Friday, 14 December 2012

It's Christmas. Where's my annual Annual?

This week I've been thinking about Christmas presents, and started remembering how, as a kid, I always used to get an annual in my stocking.

I had loads, not just new ones at Christmas but second-hand ones from the 50s and 60s. Old ones were generally 10p in Oxfam. Regardless of the time of year it was always good to come home clutching the Judy or Princess Annual. I loved these books with their combinations of picture stories, general knowledge, and post-war make-something-of-yourselfness. I loved the boarding school ballerinas who discovered diamond smuggling rings and the plucky gels who saved people's lives while learning important lessons about integrity and how to pilot a yacht. They were ace. I learned all sorts of things from them.*

Know your place, kiddies
I wondered what had happened to the annual these days, so I went to WHSmith to look. Almost all the annuals were related to a money-making business (football club, TV series, film, band, etc). There weren't that many aimed at girls at all. And that wasn't because they were aimed at children in general - the majority were clearly aimed at boys. Yes, you can buy your daughter a Man U Annual - but I don't think it features the women's team. Ditto the Dr Who Annual - I love science fiction but I don't think they were expecting females to buy it.

There were a few pink things for girls, like the offence, above. What struck me was not that they were segregated for gender (some early ones, like this beauty from the 1920's, are simply for children). Most of the annuals I had were 'for girls', but they featured a whole tranche of activities that seem to have gone missing from the 'appropriate for girls' list. I'm not going to bang on for ages, I'm going to post some photographs.

1: 1920's/30's Activities considered suitable/aspirational for girls.

Committing horrific breaches of health and safety. Walking over thin ice while not wearing a coat in freezing weather. Hiking without adult supervision. Fighting large birds of prey.


Fighting spies. Flying planes. Well, it was wartime.


And here's the arrival of decorum for young ladies. Being brainy, however, is apparently still ok.


In the 60's, fashion and music start to feature. However there's still plenty of derring-do involving horse-riding, space travel and so on. In this one, entitled 'Hard Choice', this young lady is having problems deciding whether to become a professional sportswoman or a musician. Baby-boomers, eh? Bastards. It's noticeable as you get into the 1960s that stories about battling adversity just drop off. Presumably people just weren't identifying any more. 


Activities appropriate for girls? Being a princess, apparently. And liking Justin Beiber.

I have only one honourable mention in this parade of horror, and that's for the Brownie Annual. It's like the old-fashioned kind except with pictures of Muslim and disabled children as well as the traditional kind. So good for them. That's clearly where the cool girls are.

I don't think I'll be getting an annual this year. 

*It's probably why I have a concept of reality that is completely skew-whiff to other people's. Come to think of it, these books have ruined my life.

1 comment:

  1. I used to LOVE getting a Christmas annual, shame they don't make them for adults really (now there's a business idea for you!) Perhaps with a couple of cake recipes in and a review of some nice boozes??