Christmas Past and Present

A few days ago I re-blogged a post by Misha Herwin about Christmas and the memories of her Polish family’s Christmas traditions that she still practices today. For those that don’t know Misha, she’s a very talented author and writer of the Dragonfire trilogy, the new, Clear Gold trilogy that’s had the first volume published this year and the haunting, House of Shadows; a novel that chills you in places that chills shouldn’t occur. (I’ll post links at the end of this post so you can check out Misha and her books).

As a child I remember Christmas as a day of getting up with the first light and with my sister and rushing downstairs and shivering in the front room; as back then we had no central heating and the previous evening’s coal fire would have died. We’d be allowed to open only one present before breakfast and would grumble and whine as we went to get washed and changed for the day. How unfair grown ups are when children just want to sit and tear off wrapping paper from boxes from under the tree.

After breakfast it’s be more present unwrapping and the obligatory Cadbury’s Selection Box would be opened followed by Mother’s stern warning that we were only allowed to eat one thing. (I always used to give away the finger of Fudge or at best try to swap it, but my sister was clever she knew I didn’t like it and didn’t need to swap as she’d get it anyway).

Dinner would be at my paternal grandparent’s where I’d be allowed to go into the garage and get myself a bottle of American Ginger Ale from my grandfather’s stock of mixers and guzzle it and stand outside belching as the bubbles exploded inside my stomach. (How simple things amuse small boys).

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Dick Whittington. Trinity Arts Centre. Gainsborough. 1998

As I grew up Christmas ceased to be a celebration and became a busy work period. I started young in pantomime and proceeded to have the next 30 plus years working every festive season. So I was always away and staying in digs from late November to mid January and the tinsel and decorations gave way to costume changes and song and dance routines. Christmas day was usually the only day off and was spent mostly resting the voice and having a break from a face full of stage make-up. So for years I didn’t bother with a tree or Christmas lights.

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A Christmas Carol 2000

Christmas here in Italy has been varied. Our first was during the house restoration so we didn’t dress the house as it seemed pointless as no amount of baubles and lights can make cement bags attractive. But we did have an amazing 6.5 hour marathon Christmas dinner at a local hotel. Another was with friends up in Roccascalegna entertaining ourselves as the broadband went down. Another was sat outside in the sunshine eating our festive lunch with 5 dogs running amok. However this year we’ve decided that as we’re spending the day having a traditional English Christmas with friends in Atessa, we’d get in the festive mood and have a tree. Which means I can bring out a bauble I remember from my childhood.

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This ball was from a set purchased around 1964 and always referred to as the ugly ball . I remember it being hidden at the back of our family Christmas trees, and I took pity on it many years ago and now 50 years on it has a prominent spot on on our 2015 tree.

As promised I’ll post the links, and wish you all a splendid Christmas as the iPod shuffles in its dock and Opshop (a New Zealand band I discovered whilst working there) play, Monsters Under the Bed.

Misha’s blog where you find information about all of her books.

Penkhull Press where you’ll find information about House of Shadows and other great books.

 

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Grasshopper in the Shower

This morning, for the second time this week I’m removing a grasshopper from the shower; something I never had to do in the UK. I’m at a loss as to how they get in; the wet room is secure. Maybe they are Inverse-Houdini-hoppers who instead of escaping, negotiate impenetrable domains and trap themselves. I release our visitor back into the wild and pour hot water over instant coffee before sitting outside to enjoy the peace and quiet before work begins again inside the house. The dogs join me, panting after running down the bottom of our wilderness: Alfie as usual is covered in sticky-buds, Olive doesn’t have a single one attached to her fur: I wonder if out of sight of humans, she’s picking them and throwing them at him.

As I sit here, I think back to how things were when work on the house started back in April, we’ve achieved so much in short space of time. We are now at the stage where we’re just finishing off jobs, mostly the ones our errant builder failed to complete. We have the second bedroom floor to lay and some cement work to complete before the arrival of my ex-wife’s son, (who we’ll call step-son for the purpose of the blog) arrives for a six week stay.

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My morning sit on the patio gives me time to reflect upon things, and be thankful for what I have. I’m lucky enough to be mortgage free, I have sufficient money to sustain myself for the next few years and I’m happy I can earn a crust doing what I enjoy doing. I’m thankful for having worked all my life in an industry that I chose to be in rather than just earning to live. Something few people are able to say.

Thinking this way makes me think about, Natalie Částka, a talented actress I had the pleasure of working with in the past and how she looks at her life and career. An actors’ life isn’t all ‘Hi diddle dee dee’, it’s fraught with meagre job opportunities, rejection, and disappointment, long hours and poor pay. But Natalie always remains up-beat even on her down-beat days and continues to persevere while others have fallen by the wayside.  I’m not talking about chasing your dream, I saying it’s all about never giving up. Natalie, never gives up, and is at the moment, in the enviable position of being able to turn work down and choose from the offers coming her way. She’s also about to go over the the USA to perform there.To find out more about Natalie’s career visit her blog: Click here.

I wanted to be here in Italy, I wanted to be self supportive and I wanted to be happy, all of which I am, because even in the face of adversity I never gave up. Maybe it’s the same grasshopper that gets into the shower, perhaps he’ll never give up getting in, and I’ll be destined to pop him outside time after time