When I was six, I got a Bionic Man action man for Christmas. I remember that I knew that that was what it was from the size and shape of the box, when it was still wrapped under the tree. I suspect I was very familiar with the dimensions of its packaging from coveting it in toyshops.
My Mom used to let me open one Christmas present on Christmas Eve – probably, I now realise, as a way of diffusing the extreme Christmas morning excitement which would have seen me waking her up at 5am. So I chose the present I knew was my Bionic Man and was overjoyed. I don't remember much else about that Christmas, but I remember he had a red tracksuit and trainers, and some sort of peel-up-able skin on his arm to reveal his bionics.
If you'd asked me at any point in my life what my Favourite Ever Christmas Present was, I would have said that it was that Bionic Man. Mainly because I wanted it so badly, and the massive helping of joy it delivered when I opened it. But I did love it and played with it a lot for the next couple of years.
A few years ago, though, I was lucky enough to get an espresso machine as a joint Christmas and birthday present. And that brings me a little shot (or two) of joy every morning. If I weigh it up, I suspect, the espresso maker has made me even happier, over the years, than my red-tracksuited bionic man.
And then about six months ago I thought I had lost the watch I was given one particular Christmas, and I went a little bit mad until I had found it again - ten minutes later in a pocket in a bag I hadn't noticed before. "Ah," I realised, "it turns out I'm really rather attached to this watch."
Is 'favourite' favourite now, favourite at the time you opened it, or most important over a longer portion of your life?
Last weekend at the Slung Low Christmas Fayre in Leeds, with help of Hannah Nicklin, and last night at the Inbetween Time Christmas Party in Bristol, I asked people what their favourite ever Christmas present was. I asked them to make cards and write about their favourite presents, and took their addresses so they can all receive someone else's favourite ever present in the post.
People were, as people are, really thoughtful; people had, as people do, some great stories. It was a joy to hear and read them. It was planned as a one-off for the Christmas Fayre, so the invitation to Bristol was a nice surprise – and means I can send cards to/from people in different cities. I'd like to do it again. So perhaps this is a mini-performance equivalent of a Christmas single, and we'll re-release it next year.