It takes more than a couple of years for a practice to become a family tradition but we’ll get there. As our neighbours took their leave on Friday night, they signed up for next year’s LATE ‘Late Late Toy show’ party at ours. The Late Late Show is the world’s longest running chat show, aired weekly by the Irish broadcaster RTE since 1962, and hosting an annual toy extravaganza since the seventies.
Regrettably I can’t give my kids an Irish childhood but I can offer them a few nuggets from my own along the way and the toy show is one such. So iconic it has it’s own Wikipedia entry. Parents starting their Christmas shopping before the show would do so at their own peril. As a child I’d write my letter to Santa only after seeing all the latest toys, road-tested by other boys and girls lucky enough to be tasked with the job of reviewers (back then, mostly sons and daughters of RTE personnel).
Speak to any Irish person about The Late Late and they’ll have their own antidote to tell. Maybe it’s about squirming on the couch beside their parents while the nation was treated to a tutorial on using a condom. As an earnest fourteen year old I once wrote to the programme, neat hand-writing on a pink ring jotter pad, in response to issues raised on the previous week’s show. I didn’t tell my family about this, and remember my heart pounding, as Gay Byrne said his post bag was bulging. He went on to show a selection, leading with mine. Well, the phone didn’t shop ringing all night and while it wasn’t referred to from the altar next day (the show used to air on Saturdays) it was all they could talk about in the church after mass on Sunday.
So for the second year in succession, DH set up the laptop to our TV screen, found the show on RTE player and my kids got The Late Late toy show experience, a week or so after their Irish cousins and decades after me. Our lovely neighbours, also with Irish cousins and references, joined us. And wouldn’t you know it, our kids watched intermittently (though more than last year) whilst running amok playing their own games while we adults were glued to the toy demonstrations and kids entertainment acts.
Last weekend at Dublin airport I’d stocked up on another iconic Irish product – Tayto crisps. And packets of the biscuits of my youth – Jacob’s Kimberleys and Boland’s Figrolls. Served with hot chocolates and Irish coffees. Time (and my children) will tell if memories are made of nights like these.