Okay, so it’s a bit late, but I’ve been busy lazing around doing as little as possible.
I was doing a bit of reminiscing over the Christmas period. One of my earliest childhood memories, and probably my only one, is of returning home around the 12th of December 1949. My brother Russell had been born kicking and screaming (and he’s still doing it) on the 9th of December. I had been shuffled off to my aunties in Paisley. That’s where the pattern comes from, and where in those days, they produced most of the world’s sewing thread.
Three girls giving me a bath
Aunt Alice had three daughters in their early twenties. I as a three-year old and extremely damn gorgeous I must admit; was the center of attraction and spoilt rotten. I vaguely remember being bathed every night by the twenty-year-old girls; not much chance of that happening today.
Baby brother – who cares
I was returned to my Mum and Dad and remember coming into the living room where my mother was sitting with this little pink thing on her lap. ‘Come and meet your new brother’ she said. But I was much more interested in the Christmas cards that crowded the top of the sideboard. Of course I couldn’t read them, but I loved the pictures of stagecoaches standing outside the snow-covered Inn, and the ladies in their long dresses. The cheery red-cheeked coachman wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Christmas cards in those days seemed to depict the Victorian era or earlier. And of course, lots of cards with Robins picking berries from snow-covered bushes.
That’s why Christmas doesn’t seem the same to me when I’m in Australia, the West Indies, or some other hot country like the Philippines where I am now. Christmas has to be cold!
Not the way to earn money
There wasn’t a lot of money in our family. My father had a shop in which he worked long hours six days a week. He sold and repaired electrical goods and bicycles. He ran the shop with his sister, Aunt Helen, but it never made much money. My father was a hard worker but not a smart enough businessman.
He would way under charge people for repairs to their electric kettle or iron, or other appliances. He reckoned that if he did that, they would continue to come back and bring him business; that was not a good business practice. However, Christmas was the shop’s busiest time of year; lots of fairy lights to repair and last-minute gifts to sell. Hair dryers, electric curling rollers and kiddie tricycles were all popular at Christmas.
Pack those socks Santa
So that extra money always ensured a good Christmas. Mum and Dad, and Aunt Helen, who lived with us, would always make sure that Santa did not forget us. My brother and I always hung up the biggest longest socks we had hoping they would be full in the morning, and they were. There were lots of things that we didn’t have at any other time of year; like a mandarin orange, and chocolate gold money coins in a little sack. Perhaps a pen that could write in three different colors, or a flashlight that could shine a red white or green beam. There would be a book; usually an annual edition of my favorite comic. And always a selection box of chocolate bars; that was real luxury!
One year I was totally surprised to receive an electric train set; that was a WOW present. But on Christmas day when my uncle Alex arrived; he took one look at it and said ‘No way; it’s too small!’ The following day, he took it back to the shop and traded it up for a much bigger and better set. A week or so later he arrived with this huge specially made plywood board, and screwed the metal rails to it making a great layout.
That was so good, because trying to lay out the rails on the floor or the carpet was useless. The train kept falling over because the rails were uneven. The only thing was, the board was so big that once it was laid flat, you could hardly get into our bedroom.
Oh yes we did – Oh no you didn’t
Christmas and New Year was also time for visits to a pantomime and the circus. I loved the pantomime; lots of slapstick and fun for kids. As I grew older, I became a bit confused with the Principal Boy. Pantomime in those days was based on stories such as Dick Whittington, Cinderella, Mother Goose or Jack and the Beanstalk. They all had a beautiful heroine, a nasty villain, and a hero – the Principal Boy. Now “he” might have been Dick, or the Prince with the glass slipper or Jack from the Beanstalk. But they were always played by a girl in a short tunic and long legs encased in tights.
Now, when you’re very young, that’s okay, but as you become a bit older, you start to wonder why you find the hero a lot more “interesting” than the heroine. And when you realize that you’re looking at rather attractive girl, you start to ask – why? Why is this girl a guy or this guy a girl; it was very confusing for my young mind. But I loved the bit where he/she slapped her thigh and said – ‘Don’t worry My Lady, I’ll rescue the princess from the tower or wherever. Then they got married and lived happy ever after. Of course, nowadays, the two girls could marry each other depending on which country or state they lived in.
Then there was the circus. The one we went to was held in the Kelvin Hall Arena in Glasgow. It was great because you could really get close to the animals, enough to smell their lack of deodorant. There were acrobats who did really dangerous things on the trapeze and the high wire. Clowns in baggy suits and crazy makeup. Kind of what you see the youngsters wearing nowadays in any city center.
And when the time came for the big cats, they quickly erected a cage around the circus ring, and let in the lions and tigers. The lion tamer in his safari suit, cracked his whip and threatened the big cats with a chair. I often thought that if I ever explored the jungle that I should carry a chair; lions and tigers seem to be really afraid of chairs.
Of course, being in Glasgow, we all wanted to be there the night the tigers got fed up arguing with a chair and decided to bite the guy’s head off. Serve him right for putting his head in their mouth.
I once saw Santa Clause through my bedroom window streaking across the sky with the reindeer going flat-out. You might think I was dreaming but I know better. But I have to admit to not being a believer any more. That all came to pass when I started receiving items of clothing as presents. Like socks or a scarf or something that would “keep me warm on my way to school”. No male, whatever age, wants those kind of present s at Christmas. I’d rather have a Cadbury’s Selection Box.
May all your Christmases be happy and have a fun-filled 2014.