We were a small family – just my mother and father, Wink and me, and I only had one living grandparent. As I said yesterday, he sometimes visited for Christmas. But my parents had lots of friends and quite a few people gave us presents, most of them small ones as you’d expect.
You’d also expect me to remember more about what they were. Hmm.
I remember once receiving some paints, and the next evening, getting out paper, the paints and a pot of water and setting them up on Grandmother’s slipper-box (just a useful low square oak box on little turned feet) in the drawing room. I promptly knocked over the water. My mother helped me mop up and I fetched more water. I knocked it over. Remarkably, I distinctly remember her not being in the least annoyed or critical as she cleared up again. I fetched more water.
Yes. As you expected. I was a clumsy child.
At this point, my still-patient mother noticed that they were oil paints and I didn’t need water anyway.
Another present I remember, because I liked it very much, was a set of variously-coloured beads, each about the side of a pea, which came in a box with a board with holes in it that the beads rested in, so that you could make patterns and pictures with them. I spent a lot of time playing with them. They were less popular with my mother because they were made of red clay, and when one was trodden on it was quite some trouble to clear up. Again, I never remember being criticised for this and only know it because, in later years, my mother remembered them too as being a blessed nuisance. She was extraordinarily kind and patient with me and I was a dearly-loved child. But she was no pushover. Apparently, she retaliated the next year by giving musical presents to the donor’s children. Drums and a xylophone.
The presents I liked best were books, jigsaws, board games and sweets and chocolates. We hardly ever had sweets so they were a great treat. There was one selection called Weekend – it was a bit of a disappointment if I received that, as there were several in it that I didn’t like. I wasn’t too fond of plain chocolate either unless it had nuts in it, although I prefer it now, and I positively disliked the “creme” chocolates. I succeeded, in due course, in passing this dislike on to my own children, and these sorts of fillings are known as “slimes” to this day. Real fruit purée and cream fillings are a different matter, of course. I probably liked Dairy Box best because of the preponderance of hard centres, but Milk Tray was pretty good. I liked nuts, fudge, toffee and just chocolate. Oh, and Turkish Delight.
I liked painting and embroidery, but hadn’t an artistic bone in my body so was quite happy with painting-by-numbers, and I’m too much of a Philistine quite to appreciate how much this will make you shudder. I was completely uninterested in dolls and anything condemned as “girly”. I always received the latest Paddington Bear book. Oh gosh, books may make another post sometime. I was more than happy to get a book token. When I spent the token, there always seemed to be 6d over (that is, six real pence, a tanner, worth 2 1/2 New Pee, as they were called for some years in the 70s) and, since change was not given for book tokens, either a parent had to fork out for another book or you were given a Highway Code as that was the only book that cost 6d.
My parents weren’t into games at all, but my sister and I played (she must have been pretty tolerant of her much younger sister actually) board games a lot, and we played them with au pairs when we had them, and visiting children – my mother’s godson visited for several weeks in the summer. But I was always happy enough on my own as long as I had books.
Presents that didn’t go down so well included handkerchiefs – why give a little girl a box of hankies? Why? – and bath stuff when I wasn’t old enough to appreciate it. I liked cuddly animal toys as a small child. I’m finding it really hard to remember specific “major” Christmas presents from my parents. Maybe there were lots of small things?
Last night, I went to the carol service that I nearly got landed with playing with – it seemed the least I could do, to actually attend it (deliberate split infinitive there, btw, and I’m feeling pretty relaxed about the dodgy grammar too). It was lovely and, usefully, has also given me the title of my Christmas Day post, with the final lines of a little-known verse of a well-known carol.
Still very snowy and cold here – very unusual for snow to linger more than a couple of days in December. -4ºC at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon. Don’t know what it was overnight. I’ve resorted to pyjamas. If it carries on much longer, I’ll be putting on the radiator in the bedroom which rarely happens.