Christmas, The Holidays How are you spending them?

This was going to be my “Happy Christmas” post when I began it last week.

We are still enjoying or enduring the Holiday period here in the U.K. As we head now towards New Year. I am grateful for the fact that I am enjoying it.

This Christmas I knew would be vastly different for us and I honestly did not know how it would go. After the year that we have had it couldn’t help but be. It is the first one where we have not had Kato physically with us, he was here only in spirit. He entered my thoughts daily and although I looked for signs I did not see any. However I still felt that he was part of the family here enjoying Christmas morning together.

The past week we have been getting ready for the occasion and I have never felt so unready before. I went for a job interview the week before and it went well. I came out with such a positive feeling about both the job and myself and hoped that I may be offered one of the two positions they had spoken about. That weekend, my partner told me to call my friend who was emigrating this week and book a ticket to visit her. It was a wonderful thing to do, I feared that she would be too busy but she jumped at the suggestion. So I had a fabulous time with her and her family before they went, I came back having felt such love, I was on cloud nine.

On coming home I tried to fit in getting the house “Christmassy” but had only just enough money to get food and a few small gifts for family, so had to buy gifts wisely. Whilst my partner and I sold a few items, the people came to collect. The truck went this week, I didn’t feel stressed about letting it go. The relief that we would have funds for the shortfall again this month outweighed that.

It also meant that Hope, my Beautiful blue car has been brought out of the garage and I  able to drive her again for the first time in months again thanks to the assistance of friends who made sure that she was safe for me. I played Santa and delivered gifts and cards on Christmas Eve and got to see and hug another friend I have not seen this year.

So being broke has been the new norm for this past year along with so many other emotions. But as we end the year I can’t help thinking we have lost a lot of people. Not just the ones who are old, but the ones who are taken far too soon. When faced with this situarion, you cannot help but rethink how you wish your life to be as the new year approaches.

I did not hear about the job, but that did not stop me from applying for many more this week. At some point, someone will offer me one, when the time is right so I must trust that the right one will come along too. It felt like I have turned a corner being invited for an interview can do that to you. Lift you up spirits and all and make you concentrate on the positives.

However recently my partner has been ill, he is feeling very stressed out about making ends meet but it has all come together just in time and he is wondering where the next bit will come from, looking for things he can turn around for a little profit to keep our heads above water until that elusive job comes along. But his heart is heavy and it’s making him tired and he is in pain with the various health issues he has and damage to his body over the years. He has been told to take it easy by the doctor, but the doctor knows that he doesn’t know how. Which can be a bit of a cycle for him, it also makes me worry about him.

This Christmas we did not get fancy gifts for each other. He bought me something lovely when we were in Scotland in the Autumn and I have kept it for Christmas. I bought him something he needed, a pair of boots to keep him comfortable whilst we walk the dog together and our present to each other was our beloved Roki. For Birthday, Christmas and my Birthday. No other gift is necessary as we have the love and happiness that he brings us. We collected our new baby seven weeks ago and he is the family we craved to have again.

We awoke on Christmas morning and all piled onto the bed for a big family hug. The day was mild and bright and we made plans to go out and see it. I did not spend the morning wrapping gifts for others as I had in previous years. I had managed to wrap the few that I had bought and most had already been given by then.  We sat talking, played music and had a lovely breakfast of smoked salmon omelette which is an all family favourite. I thought about the big Meal that I would make later and planned to speak to my friend to wish her a safe journey.  Our Christmas Day was non eventful to the outside world but just right for us. We sent and received messages of good cheer to family and friends but to see the face of your child as you give him presents on Christmas Day was just the perfect way to spend it.

Our boy had two fleece blankets which were donated by the emigrating friend and he was so thrilled with them. He had a rope toy which I had given him a couple of days earlier when I had returned from my trip and a woven cloth toy, which in our house is known as “A wonderful fling to be flung” which my mother had made for him. He also had some treats and was so ecstatic that he didn’t know what to play with first. So he just decided to pick up as many as he could at once, throw them all into the air and then roll on them. He is happy. I sent a message to his old family Thanking them for the most wonderful gift to us and received a touching response.

It was late evening by the time I had prepared and cooked our Christmas meal which meant we were up until very late and watching the films on the TV till the early hours. It didn’t matter so much. On Boxing Day I collected my brother and took him to our sister and her partner’s house for a feast. It was lovely, I haven’t seen any of them in months it was just nice to sit around and enjoy a meal, we also watched a funny film and laughed together.

They say it becomes different as you get older, but that is the true meaning of Christmas to us. We have love. We are not in Scotland for the first time in three years we have stayed at home. That in itself felt a little  bit odd but less stressful for me as I didn’t have to pack or travel Christmas week and it never quite feels like the holiday until you arrive at your destination.

My good intentions as to how we should spend Christmas did not come about, again we did not decorate the house for the occasion. My partner said it wasn’t important and we just ran out of time before the big day. This Christmas was about sharing Love and Time, after all who knows how much of it we have left, that was the most important thing and we achieved that.

So however you have spent yours and however you choose to spend the holiday time you have left, I hope that you enjoy it.

I want to Thank you for following my blog since I began in February, for the friendships that grow along the way and the support that you have shown me over the past few months.  I hope that we all continue on our journeys through the next year and find new inspiration, experiences to write about and I will enjoy hearing about yours.

The Daily Post – Festive

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My Grandmother

“Let’s go and sit on the Haystack, and whose got the lipstick?” I never knew the exact circumstances or what would follow, but somehow it symbolised Jessie, to my mother, the person whom she would know as a friend as well as family. The person I knew who was so different, a Stoic, Matriarch and Christian lady of the church and would not want to be recognised as the flirty young girl who once was, who gained three proposals before settling upon my Grandfather. I remember my mother telling me that it was something my Grandmother had shared with her once.

I am sure that there were still signs of the girl she once was to her friends from younger years and also to my Grandad and I for one would have loved to have known her better then, but by the time I came along, she was already Nanny, to look at her, you might think Grandma, but no she was always called Nanny. I knew very little about her younger years, just that she was a very attractive young lady who bore a striking resemblance to a young Princess Elizabeth, who would later become Queen. I was ten years old when I lost her, but for a moment would like to share in some of the memories I do have of this wonderful woman, whom I was proud to call family.

I recall how she was heavily involved with the church, a local Baptist church and organised the Christian Aid jumble sales to raise funds abroad. We always knew when Christian Aid week was or when Christ had Risen, since there was a poster proudly displayed in the front window for all to see. I passed a home the other day, with the same familiar purple and white Christ is Risen! text with a cross, which suddenly got me thinking about her.

She was a creative woman, I knew this since she taught me how to bake cakes, knit and read music when I was learning to play the recorder at school amongst many other things. She also taught me how to build an open fire and clean it out after it had burned away and toast bread on a toasting fork. She had a sweet tooth and a liking for “Lift” Lemon Tea, which she used to make in a tea glass with a plastic holder and a long spoon for stirring the sugar in. I have the two of those glasses still to this day the ones we used to share on cold winter evenings amongst many other sentimental treasures. She had three black cats all at once, which was unusual at the time for someone to have quite so many, they were named Buster, Timmy and Sooty and I thought they were great. Buster used to let himself in and out of the back door by standing on his back legs and pushing the handle down with his paw and Sooty was the last remaining one who lived to be 23 years old and outlived her. My Nanny could put on a fantastic spread for the whole family and cook a mean roast dinner with all the trimmings, but always overcooked the vegetables, we found out later it was due to her having trouble with the false teeth, but at the time we had no clue. I guess we were just too young to understand.

I remember that in the summer months, we would congregate at Nanny and Grandads’ house for Sunday Lunch and family gatherings under the huge weeping willow tree which stood in their garden, I was devastated when years later, my Grandad cut it down, it held so many memories. Nanny attempted to teach me to crochet, but for some reason, I could not do it, preferring to knit. Years before I came along, she had once ran a haberdashery store from the front of the house, which by the time we came along had been turned into her bedroom, but the wooden shop style fitted cupboards remained and held a plethora of the stock she had kept when she closed it down. There were bolts of fabric in there and packets of best knitting wool, which I craved to be able to knit something wonderful with since there was so much of it. Instead at the time I hadn’t the skill so ended up knitting small dresses and outfits and blankets for my Sindy dolls and Teddies.

Nanny would not have approved! She always kept things for best, there were cupboards full of things she was keeping for best when she died. But whilst she was alive and well, there were recycled buttons and unravelled wool for making things like that but I was just a child. She and Grandad were both really good at recycling things, I think my own quest for recycling came from there frugality.

If Dad had got his way, I would have borne her middle name Florence as my own. As a child of the 70’s I am grateful that Mum won that debate since the ridicule once I arrived at School would have been unbearable. The Magic Roundabout was a great program for kids, we used to watch and enjoy it but I didn’t want a living hellish part of it as I was growing up. For a sensitive child having a strange name was already difficult enough in a world full of Emma’s. In my infants school alone, there were as many as three Emma’s in every class I had. I craved for a more common name like Emma so that I might just fit in.

But back to Jessie. We had fun, we used to go to their house at weekends. Saturday night into Sunday, with my cousins and my brother, we would stay over and all head off to church together the next day. It was walking distance from Nanny and Grandads’ and because he couldn’t fit four children and two adults into his car, Grandad would drive down and bring Nanny back in the car afterwards. This served two purposes, we would walk there and back, which involved playing on the way home and so would be sufficiently tired by the time we reached Nanny’s and Lunch would be almost ready by the time we all arrived there. Since my Brother was four years older than me and the eldest, and my cousins were only a year or two around me in age, there were safety in numbers and our grandparents only lived four roads from the church, it was deemed safe for us to walk home without getting into too much trouble. Nanny would be putting the finishing touches to the Sunday Lunch that our parents would join us to enjoy when we arrived back. Sometimes, I would be able to help with the cooking.

On other occasions she would bake and I loved baking with her.
I remember being invited to Nanny’s one day to help her bake some cakes. She had one of those 1950’s kitchen store cupboards in her house, with numerous doors and drawers, which served as an extra work surface when needed and small children were assisting in the kitchen. There was also a blue Formica covered kitchen table, which was her work surface for rolling out pastry etc. and after my grandparents passed away, I inherited the table for a while, for sentimental reasons. I had to get out the kitchen steps to be able to reach the top shelf of the cupboards which contained a large selection of Homepride Bakers with Bowler hats, who held all the wonderful ingredients we needed for baking. Along with a selection of Cornish pottery with the blue and white stripes. I loved being in her kitchen. It looked out from a huge double sink over the garden. My Grandad had built the kitchen as an extension years earlier for her and it was just the right size and had become the hub of the house. On this particular occasion though, I’d been invited to bake with her and she had let me have free reign. Nanny loved to make scones which were would be later drenched in butter and jam whilst still warm from the oven. It was our treat for making them she said. Margaret, was our Minister’s daughter from the church and had been invited to join us on this occasion.
We assembled the ingredients to make the pastry and Nanny asked what we were going to make. She had hoped for some jam tarts for a cake stall maybe, or just for tea, but creativity kicked in and we made furniture.

Yes, Pastry furniture. On a baking tray, we rolled, moulded to create a three piece suite each, sofa and two chairs, with pastry arms and cushions made from Jam. They were kind of like tarts, weren’t they, but much more inspired! Margaret and I had such a wonderful time and since there was still a little of the pastry left over for a more traditional jam tart, Nanny also got her wish. But the sofas were out piece de resistance, and I can remember her mother’s surprise when we answered her question, “So, what did you make today?” when she collected Margaret later that day and we chorused “Jam Sofas and Chairs” “I’ve had such fun, when can I come again?” she said. Her mother’s eyebrows went up and she took her away, I don’t think she was allowed to come and play again.

Christian Aid week was always hard work for Nanny, she would spend the weeks leading up to it, collecting and sorting through donations from people. They would be dropping off sacks of jumble for the sale, and Grandad would be getting cross that she had taken over his garage again and he had to park on the driveway instead. Since we lived in the next road, Mum and I would be called upon to help and sort things through before they were sold. We were not well off, so if there was something that we needed in the clothing department, then Nan would let us have it just for helping, since the items were donated for people in need. If there was a toy there, we had to make a donation from our pocket money for it. I am sure that it encouraged our love of bargain hunting in later years. Nan’s philosophy was that these were donated goods for children and families in need and if we were in need, we should also do what we could to help.

There was always heaps of clothing, toys and bric-a- brac and it all had to be sorted out. Nan’s kindness was a double edged sword though, since I often received clothing which had been donated by families locally, I would then turn up wearing things at school, since we did not have a uniform at our school, only to be bullied for being poor, and wearing someone‘s old clothes, or wearing something that Mum had made or altered to fit me, amongst other things.

Nanny must have been great at selling though, she was always busy at the jumble sales, there were regulars who would queue up to come and buy from her stall no matter what and we would be roped in to help. My brother and I once had our photograph taken for the local newspaper chattering away on some toy telephones we had picked out from the jumble sale. There are just not enough of them around now, Jumble Sales. Time has moved on with the arrival of boot and table sales, have we lost the community spirit which used to surround these events and the joy to rummage. My curiosity never wanes but rummaging is now met with displeasure for messing up someone’s display. I miss the jumble sale.

I remember fondly those Saturday nights spent at Nanny and Grandads’ house, the boys used to sleep in the back bedroom, whilst the girls used to share the big room at the front with Nanny. We were always getting told off for talking late into the night and giggling. It always backfired though, when we would be awake several hours later when Nanny came to bed, then she would keep us awake with her snoring. One Sunday morning we were discussing that Nanny snored, much to her horror when we demonstrated just how loud it was, to the boys amazement, she retorted with “Well you all talk in your sleep” We sat there in disbelief. Grandad corroborated her story, yes they said, you don’t stop talking even in your sleep. We were amazed and immediately asked what we had been saying. It wasn’t as interesting as we thought it would be, but nevertheless it must have hatched a plan in her head. The very next weekend, they decided to prove it to us.

We all stayed over as usual and had forgotten the conversation during the week which had followed. Some time after we had all gone too bed, Nanny opened the bedroom doors to our room and the boys. There she sat in the hallway, poised with tape recorder and microphone and recorded my cousins and I having a conversation, from two rooms away. So there were four children across a hallway conversing in their sleep. At the breakfast table the next morning, she played us the tape to our absolute amazement.

As an adult, I have a picture in my head of my dear Grandmother, sitting in her hallway on a Saturday night tape recorder in hand, just to prove her point and realise that I am so much like her in so many ways. If I have a point to prove, I will go to any lengths to do so. I am also stubborn, just as she was. It’s been over thirty years since I have seen her, but I am so pleased to be able to tell you these small stories about her.