Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas by June Gadsby

December is a month of mixed emotions for me. I love Christmas with a passion that comes from my early childhood when the family lived together in an old miner’s cottage overlooking the River Tyne in the north-east of England. There was my grandfather, John Peel Richardson, my grandmother, Polly, my aunt Ruby [and sometimes her wandering husband, Fred], my mother, Edith, and me. My parents split up when I was only ten months old after a short and disastrous marriage.  With Christmas approaching, my aunt and I used to get busy making crepe paper ceiling decorations and strings of coloured metallic sweet-paper beads to drape around the Christmas tree. A real tree in those days, so big it reached the ceiling and filled our tiny house with the smell of fresh pine.

Christmas Day was the most exciting day of my young life with the old dining table groaning under the weight of the presents – most of them for me. And yet, every Christmas there was one big disappointment. Apart from the books that I adored, and the festive food we devoured, I would have given up everything else for a bed of my own instead of the small double bed I had to share with my mother and my grandmother where I had to perch on the hump in the middle and suffered from my grandmother’s bony knees and elbows and her sharp demands that I should “keep still”.  On the other side of me was my mother’s broad rump sticking out at such an angle that being in bed was not the happiest of places for me.

The things I really looked forward to on Christmas morning - the smell of my grandmother’s cooking, the turkey in the oven, the vegetables on the hob and a great pan of hot ginger wine and sausage rolls prepared specially for the band of the Salvation Army playing Christmas Carols in the snowy street outside. The band, many of whom were close relatives of ours, would come inside and warm themselves; so many laughing, happy people crammed into our living room, shaking off snow from their boots and warming themselves in front of the open coal fire. It’s no wonder I have always been inspired to include Christmas in some of my books.

Alas, the Happy Christmas’s of my childhood did not stretch into my adult years, but I still have the good time memories to enjoy. Between then and now there is quite a saga to tell and I plan to write it one day, warts and all. In the meantime, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year.