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.   

 

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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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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….:)

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/

The Story of Your Life

What would you say if someone asked “What is your story?”  What would you pull out as the important and dismiss as trivial and insignificant?  What value do you give your experiences?  How do you begin and where do you end?  Does it start with birth and end with death?  I was born.  I lived.  I died.  (Who said that?  I can’t remember).  What happens in the middle part?

I have started keeping a note of my memories and I suppose that they are the most important ones as they are the ones that I can actually remember.  They are not always good memories but they have made an impression.  I have lots more memories which I haven’t written down yet and they will all form the majority of the middle part.  Family.  Friends.  School.  Boyfriends.  University.  Nights Out.  Jobs.  Life.  Added to all these fantastic things is always a flip side but no less important.  Losing family and friends.  Heart break.  Nights in.  Losing jobs.  Not being a part of life.  Hopefully a healthy combination of all of the above will make for a rich and varied tapestry of life!

Both of my grandmothers lost their memories towards the ends of their lives and I wish they had written down some of their experiences.  It would be nice to know their thoughts and feelings and how perhaps things don’t change inside a person, even though times have changed.  I would like to be able to give my children and my grandchildren a diary and let them know that they are not the first people to go through what they’re going through.  To let them know that grown ups are not completely bizarre creatures.

Hopefully my story would be interesting to them (if not to rest of the world!).  What is your story?

 

Boating on the Broads

I have been looking through some old slides from my grandparents battered old leather suitcase and came across this fantastic picture of my grandmother circa 1958 or 59.  The box of slides was entitled “The Broads” where I know my Dad was taken on holiday and they went boating, sailing, fishing – anything to do with being on the water.  My grandfather’s passion was sailing and boats which has been passed on to my Dad and Uncle.  We also have distant ancestors who were boat builders too…it must be in the blood!  But back to the picture…

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I love the fact that she wore a rather natty headscarf to keep her hair tidy whilst out on the river.  Check out also the provisions lined up neatly inside the boat, with proper cutlery and a tea towel.  This was a lady who was prepared and had a family of hungry men to feed!  She also obviously didn’t let standards slip outside the home!

But she looked like she enjoyed herself!  Here she is with Dad…

scan0016 Wearing a practical boating outfit – a pleated skirt and cardi.  And with a radio on board by the looks of it.  It’s like some idyllic scene out of “Swallows and Amazons“, by Arthur Ransome which I would highly recommend reading!

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I wonder how much the Broads have changed more than half a century later?

Shoot for the moon!

“A shot aimed is a shot lost. Aim with your eyes shut.”

This goes beyond anything any professional sports person will tell you – you've always got to keep your eye on the ball/goal/prize. Work hard, achieve, put the effort in and you will get the rewards, and you will deserve them. But how much sweeter is life when you risk it all and the risk pays off? If you live within the boundaries and follow the guidelines all the time, will you have missed some of the magic? How about all those times when the outside chance comes in? Sometimes life calls for a little bit of blind faith.

I am not condoning giving up trying at all but maybe once in a while we should all close our eyes and see where life takes us.