylet up and down the keyboard but after only a short period we were able to play something which bore more than a passing resemblence to The Death March. We played and played and played.
Suddenly, the bedroom door burst open and a wild looking man wearing pyjamas started shouting at us. It seemed that our parents had taken exception to being woken in the early hours of the morning to the garbled funeral dirge. I was lifted by the scruff of my dressing gown and deposited back in my own room. The Stylophones were confiscated and we were warned not to move from our rooms until daylight.
I don't remember much else about that Christmas or many others from my childhood but I'll never forget that moment.