Until 1991 here in New Zealand we had only one provider of mobile phone services – the mega company, Telecom. Another provider came onto the scene when BellSouth was introduced. BellSouth was part of the AT&T Corp and was subsequently purchased by Vodafone.
However, back to those early days. In a bid to increase market share, BellSouth identified possible users and wooed us with offers of free phones (unheard of in 1991) and the incentive that if we introduced others to the service we would gain 60 free minutes for each one. At that time, all minutes were charged – no included minutes in the contract.
Well I was one of those wooed in this way. In fact, I am told by the guy at Vodafone that I was the 26th person to change to BellSouth and only the 4th in Wellington.
Now go back to that first Christmas. BellSouth treated those of us who were early users, royally. Each day for 12 days a courier arrived with a parcel for me. [Note here – my daughter who worked for me and whose phone we had transferred to BellSouth wasn’t treated in this way.] Each day the courier would arrive with a big smile and say “He’s sent you something again today.” And then he’d leave with a smile on his face.
I don’t remember all that I received but things included mince pies, chocolates, packs of cards, a juggling game. But the piece de resistance was on the day that we closed the office. The courier arrived with a very large blue box with a golden bow tied around it. BellSouth’s colours here. He insisted that I open the box in front of him because he was determined to find out what “he” had sent me on that day. Mind you the smell of brandy was very strong. Everybody gathered around me while I opened the box. And there was without a doubt the biggest Christmas pudding I have ever seen. It was in the shape of a bell and even though it had no doubt been well soaked in brandy it came complete with a small bottle of brandy.
Luckily I wasn’t stopped on the way home because the car reeked of brandy and I would have had a hard time convincing the cop that it wasn’t me!
Christmas was two days away and as luck would have it both my children were going to be out of town for the holiday. My dashing young Scotsman and I were going to be on our own, so with another couple, we were going to a local restaurant for Christmas dinner. We were regulars there and so the owners sent a car for us and then after several hours, organised the same car to take us home. But that’s a story for another day.
Back to this enormous pudding. I took it home and we discussed what to do with it. It was obviously far too large for us and we didn’t have any intention of letting it go to waste.
So early next morning I started ringing around the organisations who help those in need. Nobody was interested in our pudding. eventually, at 11.55am I got a hit – yes they would love to have the pudding. They were closing at 12 noon and could I get it there in time? No way. Did they have another suggestion? The phone was put down while a discussion ensued with somebody else in the office. When they came back they gave me the address of a family of seven who had little or no money and would no doubt welcome the pudding. The family lived not far from us and so I took the pudding to them.
I hate the whole “Lady Bountiful” idea and so I just left the big box on top of the letter (mail) box. Then drove further up the cul-de-sac in order to turn around. As I went down the road again I heard an excited young voice calling out “Mum I think Santa came early”. I was so happy to have found a welcome place for my Christmas pudding.
Unfortunately, that was the only year that BellSouth recognised its clients in this way. But we still talk about the Giant Christmas Pudding.
For those of you not familiar with a Christmas pudding this is a traditional steamed spicy pudding served for dessert on Christmas day. The web abounds with recipes. Click here for a favourite.
There are many traditions associated with Christmas puddings. Growing up mother always put silver threepenny pieces in the pudding – we had to return it for use again next year if we were lucky enough to find one in the pudding.
Another tradition is for everybody in the family to stir the pudding when it’s being made. As they each take a turn to stir, they make a wish. Of course, they mustn’t do it out loud or tell anyone what they wished for otherwise, it won’t come true.
On a silver dish the Christmas pudding reposed in its glory. A large football of a pudding, a piece of holly stuck in it like a triumphant flag and glorious flames of blue and red rising round it. There was a cheer and cries of ‘Ooh-ah.’”
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding’, by Agatha Christie
And I am sorry that I don’t have a picture of the bell-shaped pudding but found this when looking for a picture to use
Roger and Valerie Holley put the finishing touches to their giant hedge which they have transformed into a Christmas pudding Photo: SOUTH WEST NEWS