Recreating childhood memories of the Late Late Toy Show abroad
For the third year I’m hosting a Toy Show party for my kids in London, writes Marie-Therese Keegan
It takes more than a couple of years for a practice to become a family tradition but we’re getting there. For the third year running I am hosting a Late Late Toy Show screening party in my London home. Regrettably I can’t give my kids an Irish childhood but I can offer them a few gems from my own and the Toy Show experience shines bright.
As the world’s longest running chat show, broadcast weekly by RTÉ since 1962, the annual toy extravaganza started in the seventies. Just in time to escort me nicely through my childhood. Parents beginning their Christmas shopping before the programme aired 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, they were mostly sons and daughters of RTÉ personnel.
Speak to any Irish person about The Late Late and they’ll have their own anecdote 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, if your dad hadn’t turned over before it got that far.
As an earnest 14-year-old I wrote to the programme in response to a heated debate on the previous week’s show. I didn’t say anything to my family. I remember so clearly tuning in the following Saturday (the show only moved to Fridays much later), my heart pounding as Gay Byrne said his post bag was bulging. He went on to show a selection, leading with mine! A close up shot of pink-lined paper and my neat handwriting. The phone didn’t shop ringing all night, and while it wasn’t referred to from the altar next day it was all they could talk about in the churchyard after mass on Sunday.
So this Friday I’ll attach my laptop to our TV screen and tune in to RTÉ. Karen and family from across the road will join us. Her mother left Lucan in the sixties and Karen spent many’s the school holiday with “Grandma Ireland”.
Our kids will be in their night clothes as I used to be, pens poised to note any new products or concepts. They’ll check with me if its really true that their cousins are watching this very show too. They’ll be giddy and expectant, ready to greet an old friend.
My boy will probably try to trump his friends with his higher proportion of Irish blood. I heard him at it last year. His half to their quarter. His pride for Ireland and his Irish mammy sparked by The Toy Show.
I’ll use the commercial breaks to bring in the food. More kickbacks to days of old. I’ll have defrosted my mother’s brown bread, baked for me while on a visit home last month. I’ll serve it sliced and topped with smoked salmon and dill sauce. I’ve thought about resurrecting the mushroom vol au vents but somethings are better left in the past. I may fry potato cakes. I’ll retrieve the sack of Taytos and packets of the biscuits of my youth – Jacob’s Kimberleys and Boland’s Fig rolls which I’d stashed at the back of the wardrobe.
There’ll be Irish coffees for the adults (made with Jameson of course) and red lemonade for the kids. Their interest will wane as the show progresses and their viewing is punctuated by giddy bursts spent running amok playing their own games, while we adults remain glued to the toy demonstrations and kids’ entertainment acts.
I’ll consider sending off for tickets to next year’s show but know that I won’t. Our friends will leave us before midnight. A fun time had by all. Someone will say “Same time, same place, next year.”
Time (and my children) will tell if memories are made of nights like these.