Category Archives: family life. drug use in USA

The Old Bat looks back at Christmases past and present

I am writing this the week before Christmas Day 2017.  This has prompted memories of Christmases gone by.

I was born in 1936 on a farm in West Wales. At that time we had no electricity – just oil lamps and candles.  So no Christmas lights.  My earliest memory is of a warm happy  home decorated with lots of berried holly branches stuck behind every picture frame and sprigs of mistletoe hanging over every door ready for all those kisses. We had a homegrown branch of a fir tree to go with our log fires. The branch was decorated with tinsel and coloured baubles. We were all raised as Christians, and I attended a convent school, so the religious aspect of Christmas was a constant background to our celebrations, but not dominant. At this time in West Wales, carol singers came to our doors on New Years Eve.

At four or five years old I definitely believed in Father Christmas, so my brother and I sent many messages up the chimney. On Christmas Eve we hung at the end of our beds the largest stockings we could find. As we waited, hoping to catch sight of him, we were sure that we could hear the reindeers coming nearer and nearer. We could  even hear  the tinkle of their bells. We never actually saw him, of course, but we were always pleased by the gifts we received in our stockings next morning. In those days presents were small, usually a toy for my brother and a small doll for me, also some chocolates or sweets and always a tangerine in the toe of the stocking.

Life on the farm was always busy, even on Christmas Day.  We had a large herd of cows to be milked, calves to feed, sheep to be seen and checked on. In the farm kitchen  a large Christmas dinner was being cooked: a very large goose reared on the farm, huge joints of home cured ham, also potatoes, carrots, parsnips and cabbage, all home produced. There was also a large homemade Christmas pudding. This feast was not just for the family but also for the cowman and the other workers who lived with us in the farmhouse.  We had  beer, home-brewed specially for the occasion. After dinner, it was back to work for the adults, while my brother and I played with our presents, more having been brought by friends and relatives. Note, that I describe the midday meal as ‘dinner,’ and  will call the evening meal ‘supper’.  Supper, eaten once all the outside work was finished,  consisted of all the leftover cold meats from dinner, with bubble and squeak made from the leftover vegetables and the wonderful gravy: my favourite meal.

The evening was spent listening to the battery powered radio, playing parlour games or, if we could persuade her, singing around the piano played by my Grandmother. We went to bed very tired and happy.

We spent many years having these innocent  Christmas days, but  this changed when our village had electricity, which brought with it television and advertising.  Christmas became commercial and it became difficult for our children not to want what they saw advertised.  I remember when my own children were about twelve, my mother asked them what they would like as a gift for Christmas. Seduced by the wonderful portrayal of a game on the television called Mouse Trap, they asked their Grandmother if she would get it for them. My mother searched the toy shops near and far until she found it. There was great excitement before opening the box on Christmas Day. What a disappointment, it was just a bit of moulded brightly coloured plastic which had been staged by the film on TV to look wonderful.  I was so disappointed for my mother. We all learned  a valuable lesson. As the years have gone by, Christmas has become more and more commercial, with advertising starting in September. This really upsets me, I worry about all those families who have to struggle with Christmas debt for the foreseeable future.

New Year’s Day

Enough of this moaning. I will tell you about the lovely things that have made this Christmas wonderful for me. Over the holiday I have seen all my children and most of my grand children with their lovely friends. I had phone calls and visits from friends who knew that I was stuck in my flat. Among many cards, I had a lovely hand made card addressed to ‘his lovely cousin’s Grandma.’ Another card came from an old friend of my daughter’s. We have not been in touch since they all left for university. During the last few years I have followed the lives of his young sons on Facebook. I did not think that he would recognise my present name, so I was delighted to receive a card designed by one of the boys. I also want to thank all the friends that I have made during the many years at work for giving me such thoughtful cards and gifts. I realise now that the heart of Christmas still lives, we all try to show our friends and relations how much we love and appreciate them.

I wish a happy and healthy 2018 to everyone.

 

 

 

 

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OLD BAT at the October book group

I hosted this meeting in place of another member, I lent my flat and asked the others to bring a plate of food.  This was successful as every one brought some thing different.  I made my usual fruit trifle and some soda bread. The evening was interesting because some of us actually read the book while others listened to it on tapes or some other audio system. We discussed the book ‘All the Ugly and Wonderful Things’ by Bryn Greenwood. Because we live in Cardiff in South Wales some of the readers thought that the author was a man because the name Bryn is a common christian name here. They had not looked at the photograph on the back cover.

The people who read, other than listened to, the book seemed to like it the most. The story is about two children in the USA being dragged up by their parents who are heavily into the illicit use and manufacture of heavy drugs. The young girl is neglected by both parents but from the age of eight is championed by an ex convict, Kellen, of part native Indian background who takes her to school every day, making sure that she has shoes on her feet and generally does all the things the parents should do. Of course the girl Wavy grows up and after the shocking murder of her parents, the story takes a blacker twist. The story deals with a strong bond developing between the older man Kellen, and the young Wavy, which comes up for public scrutiny. I will not tell you any more, but I thoroughly recommend this book. The readers gave it nine out of ten, while the audio listeners gave it eight.

The next book to read is ‘Things fall apart’ by Chinua Achebe’

Our book group is friendly, everyone is encouraged to give their opinion. We meet alternately in each other’s house or flat, the host having brought four or five books which we had voted on the month before. We then read the winning choice. We alway have a luscious tea afterwards provided by the host, with plenty of chat, putting the world to rights etc. Unfortunately members are moving on with their jobs, therefore our numbers are falling. We would like some new members. The group is mixed, men and women, old, middle-aged and young. We would welcome anyone interested in books.If this appeals to you please leave a message on The Old Bat’s blog.