Christmas Time

Firstly, welcome to my new subscribers who’ve dropped in this last month. I do post fairly regularly, but haven’t for the last few weeks for various reasons.

However, I’m back and the other day a blog post caughte my eye. It was about Christmas past, present and the furture.

It made me realise how at Christmas time I always remember what it was like when I was a child and how we celebrated our Christmas’s. I came from a big family and we  hung a stocking on the end of the bed. In the morning there would be an apple, orange, a little toy and some chocolate inside. The chocolate was particularly nice when eaten at 6 am!

We would go downstairs when told we could, and there in the lounge was a pile of toys, all unwrapped waiting for us. It was a treasure trove as our eyes grew wide with excitement. Mum or Dad would tell us which chair or end of the settee was ours. The toys for many years consisted of the same the things, but we loved them just the same. Always a coloured-1854302_1920spinning top that hummed like crazy the faster it got. A tea set with cups and saucers, a tea pot, milk jug and sugar bowl was also firm favourite as I used to have a lot of tea parties with my dolls. And yes, a beautiful doll, whom I always adored. I still remember counting them one day, and I had twenty eight of all different shapes and sizes and colours. I loved choosing a name for them. One year I even had a hamster in a cage. We were lucky, and we all loved Christmas. This cumiliated in a wonderful Christmas dinner.

When I met my husband, his family did something different. They didn’t open any presents until after Christmas dinner had been eaten, cleared and washed up. He had a big family, and they went to different relative’s houses on different years. There used to be up to wenty two around the table. The presents, all wrapped sat like a mountain around the Christmas tree and took hours to open. It was lovely. Gradually as the years went by the elderley relatives passed away and the people round the table got less and less.

When we had our own children, we kept that tradition although we did have some toys to open on Christmas morning, with many more later. There is something special watching your little children getting up when it was still dark, desperately trying to be awake to seeing the glee in their eyes. I remember one particularly year we bought our son a sit-upon-digger. It was too big to wrap so I placed a balloon in the digger bucket and covered it with a table cloth. In the morning, he pulled off the cloth and exclaimed loudly with a sharp intake of breath. ‘A balloon, a balloon!

When the children grew up, we experienced a different kind of Christmas where it was just the two of us. The family would come to us for dinner and we would open presents afterwards, just like we always used to. It was strange waking up in the morning to have no gleeful children and it took a while to get used to.

We moved to Angelsey a few years ago and Christmas’s changed again with us going back on the day, and the children and their families coming here another. Next year it will change again as our daughter moves to Anglesey in a house that will accomodate us all.

So things evolve all the time and you do have to work at it, not just the preparation but making it as enjoyable as possible by doing the things you love with the people you love.

The blog I saw which inspired me to write this was by author Chantelle Atkins. It’s a lovely read and she puts it so well. Pop over here to have a look.

Before you go, get yourself in the mood for the festive season with my novelette One Christmas.. It’s funny and sad, happy and very Christmassy. It’s also short. So you don’t have to commit to a big read. I’d be grateful of a review too, just a few words to tell me what you thought.

As a Christmas gift, it will be free to download from 16th December to the 20th.

Happy Christmas!

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My Sister Far Away

This week I’m launching my new book The Magic of Stories. There are fifty different stories all divided into sections depending on the genre. So there should be one you will like.

It wasn’t until I was putting the book together I realised all the poetry I’d included were simply stories in rhyme.

In 1988, one of my sisters enlisted on an experimental cultural exchange programme sponsored by the American Institute for Foreign Study. She left her hometown in Bury, Lancashire, on a the two-year programme to Massachusetts.

She eventually settled with a family of eight, and having been brought up with foster children, Joanne was well qualified. Our parents fostered for almost fifty years, so being around children was second nature to her. Joanne found she loved it so much that when the two years were over, she stayed on.

It was difficult for us, her family, because we didn’t see her again for six years. This was the end of the eighties, beginning of the nineties, so there was no Facebook, and very little internet. The only way to be in contact was by letter or telephone calls. The latter was expensive because it was all land lines back then, too.

I was the mother of two little children and she had her hands full nannying so letters were infrequent but we did write over a course of time. It was scary because I felt I’d lost touch with her, usually a phone call helped but I missed her like mad.

The family she was with helped her get a green card which meant that although she could always leave the country, she couldn’t return until she had it. When the card was issued, it meant she was an American citizen. It took some time to adjust to the thought that she was not going to be part of our lives any more.

During those years, I began to suspect she may be gay and wrote to ask the question. It seemed a long wait for a response. I was worried in case I’d got it wrong. Eventually, she rang and was pleased it was out in the open. It was a shock and one better done face to face but that was out of the question. It was never an issue but the miles between us made it one because there was always questions I couldn’t get answers too. These all resolved themselves over time. Now we don’t even think about it.

These days, communication is instantaneous and younger people take it for granted. I suspect some don’t realise it was not always like that. These days, Joanne and I share photos, text messages, and video calls. The distance between us is no more, I can ‘speak’ to her any time I wish. I don’t feel the distance and for all families apart, it has to be a good thing.

Her visits to the UK are frequent, and we’ve been over there, too. I’m glad people don’t have that strain of being apart any more. Important issues are easily discussed, and many of them are not an issue anyway simply because of instantaneous communication.

In The Magic of Stories book, I’ve written a poem especially dedicated to Joanne to show how I missed her, and still do. I don’t know when I’ll see her again but know I can video call her at any time.

I found the original article that appeared in the local paper and have included it in the book along with the poem.

I’d love to hear your stories of being parted from love ones, especially in a time when communication was an issue.

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Joanne and I in 2018 and us in 1982

 

 

My Two Dads

I came across this on an old blog I used to keep, and thought it appropiate to post for Father’s Day.

Once upon a time I had two dads, one with hard brown eyes and the other with soft ones.

The dad with the hard eyes was a police officer who worked long shifts. He had a short temper and shouted at us for making too much noise.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, long hours, four children, and a wage that was barely enough to support a family.

I hated it when mum used those words, “Wait till your dad gets home!” The sound of the front door closing made me dread those hard, flat, angry eyes,

“Apologise to your mother,” or “Get up to your room now!” Was what he usually said.

It was worse when I got older and given a curfew,  as all my friends were allowed to come home when they liked. Dad always wanted to know where I was going and who I was going with. He disapproved of my ‘going into town’ because that was ‘his patch’ and he knew all the bad pubs and clubs. Without explanation he would ban me.

Now I know he was being protective and although it caused conflict,  I hated him laying down the law.

Now I just wish he was back here with me where we could talk about it, and I could tell him how I finally understood.

My other dad, the one with soft brown eyes, would make me laugh. “Give me your hand and I shall tell your fortune,” he would say. Then taking hand he’d peered at it, “I can see a farmhouse,” I looked closely and saw nothing but a criss-cross of lines. “And here,” he said, “is a pond.” Then he spat in my hand.

“Dad!” I would scream, and it was funny as I watched him do it to my siblings.

Holidays were fun too. We’d walk up hills and down the other side. We’d collect seashells on the beach and climb rocks. He built us, not just sand castles, but racing cars with seats and steering wheels.

He’d cover us in sand so that just our head was showing, or take us to a field where we would chase moles that only he could see.

Whereever he went, we followed. He’d do silly things like walk with a limp and we’d copy him, or he’d run and then walk and we’d all bang into each other.

He couldn’t tell a joke because he’d always forget the punch line, or the laughter in his eyes gave it all away.

The police officer finally hung up his helmet and the hard brown eyes became soft all the time.

Now we’ve grown up and left home, Dad and Mum had a their second family, four adopted children. They never saw the policeman with the hard eyes.

Dad eventually ran our of energy to run along beaches and began to walk with a real limp.  He still continued to tells fortunes, and his laughing eyes always gave away the jokes.

He died of pancreatic cancer in September 2010. Every father’s day, I remember these things and they make me smile.