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.

 

Lucky

Lucky One

This morning as the sun streamed through the windows I was checking my emails when Alf barked, I looked up and at the top of the lane I saw Michele, (pronounced Mick-ay-lee) I waved and went outside to say hello. He told me had walked up from Merosci to wish me a happy New Year before he heads off to visit his family in Rome. I feel blessed to have such a friend who takes the time whenever he’s passing to drop in and chat. Acceptance by the local community is important to me, and I’m grateful that so many of the Italians have taken the time to say hello and ask how we’re getting on with the house and garden.

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View from Bomba

Lucky Two

It’s January and a sound floated across the valley that I’ve been hearing everyday for the past nine months, but today it stopped me in my tracks and made me smile. The sound came from the farm where my friend Nicola works in the afternoons with his brother who lives there. The farm has chickens, rabbits, pigs and for the past nine months three big fat turkeys. Today the sun is high and the morning warm; unlike in the UK where there are several serious flood warnings, and as I pootled about on my orto the gobble of a turkey reached my ears. I looked up and there among the chickens was one solitary turkey. I wonder if its thinking, where have the other two gone?

I know they’ve gone to the dinner table, Nicola told me a few weeks ago that the turkeys were for Christmas, so this is one lucky fella to have made it through to the New Year.

Lucky Three

I have to go to the shop, and as I drive there I notice I’m smiling, something I used to do when I first arrived here in Italy, today the weather is nice and the snow on the mountains is as white as a freshly laundered napkin. With only one solitary cloud in sight, the sky is an ocean blue colour that compliments the silver underside of the olive leaves that move in the gentle breeze. The grass is a deep and lush  and the fallen leaves of brown and gold look like gems amid the green. Surrounded by such beauty, who wouldn’t smile. I’m lucky to live in a place that makes me feel so good as I go about a mundane job like shopping,