That sentence ran through my mind recently. Yes, it must have been thirty years ago. Thirty long years ago.
What triggered this thought sprang from something I heard on a radio show I was listening to. For some reason, the host mentioned the words 'Christmas' and 'Table' and this prompted a long-forgotten memory to come back to my consciousness.
During the build to Christmas 1987, my junior school set up a competition where teams of students had to decorate their own Christmas table for one of the final school lunches of the term. The entire school took part.
I can't recall how many people were on our team. I do know that two of my best friends at the time - Mark and Paul - were on it.
That makes three of us from memory. There must have been another person at least because the tables sat four.
Anyway, the planning stage went like this.
I had a candle that was shaped like a monkey in a drummer boy costume. My aunt from America had sent it to us one year. He made it to my list. There was also a plastic sweet box that we had from the previous Christmas that was shaped like a tree. I recall this was also one of the items brought along to the lunch.
Paul excitedly told us he had two china cats that we could put on the table as well. I remember thinking to myself what they had to do with Christmas, but didn't voice this ponderment.
On the big day, Paul brought his ceramic cats. They weren't table ornaments. They were huge ashtrays, shaped like tall black cats, that I guess would sit beside a chair so the smoker could dispose of their ash in the head of the cat.
After seeing them, I still didn't understand why he thought they were good for a Christmas table.
I still don't thirty years later!
We arranged the table with everything we brought and, if I were to be honest, I think it looked like a mess. I had no hope that we would end up winning. People like us never won. It was always the teachers' favourites that ended up getting the glory.
But that's where I was right.
You see, the table competition wasn't judged by the teachers. It was by the dinner ladies.
They loved our display. And yes, our table was voted the best of the lot.
In their opinion, of course.
* * *
After writing about this memory, I had a look across the Internet to see if I could find a picture of the black cat ashtrays. The best I could find was this:
It was definitely this kind of shape, but I'm reluctant to state that they looked exactly like this.