A Tree Without Presents

Written for my son’s first Christmas with memories of my childhood Christmases

“When is it going to be Christmas Mummy?” I had asked this question every day, sixteen times a day since half term was over.  

“Christmas is ages away yet…you’ll just have to wait.”

“But it’s been ages since the last one! Why can’t we have Christmas every day?” I never got an answer to that – grown ups just laughed and patted me on the head.

Finally the time got nearer and nearer and exciting things happened at school like nativity plays and Christmas dinner. The tree went up at home which I was allowed to help with. Baubles, tinsel, fairy lights and all good things.

“But where are all the presents Mummy? The tree has nothing under it. Does this mean we haven’t been good?”

“Father Christmas brings the presents on Christmas Eve so we’ll have to wait and see if he’s brought anything for us.”

“When is Christmas Eve Mummy?”

“Tomorrow.” I gave a little jump of joy.  

Tomorrow came. It was time for Father Christmas to bring his presents. I waited all day long and nobody rang the doorbell or left packages on the doorstep. Where was he?

We had lots of jobs to do…shopping to do and things to pick up. Mummy didn’t seem concerned that we hadn’t had any presents yet.

“When is Father Christmas coming Mummy?”

“He comes during the night when you’re fast asleep, but you have to promise to go to bed on time and sleep all night – he knows when you’re awake! Now shall we make him some mince pies? Do you think we’ve got enough carrots for the reindeer and brandy for Father Christmas? Did we get the magic reindeer food to show him where to land his sleigh?”

The day was going so slowly….we all cuddled on the sofa to watch a film and drink hot chocolate. The tree looked so pretty twinkling in the corner. How much better it would look if there were presents though!

We put the carrots and a mince pie on a little plate with a small glass of brandy. “Does Father Christmas really like brandy Mummy?” It smelled revolting!

“Oh he loves it!” She assured me.  

“But if he eats mince pies in everyone’s house he’ll never fit down the chimney!”

“Ahh but you forget that Father Christmas is magical and he can do anything.”

It seemed like night time would never come. I was so excited that I knew I wouldn’t sleep. Bath time and pyjamas and a glass of milk; my stocking was ready on the end of the bed. Mummy and Daddy lay on my bed with me to read The Night Before Christmas.

“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

By the time Father Christmas was wishing everyone a good night my eyes were closing. I could see my flat empty stocking lying across the bottom of the bed. Would he come? Would I get to see him? What did he really look like? Zzzzzzzzz

I woke up sleepily not knowing where I was for a second and felt a heavy weight pinning my legs down. It was Christmas! “Mummy he came!” I ran into their room with my heavy stocking and jumped on the bed to open all my presents in a mess of wrappings and bows. “Wait I have to check something.” I zoomed downstairs. I peered in the lounge half expecting to see Father Christmas snoozing on the sofa. The mince pie was gone with just some crumbs left, the carrot too and the brandy was half gone and I turned to look at the tree and there was a MOUNTAIN of presents under it in every colour and size. I sat and stared in wonder and thought that now the Christmas tree looked just right. It was Christmas.   

 

Introducing the Past

Today I walked my son through Worthing town centre, along the sea front and to the end of the pier, which looked stunning in the sunlight.  I was explaining to him the long line of ancestors who came from Worthing and although a 9 month old is only going to babble and yawn at my incomprehensible ramblings it gave me a great sense of peace to introduce him to the past.  I supposed that many of them had walked along the same route, some pushing prams like me possibly.

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One or two people stand out not for being famous but for having exciting adventures or amazing things happen to them.

James Hutchinson had a boat building yard near the lifeboat house inWorthing and it is said that he built one of the largest yachts to grace Brighton beach for a Captain Thulleson in 1858.  The yacht was 32 feet on the keel and 10 feet on the beam.  She was said to be much admired by everyone who saw her.  How satisfying must that have been to have created something with your own hands that was so well thought of!

There was also Henry Finnis who owned the Running Horse pub – a merchant seaman for 50 years since the age of 12 and worked his way up to the rank of Captain.  In the course of his career he sailed around Cape Horn, to Eastern India and to Chile during the mid to late 19th century.  How exciting would it have been to have seen those places for the very first time arriving after an immense sea journey?  You don’t arrive anywhere these days without having a notion of what it’s going to be like.  For the last 30 years of his life he ran the pub and was one of the oldest licensed victuallers inWorthing.  He died aged 71 in 1911.

Moving House 1939

My grandfather was nothing if not an accountant and we are lucky enough to have a couple of cash books of his recording all their expenses from their wedding day up to the birth of their first child…As I am moving home shortly it’s going to be interesting to do a comparison!  Here are the 1939 sums…(very faint because they’re in pencil! Sorry.)

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And here is a picture of my grandparents on their wedding day (19th August 1939).  They first moved into their house on 23rd September 1939.

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Fifty Word Inspiration

For this week’s challenge, use one of the fifty-word stories below as inspiration for a post.

I have chosen the following from the Daily Post challenge – http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/fifty-word-inspiration/

Decade is a period of ten years.
Century is a period of one hundred years.
Millennium is a period of one thousand years.
“Together forever” lasts a fortnight.

That is, statistically.
That is, in about 90% of cases.

That is also why romantic mathematicians are so hard to come by!

(“On the Importance of Not Being Literal” by Standing Ovation, Seated)

***

A mathematician once said that “together forever” lasts a fortnight and after a passionate two week fling Tess had to agree.  Visions of bridal gowns and corsages danced across her mind.  She could get a job here and give up her boring office existence for sun, sand and sangria.  Life could be a beach….couldn’t it?

“Ladies and gentlemen we have completed our pre-flight checks…” intoned the nasal air steward.  Tess rubbed the sand between her toes and smiled ruefully.  Her “forever” had finished.

(It’s not 50 words, but it’s close!)

 

Worlds Colliding

Worlds colliding to me is when I came face to face with the fact that I am turning into my mother….

This is the challenge this week from The Daily Post….here goes!

It’s not so much the different “me”s that worry me.  How often have you started doing/saying something only to realise that your parents express themselves in exactly the same way?  Or you look in the mirror one day to discover that there is a certain resemblance in the mirror which you are sure wasn’t there yesterday.

I am very lucky that my parents are wonderful people but you spend so long trying to forge your own character and personality that it comes as a bit of a shock when you realise that you have become what you have been fighting against.  That whole teen angst thing was pointless; the “nobody understands me” part is void; the rebellious/goth/new romantic period was just a phase; the disappearing off round the world to find yourself was just geography.  You create all these different “you”s throughout your life and come back full circle to where you started.  The very brilliant Stephen Fry said on a Michael Parkinson interview once that humans are the only creatures who try to be what they are not.  You will never find a bear trying to be a duck.  Perhaps we should all accept the person we are?  In my case, my mother….:)

Blog Your Block

This is what came to mind on a pretty bleak, rainy walk along the beach where I live.  Written for The Daily Post writing challenge called “Blog Your Block”: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/blog-your-block/ 

The grey pebbles turned and twisted under her sturdy shoes. It wasn’t a pretty beach, she thought. Although there was a kind of pre-historic peace to the place, as if it couldn’t be bothered with day trippers looking to build sandcastles. Only a few fishermen and foolhardy sea gulls clung to the shores of the channel trying to catch a bite for dinner. The coastguard was watching like an ever present guardian angel and a few local inhabitants always had their kitchen windows focussed on the waterfront.

Strange plants grew which had developed around this harsh, salty, barren landscape. Nothing else grew but scrub plants. There were no trees so the wily, quick witted birds had built their nests in the stones and the scrub trying to avoid the footsteps of people and foxes.

When the wind blew people walked at a 45 degree angle and when the sun shone they lay flat out on the uncomfortable stones in bathing suits which were quite inappropriate for the area – more suited to a Caribbean island somewhere.

The rain was penetrating every layer of clothing and she kept her eyes fixed on the pebbles.  Occasionally a crushed shell came into view: a strand of mangled seaweed; discarded ropes; broken lobster pots – the plethora of driftwood which came ashore after a storm.   The tides changed with every minute bringing a new wave of stones and shingle but the landscape never changed.

Weekly Photo Challenge – A Work of Art

I did a post not long ago about how there was a distinct lack of creativity in architecture these days – we no longer seem to put in the effort and time to decorate our buildings as used to happen.  There are a few very talented people that keep traditional crafts alive but not enough.

My response to the challenge this week is from a trip to India that I did – my first one.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty and the colours everywhere.  In an abandoned palace in the middle of nowhere there were some amazingly colourful mosaics which caught my eye.  The walls were crumbling and there was nobody to prevent rot and destruction setting in but the mosaics still shone…that’s what I call a work of art!  Something that can withstand time, the elements and still be inspiring.

 http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/work-of-art/

 

On the Move

As part of the Daily Post photo challenge entitled “On the Move”, I looked into the past.  I have been collating my family’s history and inherited the photographs from various people.  One common theme running through the photos is that we were a family of boat lovers – in fact my great great grandfather was a boat builder on the census lists.

The photos I have chosen show a different time when leisure time still had standards – even if you were on a boat!  The table-cloth and tea-pot came out; ladies wore pretty dresses and headscarves and you had a proper afternoon tea.  Very “Famous Five” with lashing of ginger pop for the children!

The first three are c. 1950’s with my grandmother looking the part of the “Famous Five” mother.

This lovely lady is my Aunt Win enjoying tea on the River Wey with her friend Polly c.1930.

Tea party on the Wey

Tea party on the Wey

And this is her husband showing us how to survive whilst “On the Move”…I think I prefer the ladies’ way of doing things!

Written for the Daily Post “On the Move” photo challenge. http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/on-the-move/

Going Obsolete

I was going to write a blog about the technology side of things, but that seems to be the main theme already.  For my part I miss record players and tape recorders!

So how about the talent of building beautiful buildings going obsolete?  We have such beautiful churches, villages, thatched cottages, castles and country houses in the UK and yet when you pass a building site it’s normally a multi-storey car park or identikit houses on a soulless complex.  Do you think people will marvel over these in 200 years time?  Probably not because they will have blown down or been washed away within 50.

On that note here is a marvellous building which has lived through its fair share of war, fire, rebuilding etc so it must be worth investing in beautiful buildings!  St Paul’s Cathedral, London built by the fantastic Sir Christopher Wren who obviously agreed.  He rebuilt over 50 churches after the Great Fire of London in 1666, many of which you can still admire today.

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/going-obsolete/