“Come upstairs with me?” I tugged at his sleeve to attract attention.
My brother, ten, sighed. “Go on your own.”
In 1961, we were teetering on the edge of a ‘fab’, new frontier. Polaris to Apollo, it was all posturing. The Beatles were about to blast out of the Cavern Club and go stellar like Gagarin and Shepard. Gone the 13th Century farthing! Gone, black and white five pound notes! But the Berlin wall was being built. The old order was changing and the modern era was ready to explode in Vietnam.
The flip side of progress was paranoia.
I was eight. Bay of Pigs? I didn’t even know pigs could swim! I only knew that, ‘Big Bad John’ was living in our box room. Every large parcel that came was shoes or clothes for Big John. If we went in there, Big John would get us and Big John ate inquisitive children, so that would be that.
Gradually I began to question how many feet Big John had and why his shoes were all different sizes. And why did he need new clothes and shoes if he never went out?
“Come upstairs with me?”
My brother headed for that bedroom door.
“Big John’ll get us!”
The door creaked open and he dragged me in protesting. “There!” Under the bed were all the boxes. A doll, jigsaw puzzles, Lego, books, a slide…
“See?” he said, “No Big John!” My life was overturned. There was no Santa Claus.