Two for Christmas

A pair of remarkable Christmas collections.

Out in the fens we pay little heed to the passing of the seasons and for us older residents we have some difficulty even with the passing of the days. Knowing where we are in the week is a task often fraught with difficulty, a calendar is a useful tool.

Early in the new year before Father Christmas had settled down for a good sleep. Whittlesey Wordsmiths resumed work on two Christmas collections.

Jingle Bells and Tinsel Tales for younger readers or listeners and Windy Christmas for the grown-ups.

The books are authored by the talented bunch of writers known as Whittlesey Wordsmiths.

The children’s book is illustrated by Jane Pobgee, both books were edited by our resident wizardess Cathy Cade.

The covers are a joint effort with contributions from Stephen Oliver, Cathy Cade, Val Chapman, Jane Pobgee, Wendy Fletcher and Philip Cumberland

The covers are complete and these excellent books should be rolling off the presses within the next few weeks.

More updates to come.

Watch out for them.

Jane’s pictures

The Vicar from A Sexagenarian from Smithy Fen drawn by Jane Pobgee

Whittlesey Wordsmiths are having a very productive year, two individual members, Tessa Thomson and Valerie Fish have published their own books. Tessa’s book is of poetry and Valerie’s a collection of limericks. Stephen Oliver has had a number of his short stories accepted for publication, nine at the last count. The Wordsmiths are in the process of completing their two Christmas collections carefully gathered together by Cathy Cade. Cathy is not only an ace editor and proof reader but also a prolific writer too, having published three of her own books. She has had great competition success with her short stories and poetry.Whittlesey Wordsmiths have also benefitted from the artistic talent of Jane Pobgee, not only for illustrations in our upcoming collection of children’s Christmas stories but also in Valerie’s and Tessa’s books.

Finding my Voice by Tessa Thomson
A Sexagenarian from Smithy Fen

These are a few of Jane’s drawings.

Santa’s House from Tessa’s book
Rough Sleeper from Tessa’s Book
Naughty vicar from Valeries book
Incy Wincy from Val’s book.

Jane’s drawings have a beautiful simplicity and capture the essence of the poem, limerick or story they accompany perfectly.

Here is just one, from the upcoming children’s Christmas stories.

This is the Naughty Fairy, from Jan Cunningham’s story by the same name

Santa’s Little Secret

 

This slightly unusual Christmas story was penned by Stephen Oliver, we hope you enjoy it

Santa’s Little Secret

Santa Claus sat in his office and stared out of the window overlooking his new workshop, musing about recent changes in his circumstances.

Fli’i, his head foreman, broke in on his thoughts by knocking politely on the doorjamb in lieu of the door.

There wasn’t one. Santa had implemented his new ‘open door’ policy by removing the door completely. It had seemed the easiest way to do it at the time.

“Good news, Boss,” Fli’i cried. “Production is up by over 300%!”

“That’s good to hear, Fli’i. What with the world market expanding at the rate that it is, increasing production was the only choice we could make.”

“Right, Boss. You want me to see if I can get any more out of them?”

“Why not? You’re doing such a great job. See how much farther you can push them.”

“Okay, Boss. Will do.”

Fli’i wandered out of the office.

I should have done this years ago, Santa thought to himself. It would have saved me so much trouble. This city is much better than the North Pole ever was.

He lost himself in reverie.

The trouble had started when a union organiser on an Arctic safari had strayed from the rest of his companions during a blizzard. He had nearly died before he stumbled into the village during the slack season, just after Christmas, when the elves were relaxing after the seasonal rush.

Since the little ones had nothing much to do, they gathered around him to help during his recovery. Unfortunately, that meant that they heard all of his ravings, as well. Worse, they actually believed the crap he was spewing.

The next thing Santa knew, they had unionised themselves and were making demands. Among other things, they wanted increased pay and reduced hours.

The reduced hours he could understand. Things usually started out slowly enough, but by Easter, they had to begin picking up the pace. The second half of the year got so bad that they were working 24/7. He was lucky that the perpetual sunshine made it harder for them to track time. He wished he didn’t have to work them so hard, but demand had been growing for years.

More pay was an even bigger joke, because he didn’t pay them a penny.

The elves had wandered into this dimension after losing a war in their own. They were such a sorry bunch that he took pity on them. Males and females alike were malnourished and weak. It had taken him months to build their strength up again. In gratitude, they accepted his offer of work and long-term protection.

He had exotic foods imported, at great expense, just to keep them happy and productive. Each of them could eat as much as they liked whenever they wanted to.

They all got to keep some of the toys they made, too, although they never seemed to get the hang of smartphones and games consoles. They could make them, of course, but didn’t know what to do with them afterwards.

They didn’t need money at all.

Santa had always thought of them as a bunch of lovable but simple children. It was because of this trait that the organiser had been able to corrupt them.

He still remembered the first (and only) meeting he had had with the union organiser and his ‘shop stewards.’

When he read the list of ‘demands,’ the first thing that struck him was that the writer had no idea of the real needs of the elves. It was evident from the outset that the union man had been behind the list. For one thing, elves couldn’t even spell such complicated words as ‘intransigency’ or ‘compartmentalisation,’ let alone understand what they meant.

Instead of listening to the man’s rants, he tried to remember why his face looked so familiar. He recognised the heavy jowls, the florid cheeks, the overbearing sneer on the lips. He knew he had seen it before, but he couldn’t recall where it had been.

He was still racking his brains when the man stood up, leant threateningly on the table, and began screaming at him.

A name floated up from the past.

Frederik Augustus Tyranus Silenus Osternic.

As a chubby young boy, he had been mercilessly teased because of his initials: FATSO. He had retaliated by becoming the biggest bully, in turn, at the school, his workplace and, finally, the union he joined when he started his first job.

Santa had to smile when he remembered just how many sacksful of coal he had delivered to the Osternic household over the years.

Osternic took the smile the wrong way, thinking that Santa was being condescending to him. He recalled all the disappointing Christmases when his parents used his ‘presents’ to heat the house. This was his chance to get his revenge on Santa, and he was going to enjoy every moment!

Santa was quiet and logical, tearing each of Osternic’s ridiculous demands apart and showing their inherent idiocy. By the end of the meeting, the man’s arguments had been reduced to shreds, and he slunk out of the meeting with his metaphorical tail between his legs.

The revolution began the next day.

At first, it had been little more than a small strike. Some of the elves laid down their tools and refused to work. A few hours later, entire workshops stood idle, raw materials piled up on all sides. Elves hung around, looking bored, wondering what on earth they were supposed to be doing with themselves.

The initial act of sabotage may have been spontaneous, but Santa was pretty sure that Osternic was behind it, somehow. Others followed soon after, then open warfare broke out between different factions.

The gravity of the situation only became apparent when Santa realised that it wasn’t a fight between elves loyal to him and those against him. They were fighting about who was going to be in charge after they had strung him up from the North Pole itself, which stood just in front of his house.

At this point, flight was the only option.

He almost lost his life when they found him fastening the magic reindeer to the sleigh. Fortunately, he was able to jump in with his wife and children, who grabbed as many of the loyal elves as they could. Fli’i, Floo’hoo, Markio and Wialid, his four foremen, plus their spouses, accompanied the family into exile.

By the time they finally landed in the city, the revolution was over.

The last that Santa had heard from the area was that they were trying to set up a workers’ cooperative under the rule of President for Life Osternic. The aim of the new government was to take over his function as Father Christmas.

He wished them well, but somehow doubted they would succeed. With no production facilities, due to the destruction of all the workshops, and no imports or exports, since the only flying reindeer had left with Santa, their future was going to be very bleak.

His own future hadn’t looked much brighter at the moment. He was still trying to persuade his suppliers to let him have the raw materials they could no longer deliver to the North Pole, when Floo’hoo came into his office, full of excitement.

He had been on a purchasing trip with his mate, standing on her shoulders under a long coat. They had stopped off in the Far East and had accidentally wandered into a sweatshop. Seeing how the people there were working twelve hours or more a day for little pay, they realised that this method could help keep the production costs down.

“We can’t do that,” Santa protested. “It’s unethical and unfair.”

“Boss, we worked for nothing,” protested Roo’har, Floo’hoo’s mate.

“Yes, you did,” Santa replied. “Except that you loved your work, you were well fed, and you got all the toys you wanted. Unlike these people, you don’t need sleep, either. Plus, I have been protecting you from the Xarilii, who were trying to wipe out your species. They still are, as far as I know.”

“He’s right, my sweet,” Floo’hoo added, reluctantly. “He’s never made any profit out of this. Instead, he’s always looked after us out of his own pocket. These people are being exploited because they have no other choice. We had a good thing going with our bargain. Oh woe, that we ever listened to that madman.”

“It was such a lovely idea, too,” Roo’har lamented. “Isn’t there some way we can implement it anyway?”

“I don’t know how,” Santa replied sadly.

He did finally get his personnel problem sorted out, with a little outside help.

His memories were interrupted by Fli’i’s knock on the doorjamb.

“I’m sorry to interrupt your planning, Boss,” he apologised, “but I’ve got someone here who insists on seeing you at once.”

“Who is it, Fli’i?”

The elf’s expression was embarrassed and somewhat worried.

“I’m afraid it’s… your brother.”

Oh dear, Santa thought to himself, he’s come to see how I’m getting on, now that I’ve had to go to him for help. No doubt he wants to gloat, as well.

His brother brushed Fli’i lightly aside as he walked in. His red suit was trimmed with sable instead of ermine, and his beard was as black as Santa’s was white. Otherwise, it was plain to see that they were twins.

His brother sat down uninvited and gave a pointed glance out of the window into the workshop.

“How are they doing?” he asked abruptly. “Are they all that I promised?”

“They are. I’m not going to ask you where you got them from because I already know that. What I want to know is, what inducements are you using to get them to work 24/7 without pay?”

“Oh, that’s an easy one,” his brother smiled. “I’ve promised them that, if they continue to work like this, I won’t send them back again.”

“That would work, I suppose,” Santa acknowledged, albeit reluctantly. “Is there any particular reason you’re helping me? Some nefarious plan you’re cooking up behind my back?”

“Can’t I just be helping you out of the goodness of my heart?”

Santa’s expression was as sardonic as his brother’s.

“Anyone else, maybe. You, no. You don’t have any goodness.”

“Ah well, maybe I deserve your mistrust, given our history together. Let’s just say that I don’t want to see your little enterprise fall flat on its face after all these years, and leave it at that, shall we?”

He stood up and walked over to the window. Standing and looking out over the hive of activity in the workshop, he went on.

“Actually, I have been having some space problems recently, especially the numbers of inferior people I’ve been getting. Your need for workers is helping me get rid of some the losers I’ve acquired over the years. It’s a win-win situation for both of us.”

He turned back and looked at Santa.

“Admit it, I’ve been a real help to you, haven’t I?”

“Yes, brother, you have. I’ll eat crow and say: ‘Thank you very much.’ Satisfied?”

“Eminently. Ah, I see your wife is bringing us tea and some of her excellent cake.”

His brother turned back to watch the workers below while Mrs Claus busied herself with the contents of her tray.

Isn’t it ironic how unimaginative our father-mother Antas was? Santa thought to himself. He-she couldn’t even think of two names that weren’t anagrams of his-her own.

In the meantime, His Infernal Majesty Satan, Monarch of All the Hells, turned away from his contemplation of the damned toiling in his brother’s workshop to accept a cup of tea and a slice of Victoria Sponge.

Stephen Oliver

THE NAUGHTY FAIRY

                     

The Naughty Fairy?

This Christmas short story is Written by Jan a lovely little piece.

“I hate Christmas!” said the Head Fairy.

    “Yes, I know you do.” muttered gnome sighing, putting on his leather apron on over his red top and green trousers, ready to start work.”You tell me every year.”

    “Well, it’s such a lot of work and for what? Nobody cares any more. All too busy with them silly phone things and  games, to pay much attention to the Christmas tree.” She flounced about getting ready for her next round.

      “ “In My day –  yada yada yada…….” “quoted gnome, raising his twinkly  blue eyes to the ceiling.”Just get on with it. The sooner you go the sooner  you’ll be back for a nice cup of tea and biscuit. Go on. Off with you. ” 

     She made a rude face behind his back, then with wings fluttering irritably, flew out the door of the workshop into the cold frosty night.

      “It’s alright for him” she fumed to herself. “ He sits in the warm all day making toys, drinking coffee, eating biscuits any time he likes, no wonder he’s so fat”.

      She flew round her patch, peeping through windows, checking that the fairies on the top of Christmas trees were properly dressed, skirts all fluffed out, wand at the ready and, most of all, smiling. The majority were well trained and complied but there’s always one and that one was Matilda. Many a night Head Fairy

 had found her dancing on the floor, singing, swaying and waving her wand to the beat of  music. She had told her and told her but she took no notice.

      “Oh! Matilda” she groaned. “ you know the rules. You can have a break, fly down, stretch your wings when the family are safely in bed, not a minute before, why do you persistently disobey. Why?”

      “’Cos I’m so bored sitting up here”  moaned Matilda. “And anyway they all out at a carol concert.Won’t be back for hours.”

       “And what about the dog? He’s gone too has he? He nearly caught you the other night remember?”

        “Well he didn’t did he?” Matilda answered rudely.

        “No, not that time. You fairies don’t appreciate how cushy your job is, just sitting up there for a couple of weeks then it’s back to the attic where you can play with the other toys to your heart’s content. Whilst I am out in all weathers, rain, snow, frost and fog trying to do my job.”

        “Oh stop going on, Head Fairy. You love it really and you have all summer in the workshop, getting the new fairies ready.”

        Snow was now falling fast.  Head Fairy shook the flakes off her wings and returned miserably home, only to find   Gnome with his feet on a stool drinking tea and munching biscuits, she let rip.

         “I’ve had enough” she said. “I’m worn out. And that Matilda will be the death of me. I’m sure my wings are getting thinner. I wish they could be fur lined.”

     “ You’d never get off the ground gel” said Gnome grinning.

      “Oh shut up, you know what I mean.”

     “Well ask for some help then.”

       “I can’t ‘cos They would retire me if They thought I couldn’t cope”

      “Well you’ll just have to carry on being a martyr then. Won’t you?” chuckled Gnome as he waddled off to the kitchen to make another cup of tea.

       Head Fairy went and stood by the fire to try to dry her wings before she went on her last round. She did three rounds a night. One early evening, one about nine and then the last one after midnight to make sure all the houses were in darkness so that the  fairies could safely take their break. Conscientiousness was her middle name. Other Head Fairies only did two.

        “Right. I’m off to do my last round” she informed Gnome

      The night was bitter cold. She shivered as she flew over the snow covered rooftops. To take her mind off winter she turned her thoughts to summer at the workshop. How beautiful it was, with doors open,  perfume  drifting in from the flowers in the garden, trees rustling their  leaves,  birdsong and the buzzing of the busy bees gathering pollen. Gnome hammering out  new toys and her  busy getting the  fairies ready. They’d take their tea and  sit outside at a table, drinking in the warmth of the sunshine. Oh how she wished she was there now instead of out in the freezing cold.

     Arriving at Matilda’s house she could not believe her eyes. Matilda was nowhere to be seen.

      “Oh, for heavens sake what’s she up to now?” She muttered angrily..

     She, Matilda, was having a great time. Her household had gone away to take presents to relatives, staying overnight, taking the dog with them.  They had accidentally left the drawing room door open, Matilda could not resist.  She hopped down, flew  through the door to the rest of the house. Being inquisitive by nature she thought it was a hoot, nosing around. In one small room where  there was a peculiar sort of seat thing, she noticed that the window  was ajar, and without a second thought she flew out into the inky night.

        “Brrrrr, it is cold out here.  Head Fairy was right. But it is so beautiful. I’ve never seen a night sky before. Are those twinkly, shiny things, fragments of jewels I wonder? “She perched on a tree branch for a rest, looking over the snow dusted rooftops, seeing coloured lights flickering both inside houses and outside ,and strung around a very large Christmas tree sitting in the market place. Matilda flew and perched on the tip of the star which adorned the top.

      “Wow!” she said.”Will you just look at that. Those trees look as if icing sugar has been dusted over their branches. And the

moonlight coming and going between clouds seems as though someone is turning the lights  on and off.”

         Matilda was mesmerised by the scene. An owl hooted, a dog barked , snowed slithered off a roof and landed softly on the street below. Suddenly the church clock  chimed out the half hour, the noise startled Matilda so much she fell off the star and tumbled

down the tree, ripping her dress, dropping her wand and the pine needles scratching her  as she somersaulted, landing  on the  wet snow.

       “Ouch!”said Matilda. “that hurt.”   She looked at herself, what a mess, dress all mucky and torn, wand broken, as she had landed on it and wings soaking wet.

       “I think it’s time to go home, don’t you Matilda? Yes I do.” she answered herself. “Oh heavens, I can’t remember how I got here.”

       She flew round and round looking for her house. Up and down streets, peering in windows hoping to see a tree with no fairy but she couldn’t.  Then, panic set in.

        Meanwhile, Head Fairy had gone through the glass into the house . She flew around  calling Matilda . Then  she noticed the open window.

        “Oh No! Matilda. You haven’t, have you? Course you have”  she said with angry resignation. “I suppose I’d better come and find you.”And out the window she went.”

        She flew round and round her patch, hoping to find Matilda but not a sign of her. Her head began aching, she was shivering and her wings felt heavy.

        “ Where the devil are you, Matilda. I can’t look much longer, I feel rotten.” And with that she crumpled and fell to the ground.

           Matilda started crying. “I’m so silly. Head Fairy was right I shouldn’t be naughty.  Look where it’s got me. Please , I just want to go home.”

         Through her tears Matilda noticed something on the ground. She flew to take a look. “Oh! It’s Head Fairy.” she cried “ Oh dear,  she must be very ill. What can I do?”

        Head Fairy opened her eyes and mumbled “Get me back to the workshop”.

     “But I don’t know the way” she wailed.

“I’ll guide you” muttered the semi-conscious Fairy.

     Matilda struggled to carry Head Fairy as her wings were soaked and heavy but somehow with instructions they made it to the workshop. Matilda put Head Fairy down gently in the comfy armchair by the fireside and folded her wings in.

       “Who’re you ?” growled Gnome, “And what’s happened to Head Fairy? Is she alive?”

        “Just” she croaked..

       “I’m so sorry Mr Gnome” stuttered Matilda “It’s all my fault that Head Fairy is so ill. I disobeyed her and she had to come looking for me. Will she be alright?”

       “She’ll be fine. She’s as tough as old boots. She’s got a fever and a bad cough. Nothing that a few days rest and some of my special cough medicine won’t cure” answered Gnome.

 “I told you to get help, didn’t I?”  said Gnome shaking  his head as he looked directly at  Head Fairy” But No you wouldn’t listen.  Now you’ll have to do as your told for a week or so, what d’you say to that? Your daft eejit!”

        “I have to get back” said Matilda.”If you could just tell me the way I’ll be off. I must be back for when the family return”

         “You’re not going anywhere young fairy” Gnome said ominously. “I need you here to look after her and take over her duties till she’s well.”

     “ I can’t, I have to get back. If my family come home and notice I’m not there, what then?” pleaded Matilda.

            “ Well,” said Gnome thoughtfully.”We’ll have to think our way round the problem, won’t we.  ‘Cos you look a mess right now. I know, you could take a new fairy and put her on your Christmas tree then return”.

       “A brand new fairy on their Christmas tree would stand out  like a sore thumb” interrupted Matilda.

       “OK. Take one of those reconditioned ones from the pile by the door.” said Gnome irritably. “They won’t notice the difference. Then by the time you get back I’ll have had a word with Them and have sorted something out. I’ve drawn you a map so you can find your way home. Off you go and don’t be long.”

      On her return, Gnome informed Matilda that They had changed her format so she could now pass through glass in order to carry out the duties of the Head Fairy whilst she was ill.

Matilda bowed her head  but underneath she was half ashamed of herself but also half excited at being able to do something useful  instead of just sitting on a tree.

      “Thank you Mr Gnome” said Matilda  respectfully. “I won’t let you down.”

        “Well” said Gnome in a serious voice. “I should hope not.

        Then he started laughing. A big grin spread over his red face, tears began coursing down his cheeks and he held the sides of his wobbling belly.

        “You two  are a right pair aren’t you” said Gnome between guffaws.”  the naughty one and the proud one BOTH getting their  just deserts  AND on the same night. Who would’ve thought that I wonder.? I hope you have both learnt a valuable lesson tonight. Have you Matilda? And you Head Fairy?”

       “Yes Mr Gnome I have. That being naughty has consequences, not just for yourself. but other people too. I will try harder not to be naughty.” answered Matilda with humility.

       “Good. And you Head Fairy, what have you learnt?”

       “To not be too proud and stubborn to ask for help” she said begrudgingly.

        “Right, now that’s all sorted   I’ll make us all a nice cup of tea” said Gnome with a smile.  He turned to see two repentant faces, looking hopefully up at him.

      “If you both promise to do better” the recalcitrants nodded their heads furiously.  “I’ll see if I can find a few biscuits to go with the tea” And with that he turned, still laughing to himself. and disappeared into the kitchen.

Jan Cunningham

    

Christmas past

The Memory of Christmas past
Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on Pexels.com

This post is by Val Chapman a reminiscance of her childhood Christmas.

It was never going to be the same again. My father had died suddenly just 3 months ago and although the festive season was upon us, I was feeling somewhat less than cheery.

It made matters worse that it was his birthday on Christmas Eve, and so it seemed that I had been dealt a double blow. The shops seemed to be full of things that dad would have loved to have received. Usually it was a struggle to find suitable gifts for my dad, after all, what do you get the man who has everything?  Knowing my dad would appreciate the joke, one year I found the answer to that question and gave him a bottle of antibiotics!

Of course it wasn’t just me.

My mum was understandably devastated and although she put on a brave face, she had little to no interest in anything.

My children, her grandchildren, were a godsend to us both on those dark days, and made us both realise that life does indeed go on.

I am now at the same age my mother was when she was widowed, and I took some ‘me time’ for a little reminiscing.

“It’s ok, I’ve got my gloves. Let’s get going.”

I looked up at my dad and took his hand.

“See you later mam”

We both gave her a kiss and she shushed us out of the house before turning back to busy herself with the Christmas dinner preparation.

This was our usual routine on Christmas morning. My mum sending us off to my Nana’s house, while she peeled potatoes, chopped carrots, made Yorkshire puddings and did everything that made for a perfect Christmas dinner.

I found out years later that mum had always regretted that decision, declaring that “children should not be taken away from their toys at Christmas”. One reason why she never let me bring my children to visit at Christmas. Oh it would have been very different if we had lived close to one another, and could have just popped round for a couple of hours, but as it was it was a 6-7 hour round trip, it meant at least one night’s stay.

A trip we did every 2-3 months, except at Christmas. The very time when families are supposed to be together. So why didn’t they come to us?

Well, mum once again declared that ” you would all have a much better time without us getting in the way”.

I can’t deny it hurt a little at the time, but she was a bit of a ‘home-bird’ and hated travelling. Nor can I deny that actually, she did have a point!

So, there we were, dad and I walking the two miles or so to my grandparents house. Dad didn’t drive, probably couldn’t have afforded a car even if he did, and of course, there were no busses on Christmas day.

I never minded, it always seemed to be snowing, but that is probably just my wishful thinking, and I was spending time with my dad.

I was definitely a ‘daddy’s girl’, and he in turn adored me.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my mum too. She was amazing, wonderful and a credit to her firm but fair miners daughter upbringing.

We walked down the path which runs alongside the semi-detached houses, and borders the playing field. Looking across this field we could see the sea, grey and threatening as it usually was at this time of year..

Before long we were at the main road. There were a few people about, often children who had just had a new bike from Santa, determined to ride despite the snow.

We walked beside the road for about a mile until we reached the railway crossing.

It was a place my father knew well. For all of his working life he had been at the docks and spent part of that time riding on the wagons which transported coal from one of the local pits to the docks where it was loaded onto ships to end up who knew where.

Crossing over the line, it was a fairly easy walk to my Nana’s house, past the Londonderry Arms where they were probably getting ready for another busy Christmas, and then turning right, with our destination straight ahead, just before the local working men’s club. A place where later my grandad, at the age of 97, and the oldest member, would be the guest of honour at its re-opening.

There were already some cousins there and we children delighted each other with stories of what Santa had left for us, and handing out presents for my Nana and grandad.

We didn’t seem to have been there for very long before we had to leave for home, with a promise that I would be good for my mum. We always took home a box of liquorice all-sorts, a gift to my dad from his in-laws.

Dad was the only son-in-law who was handed a present at Christmas. It was given by way of a “thank you” for the little jobs he did for them, fixing the toaster, putting up shelves, plumbing in a washing machine when the old twin tub gave up the ghost, that sort of thing.

As the ‘favoured’ son-in-law, my dad was also given the job of ‘first foot’ on New year’s Eve, being ushered out of the house before midnight and with a lump of coal for luck in his hand ready to re-enter once the church bells had struck. So whilst the rest of us were laughing and celebrating in the warmth, poor dad was outside, freezing cold and on his own.

Dad checked that I had fastened my coat up properly and we said our goodbyes and set off for home.

The terraced houses lining our route, normally blackened thanks to the coal dust which settled on the walls, took on a beautiful festive look with glittery snow settling on the tops of garden gates and privet hedges.

Getting back to the warmth of home and the welcoming smell of Christmas, the celebrations could start properly for our little family. Playing, eating, watching television. More or less just as I do today.

I often wonder what my Nana would think if she could see the piles of presents my grandchildren woke up to on Christmas morning. Would she be proud that her family were doing so well that they could afford all of these gifts, or horrified at the expense and ‘show’? I have no way of knowing obviously, but I suspect it would be the latter.

 

So yes, in a way, Christmas isn’t the same. But in many ways, thanks to children and grandchildren, it hasn’t changed very much, and I still love it, almost as much

 

Val Chapman