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Christmas in the North


As I get older I think more and more about my childhood in Anglesey. I was born just before the end of the Second World War on the same day as Glen Miller disappeared whilst on an aeroplane journey from France to England. One important man making way for another. Although my father did not earn much money we were never short of food thanks to his hard work in the vegetable garden and Mum’s cooking skills. The times were totally different to today, eating vegetables in season and of course our toys were much simpler than those of today.

Christmas was an exciting time, everybody wrote their lists to Father Christmas and we had to leave a cup of tea and a mince pie for the old chap to keep him going on his long journey. There was an order to the day with the Christmas stockings being opened first thing in the morning, ideally as far as Mum and Dad were concerned that would be eight o’ clock but in reality it depended on how many “Is it time to get up yet?” they heard. Rushing downstairs then to see the stockings on the table and Mum telling us to open the presents carefully so she could use the paper again the following year. “And mind you remember who they came from!” Oops, too late!

Then while Mum was preparing the chicken for the oven we kids had to prepare ourselves for Church at 11.00, we never missed that, after all, Dad was the rector. Back home then with the aroma of the roasting chicken all around and Mum preparing the vegetables we had a chance to play with our toys till it was time to lay the table. Platefuls of food and we ate everything – well, we were growing weren’t we!

Christmas pudding to finish off with a hidden silver threepenny bit wrapped up in greaseproof paper. I don’t know how Mum did it but every time each one of us got one. Mum was very clever.

There was no wine of course, in those days wine was something grownups had a sip of during the morning service. We washed our meal down with plain, cold Welsh water.

We all longed for the lunch to be over because there were more presents in the lounge. The lounge door was locked and only Dad could open it because it was a magic door, there was no key – it just needed the secret words and they only worked if they were uttered by Dad. But he wasn’t going to say anything until the table was cleared and the dishes washed and put away. Oh, it was such agony!

Everything done and Mum led us to the lounge where Dad would be waiting by the door and asking “Are you ready?” “Yes, yes” we would say “please open the door!” He would then say “Abracadabra”, whisper something quietly through the keyhole, turn the doorknob with a bit of razmataz and stand out of the way for us all to charge into the Aladin’s Cave. These were the big presents from all our aunts and uncles.

I remember the Christmas when Uncle Jack and Auntie Min came to stay, Uncle Jack was a retired merchant seaman and worked as a messenger for the Liverpool branch of the Bank of England. They would arrive in a motorbike and sidecar, Uncle Jack all dolled up in a waterproof coat, helmet and goggles with Auntie Min under a pile of blankets in the sidecar. Auntie Min was the sort of person that was always in poor health, I wonder if that was something to do with the way they travelled from one place to another? There we were opening one present after the other and Mum trying to keep track of everything. I had had a fire engine, just a small one but it had a water tank with a rubber bulb to squeeze on the top. Uncle Jack had had a box of cigars and was eager to try one but he had to wait for the water tank to be empty – that didn't take long.

He had a tattoo on his arm, we hadn’t seen such a thing before and the four of us were eager to see it. He was quite willing but Auntie Min had first to tell us that it was something he had had done when he was young and foolish and that we should never think about doing such a thing ourselves when we grew up.

“Look.!” said someone “It’s snowing!” and we rushed to the window “Can we go out?” we pleaded with excitement.

“Come on then” said Mum, Mum enjoyed a bit of fun. We rushed to dress up warm and out we went running around and throwing snowballs. Mum went for the dustbin lid straight away and used it as a shield. She was no fool!

Compared with today, Christmases were quite simple but we had full stockings, fun and snow – what could be better than that!

A Merry Christmas to you all!

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