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Did you Know, Counting down to Christmas.


“Happy Christmas Everyone!”

During the past year I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to the

reminiscences of Formby people, and writing about them for the

Bubble. For this edition I offer you my own memories, in poem

form, of Christmases past, first in Worcestershire, then the Lake

District, and finally during the last 44 years in Formby.

COUNTING DOWN TO CHRISTMAS

1943-48

Throughout the years when I was very young,

We counted down with shiny Advent stamps

Collected every week at Sunday School,

To lick and stick into a special Book.

Those Advent weeks were special in themselves,

Anticipation heightened day by day.

In church we sang the great old Advent hymns,

And there were practices at church and school

For all the Christmas singing soon to come.

At home most thoughts were centred on that sleigh

Which somehow inexplicably was linked

With tales of shepherds, angels, crib and child.

How could the young of 2016 grasp

The joy of Christmas 1943?

Dad’s baggy sock, hung up the night before,

Now bulging with an orange, tiny sweets,

A book and knitted jumper made from wool

Unpicked from some old cast-off ones, with care?

How to convey to them the aching wait

Till Christmas Eve would come and set things off?

No endless months of gaudy shop displays,

No Christmas trees grown limp before The Day.

Such things as Christmas pudding, mince meat, cake,

Had been safe on a cellar shelf for months.

A week before The Day we wrote our cards

Then took them to the Post box down the lane.

Mince pies were made and stored in biscuit tins,

And woe betide a child who sneaked a crumb!

All else must wait till Christmas Eve arrived.

At last it came, we rushed to seize the day;

A brisk house tidy, early lunch, and then

We walked the mile to town and bought a tree,

Plus cobs and walnuts, chestnuts, sprouts and wreath.

We called in on the butcher to collect

Six sausages, pork pie, some bacon bits -

The limit purse and ration book allowed.

We staggered back, weighed down by bags and tree,

And reaching home in darkness breathed relief

To see what waited for us on the step!

A pile of holly, mistletoe and cones

Brought from the Vicar’s garden by his son,

And in a box, its lid secured with string,

A fowl, a nice plump hen, the rarest treat,

Together with a generous chunk of ham,

The gifts of Farmer Crowe, my father’s friend.

1948-58

Our much loved Christmas customs stayed the same.

Old habits spelt security post -war,

In any case some things were rationed still

And shortages of goods and ready cash

Precluded any chance of much excess.

We always bought the tree on Christmas Eve,

Then spent the evening decorating it,

Plus reading and arranging all our cards,

Then decking every picture, mirror, ledge,

With glossy holly sprigs and ivy trails.

We wallowed in the old familiar ways,

And loved the dear old shabby paper chains.

We never really wanted things to change,

But change they did, for time does not stand still.

As I grew up the world recovered fast,

A great deal more became available.

I hung a pillow case up, not a sock.

And now my gifts were jigsaws, pencils, paints,

A pen-knife, board game, and kaleidoscope,

And best of all an Enid Blyton book,

Topped by a jumper made with brand new wool.

And Santa seemed to manage miracles,

For there were larger gifts for us sometimes;

One year my pillow case was tied with string

Onto a bright red third hand bicycle.

Although I knew the truth behind the gifts

The thrill of Santa’s visits still held sway.

1958-78

By 1958, I had left School,

I went away to college, coming home

To hang my pillow case up yet again.

Dear Santa brought me nylons, bath salts, scarf,

A diary, calendar, a Penguin book

Selected carefully to bridge the gap

Between what was and what was yet to be.

We even had a glass of ginger wine

To grace our Christmas feast and toast The Day.

All through those years of rural growing up

The village church, like many of its kind,

Was both a spiritual and social hub.

My teenage life revolved around the choir,

And how I loved the way the seasons rolled,

The Church’s year unfolding seamlessly.

The Christmas morning service was a joy,

With church well filled and smiles on every face.

We all came out of church and crowded round,

With cries of ‘Happy Christmas everyone.’

Throughout my college years I counted down

To ‘going home for Christmas and New Year,’

But everything was changing, so was I.

My life was opening up, my future called.

I graduated, married, had a child,

And moved away from home in Worcestershire

1978-2016

By 1978 my son was nine

Enchanted by a Christmas new to me.

I tried to keep a sense of years gone by

By making much ado about my plans

For making sweets and pudding, mince pies, cake.

But progress had its way and I succumbed

To Action Man, to Lego, and a wealth

Of Christmas jumpers knitted by machine,

Bright nylon t-shirts, socks and wacky ties.

Though Granny knitted on and so did I,

We knitted for our pleasure, not for need.

Big stores and supermarkets could, it seemed,

Attend to every whim at Christmas-time.

And now the Net sends you your heart’s desire

In special cardboard boxes, to your door.

There is so much I should be thankful for,

The problem is there seems just far too much,

And how I miss the waiting, counting down,

The buzz of waking up on Christmas Eve

And knowing Christmas had at last begun.

2016

My two small grandsons, now aged six and eight,

Are Londoners whose multi-ethnic school

Cannot in any way attempt to give

The kind of Christmas my school offered me,

Nor can a city church now hope to play

The role a rural church did in my youth.

But our small boys do much that’s dear to me.

They help to decorate a living tree

With many baubles saved from years ago.

They write their notes to Santa as did I,

And dear old Santa and his wife (that’s me)

Rejoice to see our young ones clinging on

To some of how a Christmas used to be.

They relish my mince-pies made lovingly

With mincemeat from my Granny’s recipe,

A precious piece of continuity.

And best of all, on Christmas Eve my son

Will read to them, like his Dad long ago,

His much-loved, well-thumbed tale of Christmas Eve

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.....

*Copyright Ann Crowther 2016

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