Memories of simpler Christmas times…
In those monotone post-war years of long ago, the colour button was turned up as soon as my darling first family got together for the Christmas break. Boarding schools were forgotten, decorations relocated, gigantic woolly stockings retrieved, and Woolworths down the bottom of our high street ready to be visited. This was possibly the best bit. Loads of vibrantly coloured tat that was the very spirit of Christmas – paper chains, flat things that creaked open to form paper bells, silver covered Santas and reindeer to hang on the tree, and candles shaped like little singing choirboys, which took on a very different look when they were lit.
The Christmas feeling started there and then. Maybe it was snowing. Maybe happy couples scurried past with wide grins and Christmas trees over their shoulders. Maybe Santa stood outside the International Stores ringing his bell. Maybe we got home to the smell of baking, with an invitation to stir the pudding mix. If anyone could bottle that feeling, and sell it to every child in the land, they would make a fortune.
Christmas morning – and the mighty stockings at the ends of our beds had been filled by Santa, and the deal was to sit on Mummy and Daddy’s bed to open them. Red and white striped sweetie walking sticks. A magic trick or two. A tin racing car with made in China printed on it, and a warning from my Mum that the edges were sharp and dangerous. And an orange at the end to help keep the stocking shape.
Downstairs to the strains of Uncle Mac on the Light Programme, to start preparing nibbles for our Christmas morning party – gherkins and cheese, biscuits with patė or a circle of sliced cheese, carefully cut out with a serviette ring, and finished with a caper. Superb.
After the eighty odd people had drunk us out of house and home and left for their own celebrations, and Peter the barman had said his goodbyes for another year, Mother and Berry started to prepare the gigantic Dickensian lunch for the fifteen lucky people still hanging around. Turkey was applauded, sprouts were avoided, pud was ignited, crackers were pulled (and girls in later years) and drunken speeches were made.
Then out of the dining room and into the lounge for present time. A great big pile of brashly coloured parcels, promising new games, gadgets, puzzles and hopefully not handkerchiefs and socks.
At this stage Mummy would have a well deserved drink, Dad would fall asleep, my sister would take a walk with her latest thoroughly unsuitable bloke, and my brother and I would take on the latest Disney jigsaw.
Cake, tea, biscuits from the brand new tin with the coaching scene on it. And then bed, with a promise that I wouldn’t spend more than ten minutes on my new Rupert annual, and save the paper folding model always in there for the following morning.
All wonderful. But Boxing Day came, and was like someone pulled the plug on all the colour, and the nineteen forties world went back into black and white again.