Tag Archives: writing

Christmas, past and present

Christmas, past and present

Singing carols in church began the day, then breakfast. Presents under the tree remained unopened until everyone had finished their bacon and eggs. My father always took so long, chewing every mouthful thirty times.

My grandmother and grandfather’s Christmas dinner included everyone, usually their four children and families, plus. Memories of great aunts and uncles, three great grandparents and Miss Benjifield. The films of these joyful celebrations, that my Uncle Henry took, show the oldest generation gradually diminishing with the next generation expanding, so we continued to fill the large T shaped tables.

My grandfather carved the turkey. My grandmother divvied out baked vegetables, gravy and succulent new peas from the garden. An enormous Christmas pudding then arrived with much, ‘Oohing and Aahing.’ Homemade ice cream, whipped cream and fresh strawberries and raspberries accompanied it. Finding a sixpence in our pudding was exciting, even if we weren’t keen on eating it. Uncle John, a baptist minister, was insistent he didn’t get a coin, so my grandmother would inform him he must have swallowed it, as she had seen to it that he’d had one. My grandmother was presbyterian, so no alcohol was consumed at her house.

After dinner other relatives and friends came for afternoon tea. This was set up out in the garden where folding chairs were placed under the decorated jacaranda tree. The oldest generation sat ensconced in their semicircle watching. Reflected light lit their soft white wrinkled faces, shadowed by their sunhats and veils.

How I took so much for granted, accepting the traditions as if food appeared by magic.

In the nineteen seventies my mother took over the Christmas Day preparations when my widowed, arthritic grandma became too old and infirmed. Mum managed seamlessly. Having five children who multiplied with eleven grandchildren, plus some waifs and strays, the laden table seemed limitless. Miss Nichols replaced Miss Benjifield. My father included alcohol in to the festivities.

We continued the traditions. My father was reluctant to go to church, though he always joined us on Christmas Day. One year the whole family sat in our usual pew. On the way out the minister said to my father, ‘And who are you?’

He replied,

‘I’ll give you three guesses,’ and walked on, grinning at mum.

My enchanted childhood invigorates me to try harder. Christopher and I have five children between us. They each have partners and children. Nobody lives locally. Families from afar must stay. Two boys live in the city, an hour away, which means they come for the day. Others live further afield so it is special when we all gather to catch up on all those stories that haven’t been shared due to the business of modern living.

Love remains the kernel of this sacred day. We try to minimise the commercial hype and have time to listen and talk to one another and enjoy the children’s excitement. Mobile phones and ipads have become unnecessary distractions.

Customs remain, such as: food preparations, weeding and cleaning. I think of my mother and my grandmother. How could they remain so calm and tolerant, never complaining? Were they like me? I gather my thoughts and hope I haven’t forgotten anything. Christopher has repaired two woodworm eaten legs of the outdoor table. Visualising poinsettias as the centerpiece on the table, I pretend nil desperandum and try to remain serene. Traditions change gradually and will continue to change. We shall make the most of our time and attempt to create happy memories for the next generation.

I realize that we are privileged to have grandchildren and to have family around us. Blessings and love to all of you who have had the stamina to read this and may you have a very Merry Christmas!

 

 

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Looking back:

Have begun writing some of my memoir into short stories. This is one example:
Empire Day
I watched my mother make toffee apples. The sweet smell of sugar melting, bubbling fast with the bright red cochineal added. No stirring allowed as the sugar became toffee. The dimpled, large tin tray was filled with skewered toffee dipped apples left to set.

The year was 1956, May school holidays. The neighbourhood kids, my brothers and I had scoured the bush on the parade for dead branches and trees. We’d collected anything flammable. Old tyres were a prized find, though previously these had to be hidden from a rival arsonist gang, who had burnt our bonfire down the year before.

This year we joined forces with the rival gang and invited them to help build our bonfire and share the night. They were not so scary, once we got to know them. Two of them, the Stone twins, led a tough life, having to milk the cows each morning and night, helping their mother after their father had died. We all had fun dragging dead branches and piling them up until the bonfire was huge.

Cold winter darkness descended. Dressed warmly in our woolen coats and full of anticipation, we all went to the paddock opposite where the bonfire was ready to be lit. My mother waddled carrying enough toffee apples for everyone, the tray resting on her extended stomach. After distributing them, mother collected everyone’s crackers and put them onto another large tray to prevent them being lit at the same time so that it would extend the fireworks display.

Dad lit the fire illuminating excited faces. Flowerpots disgorged their red and yellow sprays of colour from the fence post. A few tom thumbs ignited, popping here and there, with penny bungers and Jumping Jacks being thrown, scaring the unwary. Catherine wheels spun skewered to fence posts. Rockets soared out of beer bottles, spraying red, green and white stars.

Suddenly there was a ruckus. Someone had thrown a large cracker onto the tray, which started igniting the rest. My mother dropped the tray, jumping back as crackers went off in every direction. A rocket whizzed between her legs as she hopped and danced. Disappointed, without understanding why, my brothers and I were quickly gathered together and taken home.

It wasn’t until the next morning that we were told our brother, Angus, was born on Empire Day. He came into the world with a bang and inherited a crackerjack personality.

Autumnal pursuits:

Christopher Pyett : ideas for paintings

Christopher Pyett : ideas for paintings

Autumn is a time for hunkering down. My daughter rang to say her gutters have been replaced and a dangerous chimney taken care of.
We’ve decided to remove two large palm trees that drop thousands of seeds and sprout everywhere. I love their height, but the other trees will soon fill the space left behind.

General garden maintenance is a fulfilling task. Removing spent tomato plants, culling the raspberries and tying the new canes makes the garden feel ready for winter. Pruning everything is something that needs to be rationed according to the recycling bins. We now have two brown bins, for garden waste that I don’t want to compost. Our six compost bins are fully utilized. So the garden is in need of constant attention, which fits in with writing.

I’d like to work half days at each, writing and gardening, so that I’m not sitting in front of the computer all day. This healthy option seldom works out, but I shall continue to aim for this ideal.

My computer is fine apart from the iphotos, which won’t allow me access. I shall really have to learn to use my new laptop, which is another thing I’ve been resisting. So for the moment, no photos of the garden.

End of September

IMG_2907

Frankston Beach, Victoria, Australia

Frankston Beach, Victoria, Australia

Out the study window

Out the study window with bird’s nest ferns in the foreground.

Tomorrow October starts and day light saving begins on Sunday. Our weather has been beautifully cool, but a hot weekend is forecast. It is perfect weather for writing, but everything else seems to be getting in the way. We received a marvellous short story this morning, written by a friend from art school, all of those years ago. He writes with such humour, I’m hoping he’ll let me share it with you. I’d love to be able to write like him. Chris Fooks, the author of this piece, now lives in Scotland. What a small world we live in.

Sunday Write Up, August 2015

Using the words: idea, why, stupid, handsome, hello

The idea of why someone should be made to feel stupid irritated me. Why should such a good man be made to feel insecure?                                                                                                                  Just because he wasn’t handsome didn’t alter his probity. His rectitude in dealing with the impoverished, sharing his all, impressed me. The fact that he had no formal qualifications meant nothing compared with his well-spent life. His shyness was endearing. Without further delay, I gathered my courage and crossed the floor to say ‘Hello .’ His strained lined face broke into a brilliant smile.

Thanks to Sunday Write Up, August 2015 for this suggestion. Please visit this site if you’d like to read more.

http://asidefromwriting.com/2015/08/30/sunday-write-up-august-2015/

 

Sunday Write Up

Using Mel Cusick-Jones idea for Sunday Write Up                                                                                Using five words: forget, come, need, acorn, weird. Write a story.

Working flat out, Maisie could forget her problems. As soon as she stopped, that double crossing husband of hers re-entered her brain. She would need to come to a serious decision soon; to consider her own normality.

Her problem was like an acorn in her shoe, irritating, making it difficult to forget her dilemma. Soon she would prove his duplicity and she would take proof to the police and see him sent to jail. It would be weird not having the burden of an abusive husband dragging her down. The thought of freedom made her hum.

http://asidefromwriting.com/2015/07/26/sunday-write-up-in-july-2015/

 

Quote Prompt 2

‘I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.’ E.B. White

This quote describes the cleft stick that many feel torn between. Or, are we improving the world by staying positive and doing the work we enjoy?

My letters to politicians may be a very small token to improve the world. I guess I must content myself with small increments. Improving the soil quality in our garden and growing our own vegetables brings satisfaction and cleaner air! Keeping the house clean makes it better on a micro level. Those small tasks completed to retain a semblance of order avoid chaos.

I used to think when my own grandmother was very old sitting in a chair and becoming negative, if only she could be aware that her thoughts are important! Positivity is contagious and helpful. Where as the opposite is also contagious, and can depress and hurt those you love.

So, as I get older, I am trying to take my own advice and remember to smile, as it uses fewer muscles than a frown. As my father used to say, ‘If you can’t think of something positive to say, say nothing.’

George Bernard Shaw wrote wisely about happiness: ‘The secret of being miserable is to have leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not. The cure for it is occupation.’

An amusing Noel Coward quote to finish on: ‘I’ve brought you here to enjoy yourself and you’re bloody well going to.’ Mother to child at the seaside, Cavalcade.

This prompt is kindly suggested by myathiestblog., as an alternative prompt from WP.

http://myatheistblog.com/2015/03/28/quote-prompt-2-2/