How festive traditions change
Weather-wise, the last two months of the year have been abysmal, following a very disappointing summer. That was bad enough – but our hearts really went out over Christmas for all those affected by the recent floods, especially those being flooded out for the second, or even third time.
There's not much anyone can do against rising rivers except build better defences and bring in lots of sandbags, but I do wonder if lots of the deep puddles we have to wade through these days are because the rainwater has nowhere to go?
Years ago we looked after our front lawns, even it they were the size of postage stamps.
Many years ago, when we lived at Knowle West, my dad really loved his front lawns and took great pride in keeping them looking nice.
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Either side of the front door he had two beautiful hydrangeas – one pink and one blue.
He treated them with some chemicals to maintain the different colours, but I don't have any idea what he used. Iodine seems to ring a bell.
Now, wherever I look, instead of lawns and pretty flower beds, we seem to see endless paved front gardens and driveways. Here in Bluebell Court, our new home in Stockwood, we are still reminiscing over past Christmases.
Last year we had a lovely afternoon's entertainment and sing song when we were visited by member of a ukulele band.
While singing along to White Christmas, I stopped and thought to myself that the wheel had turned full circle.
I had a strong feeling of déjà vu, thinking back to the time when I visited my mum in Bowhead Home, now next door to me. One afternoon I walked in to see all the residents happily singing carols.
If I had to choose my favourite Christmas line, it would be "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" (The Christmas Song, 1944) because it conjures up such a lovely seasonal picture. Nowadays, of course, most of us don't have open fires where we can roast chestnuts.
Imagine being clever enough to write such a lovely song that has endured for so many years, and which is still being played today.
The other thing I noticed on Christmas morning when I went for a little stroll after breakfast, was that I didn't meet a single parent, carefully shepherding a little boy or girl as they tried out a new bicycle or scooter.
I remember Christmas 1965 when my son Chris had graduated to a new bike without stabilisers.
We couldn't afford two new bikes so it made sense to pass Chris's old one down to daughter Julie.
Husband George painstakingly painted that bike pink instead of blue and it came up a treat.
Adding a bell, and some chrome polish, nobody honestly would have seen the difference.
Christmas morning saw George hanging on to Chris's saddle to make sure he was OK and me watching Julie wobble away on her reconditioned bike.
Both children, it has to be said, were as proud as punch.
The last line of my favourite Christmas song is, "Folks dressed up like Eskimos".
That doesn't really happen any more either, unless we are enduring a really icy spell.
When I was a teenager, and even after I got married, we always had the ubiquitous cardigan handy if we were visiting.
If we got near enough to a fire to get really warm in those days we got roasted in front and frozen behind. Nowadays, young people seem to wear less and less.
Seeing in the New Year used to be a lot different too. Do you remember "first footing" my friends? I had never heard of it until George and I moved to Totterdown and met a Scotsman called Jock (what else) for a wee dram.
Jock would come "first footing" soon after midnight, bringing salt and coal, and, if we were lucky, his wife had baked something called Black Bun.
All these things, it seems, were meant to bring us luck throughout the coming year.
Years later I discovered that a "first footer" was supposed to be a tall man with dark hair.
As George used to say, we just had to make do with who we had around – and we did like Jock, even if he was short and fat rather than tall.
Finally, I would like to tell you about two kindnesses I received just before Christmas.
For my 80th birthday I received a beautiful unframed portrait of all my grandchildren.
Having ventured into the studio at Stockwood and picked a suitable frame, I was surprised, and touched, that when I returned to collect my framed photo, Tim, the photographer, refused payment.
Firstly, he said, because it was Christmas and secondly, he added that he loved the Post's Bristol Times section.
And thanks also to Theresa, my chiropodist, who came to relieve the agony of a very painful corn and refused payment since, as she said, it only took five minutes.
I was not so tactful, however, to one of my close friends who really believed that the end of the world would come on Friday, December 21.
When she rang me on December 22 to say she had somehow got it wrong, I remarked: "Well, never mind; it's not the end of the world, at least you can now shop for Christmas."
See you next week.
God bless. Take care. Marion.