Yesterday on TV, Mr B and I watched "Back in Time for Christmas." There are few things more satisfying, we find, in the run-up to the Festive Season, than a Really Good Wallow in Nostalgia.
In case you haven't watched "Back in Time.." all you really need to know is that it follows a family - the Robshaws - through sixty years of Christmas traditions. Each day, a different decade, from the Forties to the Nneties. I can't help feeling it
was extremely noble of the Robshaws to experience so many Christmasses, one after the other, when most of us, let's face it, find one a year is Quite Enough.
Now don't get me wrong - I love Christmas. I love
the cheery postman calling at the door each morning with the latest clutch of Christmas cards: thank you to all of you who have sent us cards, several with newsy letters enclosed within. I know it's the fashion not to send Christmas cards these days but, oh,
the pleasure they give! I love spending hours struggling with wrapping paper and Lashings of Sellotape to produce unwieldy parcels which small people will pull apart in seconds. I love my Christmas tree, weighed down with decorations stretching back over the
years - with occasional New Entrants like the beautiful glass animal produced by my goddaughter Pip.
Watching the Robshaws grapple with so many Christmases Past, led Mr B and me to ponder on particularly memorable
Christmases over the course of our married life. The best TV programmes (I stoutly believe) are those which lead the viewer to indulge in further discussion / argument / heated debate. Mr B and I indulge in lots of such discussions / arguments / heated debates.
We are, indeed, Past Masters at the art.
So what, you are asking (or maybe not, as you may be wrapping presents, writing Christmas cards for all those people who sent you cards you weren't expecting, or planning
your gastronomic Festve Feast) are our Memories of Christmas Past?
Well, we have two favourite memories of the Sixties Christmas. The first one was in 1966 when we invited the whole Salvation Army band of
carol singers into the front room of our flat and used up every single cup and mug we possessed to serve up hot drinks to warm them up. Before they left, they softly played "Away in a Manger" to our tiny babe, asleep in her carry-cot, oblivious to the special
memory being created around her.
The following year, 1967, we had two baby girls - I was in the kitchen, cooking sausage rolls and mince pies (no Christmas feast complete without them) and Inn of
the Sixth Happiness was showing on our tiny black and white TV hired from Rumbelows (who remembers Rumbelows?) when Mr B called me out to the front door to see the snow flakes softly falling. It was magical.
the Seventies, I remember the first Christmas in our new house in the village of Staplehurst when we used some of the money saved from the sale of our previous property to buy our children bicycles. We have a tape recording of the moment Our Foursome opened
the living room door to catch first sight of their presents. "A bicycle!" breathes the Eldest of the Darling Daughters. I weep just to think of it. Then, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, trying desperately to get a word in edgeways, exhorting me to take
note of the amazing properties of the brakes on her three-wheeler: "This is how you stop it, Mummy! Mummy, this is how you stop it!" Today she likes to remind me that nobody ever listened to her...
then there was the year I was discharged from hospital after shoulder surgery on Christmas Eve, my right arm strapped up against my chest, making the cooking of Christmas Dinner even more of a challenge than usual - but, oh, the pleasure of being Back Home
Again. I think it was in the Seventies, too, that we started the tradition of naming the Christmas turkey. Tonka the Turkey will remain in my memory for all time. He was, indeed, huge.
to the Eighties. There was the year we had expected to be safely moved into our new home in Worthing, only to find our move delayed. Our home was all packed up and ready to go but we were still there - we called it the Packing Case Christmas. I displayed all
our cards on the empty shelves to disguise their, well, emptiness.
And who could forget the Nineties Christmas when the Youngest of the Darling Daughters was away in Australia and sent a letter home to be
read out at the breakfast table. It was the turn of my Little Sister and her fella to host Christmas that year - gathered around their table, first I, then Mr B, tried and failed to read the letter aloud without weeping, until finally Our Boy took over and
read it out to us beautifully.
It was a letter describing the traditions of our Family Christmas, just as they came into our youngest daughter's mind, sitting on a hot and sunny beach Down Under and thinking
of home. She described it so perfectly, right down to the postscript which turned our tears to laughter:
"PS What's the turkey called this year?"