Monday, January 02, 2012

Glass baubles and messages

Glass bauble
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
I was remarking with friends last night how traditional my style of Christmas tree is. We sat, side by side on the sofa, mellow with drink and food, and stared at it: multi-coloured lights, random decorations from the past 40 years, and fragile glass baubles, eight of them, which have miraculously survived their annual trip down the loft ladder and back, as well as two flittings. My memories had been further jogged by the sight of the Downton Abbey tree, dripping with lametta - I remember that my father always insisted that there had to be a generous quantity of lametta or it just looked silly, and who was I to demur? It's many years since I used these silver strips to hang from the tips of the branches (a third of its length to be draped over, the rest to dangle), but I replaced my forty-year-old multicoloured Pifco lights only last year (they had died in their box) and they in turn had been my attempt to replicate the inch-long pointed coloured bulbs of my parent's lights.

Of course, I've been on about all this before, as several of the links above will lead the diligent new reader to discover. But last night the brain wandered off somewhere, and lo: there were other memories. Like being sent for the messages. What age was I, for example, when I had to go for potatoes by myself? Maybe six, seven? I remember being given the brown leather shopping bag, with a folded newspaper inside. Don't forget to get the paper put under the potatoes to keep the bag clean. And off I went, up Novar Drive to the top, to the grocer's shop in what we called "Wee Hyndland", the row of shops opposite St Brides Episcopal Church and Hyndland Parish Church in all their red sandstone splendour. There were no roads to be crossed - presumably it was thought a safe errand. It was, however, terrifying. First I had to make myself seen in the queue of adults - women, natch - and hand my bag over to a large man with a bald head and a blue apron. It was all very well for my mother to direct him what to do with the newspaper, but words failed me and I watched despairing as he shot a shiny scale-pan of earthy potatoes - could it have been half a stone? a quarter stone? - into the bag in which I could see the still-folded paper reposing uselessly down one side.

I think I got a row for that, and I know I suffered mass disapprobation on the day when, for some unfathomable reason, I was sent to collect the newspapers for all the houses in 66 Novar Drive. It was a windy day. Much of the "pavement" was a muddy sidewalk beside allotments (plots?). People didn't like their mud-spattered, randomly-ordered newspapers. But I think I was maybe five at the time, and looking back I think there was either lunacy or child-abuse at work.

Amazing, isn't it, what can come to mind under the stimulus of a drop of champagne and the peeling of some King Edwards?

That's Christmas for you ...


  1. My tree is very similar to yours, with 35 year old baubles and I even have lametta on it which must be the same age.
    I remember being loaded with messages and walking about half a mile with several pounds of butcher meat every week, we were a family of 5 plus mum and dad. I don't think my mum did much of the shopping at all. It gave me muscles though!

  2. another with random decorations, heritage baubles and lametta here. :-) My sisters and I used to do errands when young (though not as young as you describe), which involved the footpath across the field to the two village shops. Fine if the field was empty, but I wasn't fond of the cows....