When we were small, my four siblings and I shared a bedroom, and every Christmas morning, long before daybreak, one of us would grope our way to the end of the bed and feel the rich promise of a tightly packed football sock which had been empty when we went to bed.

There would be loud stage whisper of “He’s Been!” which meant we all lay awake and a’quiver for what seemed an eternity before we were allowed to explore what was in the sock.

This would entirely depend on how my father had got on at his Christmas Eve at the pub, where he would play his annual game of brinksmanship in pursuit of the turkey.

He would usually come home with a festive bird big enough to feed the entire street, picked up for a song at chucking out time, but one year he left it too late and came back with two somewhat scrawny geese.

He put them in the oven to cook overnight, and the next morning the kitchen floor was like Altrincham Ice Rink, as those two geese had produced enough grease to see the most obese Channel swimmer safely over to France and back. Stockings were not opened till about 11am that year.

The contents of the stockings varied little from year to year. We all knew that the double bulge at the end would be an apple and an orange – rare treats in the days when the only time you saw fruit in the house was when someone was poorly.

Each stocking would also contain a small but very heavy paper bag, containing a veritable king’s ransom in the form of 120 big round pennies – ten shillings worth of hard cash which would keep you in Penny Arrow bars and Bubbly Gum right the way through to Easter. My nana would have knitted each one of us a bob hat, with jaunty bobble on the top, and there would be further bags of fruit chews and chocolate chewing nuts.

There would be further presents in the front room, bathed in the cheerful glow from the real candles guttering away in the branches of a scraggy Christmas tree which predated the Wall Street crash.

Waiting on chairs would be our parcels, brown paper packages tied up with string in true Julie Andrews fashion. And among the presents would be many items you simply don’t see among the high-tech razzamatazz of a 21st century Christmas,

When I was little, Christmas wasn’t Christmas if you didn’t receive a junior smoker’s outfit among your festive gifts. Lovingly fashioned out of thick black liquorice, there would be a pipe and cigar tipped with blood red hundreds and thousands, and these would be accompanied by white candy cigarettes, again adorned with red tips, so we could all puff away convincingly just like Mam and Dad. I was a big fan of liquorice novelties of all kinds, for as well as the smoking accoutrements there were coils of black magic with a jelly centre, liquorice strings and a sprinkling of Pontefract cakes.

Even now, I can chomp my way through a family bag of liquorice allsorts in no time – especially those blue or pink jelly ones which are the best sweeties ever invented. Liquorice torpedoes come a close second just ahead of the black delights wrapped in foil you find in a bag of caramels.

However, there was one liquorice experience which totally passed me by in my schooldays, when people would queue at the tuck shop to buy liquorice root. These were essentially small twigs you chewed until they became a raggy mess. I soon decided there were plenty of free twigs in the hedgerow to gnaw on rather than shelling out a hard-earned ha’penny for such a pallid offering.

My sisters would get a golliwog each and my brothers and I would get a cap gun and holster apiece, reflecting the number of cowboy series that were on television at the time including The Lone Ranger, the Range Rider. Cheyenne, Wagon Train, Laramie, Rawhide, Bronco and Sugarfoot.

We fairly bristled with weaponry, and packed our pockets with rolls of caps, which could be used for all kinds of mischief at school. I discovered with painful consequences that if you folded a strip of caps, and then gave them a hearty whack with a football boot, the explosion could be heard in the headmaster’s office...