My Christmas Alphabet ~ Part Two!
Here I am again, with the second part of my A to Z of Christmas. My Christmas, that is. I’m sure other people’s Christmases are far more organised and glamorous. Or are they…? Hmm. Anyway, let’s get on with it because I’m sure we’re all very busy being festive and happy and full of goodwill and cheer.
N: Nativity Plays
I was in one once when I was at primary school, except it wasn’t, strictly speaking, a Nativity play. It was a musical mash-up of A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, and I was one of the orphans. We had to provide our own costumes, and my mum cut up a pair of my jeans, so the bottoms were all ragged and torn. All of us orphans had to sing Food, Glorious Food, and we were each given a line or two to sing on our own. Unfortunately for me, mine were the “Indigestion” and “Full up feeling” lines, which are very high. I sort of squeaked them out and I remember seeing my mum’s face in the audience. She most definitely winced. The pain of that disgrace stays with me even today. I actually used the play I “starred” in as the basis for the play Izzy and Ash put on in A Merry Bramblewick Christmas. I swapped the score of Oliver! which we used in our play, and invented a whole new raft of songs for the children to sing. You see, even the most painful experiences have their uses! And as for my children’s Nativity plays. I still cry remembering them, and for all the right reasons. There is NOTHING more moving than seeing little children, with tea towels on their heads, standing angelically as they sing Away in a Manger.
Apparently, The Husband had a deprived childhood. When we reminisce about Christmases past and I recall various presents I was given, he always rolls his eyes, sighs, and says he only ever got socks and an orange. I’m now at the age when I find this claim dubious. In my younger, more naïve days, however, I used to feel terribly sorry for him, and went all out to buy him a mountain of presents every year to make up for his Dickensian upbringing. Sadly for me, and happily for him, it’s a tradition I’m now stuck with. I think I may have been duped.
We used to go to the local panto at the Town Hall every year, thanks to my great aunt and uncle who were members of the Ex-Serviceman’s Club, and therefore got free tickets. I absolutely loved it! I’m ashamed to say I only ever took my children to one pantomime. It was at our local theatre, and – typical of me – the one year I chose, it starred Rolf Harris. I will say no more.
Q: Quality Street
I remember ginormous tins of Quality Street when I was little, but they get smaller every year. It’s quite possible that there’s more chocolate in a single Mars Bar than you’d find in a whole tin of these now, but I still get them. In fact, I always buy a tin of chocs for each of the kids, even today. This is a dangerous game to play, as having them around the house is a temptation too far for a chocaholic like me. Last year I ate three tins in between buying them and giving them away, and kept having to replace them. This year The Husband has stashed them all in the shed, so I won’t touch them. He knows I never go in there…
R: Relatives and Rochester
When I was little, Christmas always meant visiting deeply religious elderly relatives who we only really saw once a year. We’d drink weak orange juice from fluff-filled glasses, and eat stale KitKats, and I’d have to read to my relative and have my progress assessed, then we were allowed on the piano. My sister bashed away on the keys, while I was instructed on how to play The First Noel. The Pope stared down at me from the wall, looking deeply unimpressed, and I swear a statue of Mary shook its head in despair. On the plus side, I can still remember how to play the first two lines of that carol, AND I used those memories in Resisting Mr Rochester. You see? Never wasted!
Has there ever been a more disgusting and vile drink than sherry? And what is it with Christmas and sherry anyway? My mum and dad always bought a bottle (along with the advocaat!) and I remember there used to be loads of adverts on the TV for it at Christmas. Going to relatives’ houses, the grown-ups all sipped Harvey’s Bristol Cream (other brands are available), and even gave each other bottles of sherry as gifts. Ugh! When I first visited The Husband’s grandparents, they kept offering me a glass of this demonic liquid. Frankly, I’d rather have drunk the washing up water, but I was far too polite to refuse. I was nearly sick as I forced glass after glass down. Later, I discovered they’d been stunned at how much sherry I’d drunk, and had remarked to one of my husband’s relatives, “By heck, she can knock it back, can’t she?” From then on, I was known as Sherry Girl, which is ironic, if you like.
T: Tippy Tumbles and Typewriters
One Christmas, all my little sister wanted was a Tippy Tumbles doll. She wore navy blue leggings and a stripy jumper, and her party trick was doing forward rolls (I’m talking about the doll, by the way, not my sister). I, on the other hand, had longed for a toy typewriter which, looking back, says a lot. We were very lucky, as Father Christmas duly obliged. No doubt he was feeling weak with relief that I hadn’t asked for a pony for once… That Christmas night, I carefully put my typewriter on top of the wardrobe, and my sister lovingly tucked her Tippy Tumbles up in the big, double bed that we shared back then. Unfortunately, she didn’t mention that she’d put Tippy Tumbles under the blankets, and I jumped onto the bed and promptly snapped the doll’s leg off. My sister’s face went purple with rage (always a danger sign). She jumped out of bed, stomped over to the wardrobe, grabbed my typewriter and smashed it on the bedroom floor. She still has a go at me for breaking her doll! I say, it was an accident, and I should be angrier at her for deliberately breaking my typewriter, but somehow, it’s always my vandalism that gets brought up. There’s something wrong with that, somewhere.
U: Under the Christmas tree and what I found there
One year, I bought my nan a big box of chocolates for Christmas, but when she opened them, they’d gone white! I was mortified and said I’d take them back to the shop when they reopened. I put the box back under the Christmas tree and thought no more of it. The next day when I got up – ohhhh! The dog had eaten the lot! And believe me, there was a lot more than chocolate left under the tree. I have no idea which end of the dog it all came from – probably both – but it was everywhere! It took me hours to clean it up. Luckily, the dog was absolutely fine, having got rid of every bit of chocolate in his body, but I felt strangely ill for days afterwards, and had no desire for any Christmas chocs of my own that year. I should point out that this was decades ago, long before the dangers of dogs and chocolate became well known, just in case I get pages of angry emails from Furious of Folkestone, or Apoplectic from Aberystwyth or something.
V: Vouchers and Gift Cards
They seem like a good idea at the time, and they probably are in some circumstances. However, sometimes… I won’t tell the full story here, but you can read all about my performance with them, at a particular frozen food shop, here.
W: Wrapping up
I can’t do it. Simple as that. Usually, I bribe my eldest daughter to wrap up the presents. She comes round one afternoon, I give her a selection box, and we sit in the bedroom and have a good chat and plenty of tea and chocs while she wraps up the stuff and I write the labels. Unfortunately, she can’t do that this year, due to the pandemic, so, although The Husband has wrapped most of the presents, I’m stuck with wrapping up his gifts, which is bad enough as there are a quite a lot, due to the whole I-had-a-deprived-childhood-and-even-Oliver-Twist-got-more-presents-than-me guilt trip. I saw that Smithy on Gavin and Stacey had wrapped all his presents in tin foil and I thought that was genius. Just wrap it round and scrunch it up at the ends and done! If only I had the nerve…
X: Xmas food that I hate
For such a foodie person, there’s a surprising amount of food that I just don’t like, and annoyingly a lot of it is Christmas food. I hate mince pies, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, dates, marzipan… Ugh! And that’s before we even start on sprouts… I’m very generous in that I allow most of my characters to enjoy these so-called treats (I don’t include sprouts in that, obviously), but I cringe at the thought of them eating such hideous fayre. I thought I was very kind, letting Molly and Etty eat their own body weight in mince pies in Christmas with Cary, despite my own personal feelings. All done in the spirit of the season, you understand.
I’ve got a lovely Facebook Readers’ Group now, and the members have put together a list of their favourite Christmas songs. There are some on there that I’d never heard of, so it’s been a great experience, gathering them all into one playlist, which I’ve added to my YouTube channel. You can find them all here. Yes, there are some of the usual suspects, but there are some more obscure ones. Have you heard of Gower Wassail, for instance? If you have, well done, you! I reckon that would win Pointless.
I don’t know why, but my daughter has a photo of us in her house which was taken on Christmas morning when she was about eighteen months old. She’s on my knee, and I’m sitting next to her dad on the sofa, and she’s all smiles and joy, but honestly! Me and The Husband look like (and I do not exaggerate) zombies. That was the year ALL the kids got a bug, and we were up all night for two nights before the big day, as first one child then the next started throwing up and rushing to the loo. Since we had five children all aged ten or under, you can imagine. And then, just as they recovered, me and The Husband got it. That Christmas we both felt so ill we didn’t even bother to open our presents. I swear, it’s an awful photo. Our eyes are glassy, our skin is pasty – we look like extras from Shaun of the Dead. I can’t imagine why my daughter would keep photographic evidence on display. I think she must have a very twisted sense of humour. I can’t think where she gets it from…
And finally, Zzzzs. Because, after all this is through, what else do you want or need but sleep? And lots of it!
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas. xx