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Wednesday, 13 December 2017
My earliest memories of Christmas are from our, then, newly built home in my native Lingfield, Surrey.
My father had designed the house (above) on the back of an envelope; this envelope was then passed to our local architect, a Mrs Swann, who straightened all the lines, and re-organised the plumbing so that nothing overflowed into the kitchen sink, etc. The resulting house was attractive, roomy and comfortable. It also came with about half an acre of garden; maybe more.
Like so many houses, it had a large sitting room that was rarely used. We ate, and relaxed, either in the breakfast room or the dining room. However at Christmas the sitting room became the focus of our attention.
For children Christmas is the biggest and best day of the year; bigger even than birthdays. The food, the presents, and the excitement of the big day outdid all others.
My mother loved buying and spending, and she usually overdid the amount of presents we received. I don't think we were 'spoilt', but the pure number of presents was always overwhelming. She loved to see an excessively large pile under the tree. She would even wrap a single pencil.
There was always a proper fresh cut tree, decorated with glass baubles, tinsel, and small lit candles set in clip-on tin holders. The rooms were festooned with paper chains, made at the breakfast room table by my sister and I, licking foul tasting glue on specially bought multi-coloured strips of paper; something that would probably be seen as 'child abuse' today.
My mother's love of excess also ran to her choice of the annual Turkey, they would weigh anything up to 27 lbs; huge monsters that would often have to be trimmed to fit into our average sized cooker. No freezers in those days so everything had to be assembled one or two days before the big event. My enduring memories of those early Christmases are of cooking, cooking, and more cooking. We spent our days watching intently as the essential Mrs Belton and mother prepared all the delicacies.
The days after Christmas were dedicated to eating the left-over Turkey in as many varied ways as possible; the sign of an adventurous and frugal cook. When I hear of people these days who 'bin' the remains of their Turkey after their Christmas Day lunch; I despair.
Letter writing began on the 27th. Every aunt and uncle had to receive an individual letter, thanking them for the awful tie or pair of gloves they'd sent. Extended family never seemed to have an ounce of good taste; so much stuff just got 'put away'.
When our own children were young we always did much as my people had. There was never a shortage of presents, food, or decorations. They now continue the excess with their own broods.
Even here, with just the two of us, I shall make sure that everything is done correctly. There'll be no cutting corners whilst I'm still around, even though our Turkey will only weigh around 4.5 Kilos (I've already ordered it).
My people sold our Lingfield house back in 1960, and moved down to the South coast. I missed it hugely; so many good memories.
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist, is that the optimist enjoys himself whilst waiting for the inevitable! I AM that optimist!
This is a daily, optimistic, 'photos and comments' blog. I make no judgements (only occasionally), just notes. If you wish to comment in any way at all, please feel free. Everything and everyone (except the obdurate and dictatorial) is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 46 years I've lived in S W France. I am a painter by profession, and writer by desire. Lady Magnon and I live in an ancient cottage, in a tiny village, in perfectly tranquil countryside. We have a vegetable garden called 'Haddock's' (this may crop up from time to time), plenty of fruit trees, and a view that takes the breath away. I try to treat our planet with respect, and encourage others to do likewise (without preaching).
Contentment is a glass of red, a plate of charcuterie, and a slice of good country bread. Perfect!