Monday 21 December 2009

Z's Presents

We were a small family - just my mother and father, Wink and me, and I only had one living grandparent. As I said yesterday, he sometimes visited for Christmas. But my parents had lots of friends and quite a few people gave us presents, most of them small ones as you'd expect.

You'd also expect me to remember more about what they were. Hmm.

I remember once receiving some paints, and the next evening, getting out paper, the paints and a pot of water and setting them up on Grandmother's slipper-box (just a useful low square oak box on little turned feet) in the drawing room. I promptly knocked over the water. My mother helped me mop up and I fetched more water. I knocked it over. Remarkably, I distinctly remember her not being in the least annoyed or critical as she cleared up again. I fetched more water.

Yes. As you expected. I was a clumsy child.

At this point, my still-patient mother noticed that they were oil paints and I didn't need water anyway.

Another present I remember, because I liked it very much, was a set of variously-coloured beads, each about the side of a pea, which came in a box with a board with holes in it that the beads rested in, so that you could make patterns and pictures with them. I spent a lot of time playing with them. They were less popular with my mother because they were made of red clay, and when one was trodden on it was quite some trouble to clear up. Again, I never remember being criticised for this and only know it because, in later years, my mother remembered them too as being a blessed nuisance. She was extraordinarily kind and patient with me and I was a dearly-loved child. But she was no pushover. Apparently, she retaliated the next year by giving musical presents to the donor's children. Drums and a xylophone.

The presents I liked best were books, jigsaws, board games and sweets and chocolates. We hardly ever had sweets so they were a great treat. There was one selection called Weekend - it was a bit of a disappointment if I received that, as there were several in it that I didn't like. I wasn't too fond of plain chocolate either unless it had nuts in it, although I prefer it now, and I positively disliked the "creme" chocolates. I succeeded, in due course, in passing this dislike on to my own children, and these sorts of fillings are known as "slimes" to this day. Real fruit purée and cream fillings are a different matter, of course. I probably liked Dairy Box best because of the preponderance of hard centres, but Milk Tray was pretty good. I liked nuts, fudge, toffee and just chocolate. Oh, and Turkish Delight.

I liked painting and embroidery, but hadn't an artistic bone in my body so was quite happy with painting-by-numbers, and I'm too much of a Philistine quite to appreciate how much this will make you shudder. I was completely uninterested in dolls and anything condemned as "girly". I always received the latest Paddington Bear book. Oh gosh, books may make another post sometime. I was more than happy to get a book token. When I spent the token, there always seemed to be 6d over (that is, six real pence, a tanner, worth 2 1/2 New Pee, as they were called for some years in the 70s) and, since change was not given for book tokens, either a parent had to fork out for another book or you were given a Highway Code as that was the only book that cost 6d.

My parents weren't into games at all, but my sister and I played (she must have been pretty tolerant of her much younger sister actually) board games a lot, and we played them with au pairs when we had them, and visiting children - my mother's godson visited for several weeks in the summer. But I was always happy enough on my own as long as I had books.

Presents that didn't go down so well included handkerchiefs - why give a little girl a box of hankies? Why? - and bath stuff when I wasn't old enough to appreciate it. I liked cuddly animal toys as a small child. I'm finding it really hard to remember specific "major" Christmas presents from my parents. Maybe there were lots of small things?

Last night, I went to the carol service that I nearly got landed with playing with - it seemed the least I could do, to actually attend it (deliberate split infinitive there, btw, and I'm feeling pretty relaxed about the dodgy grammar too). It was lovely and, usefully, has also given me the title of my Christmas Day post, with the final lines of a little-known verse of a well-known carol.

Still very snowy and cold here - very unusual for snow to linger more than a couple of days in December. -4ºC at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon. Don't know what it was overnight. I've resorted to pyjamas. If it carries on much longer, I'll be putting on the radiator in the bedroom which rarely happens.


Dave said...

I am toying with shutting my bedroom window vents. It will have to get a bit colder though before I do.

Z said...

There's a fireplace in our bedroom, which receives quite enough ventilation. Mind you, yesterday Essie, a lady who lives in the village and is at least 20 years older than I, told me that she still keeps her bedroom window open. I see no particular virtue in being too cold to sleep.

Dave said...

I find I get too hot to sleep. Often have to throw off all the bedclothes.

Z said...

Dave, I really think that you might pull them back up again in my bedroom. There's ice on the inside of the windows every morning, and I sleep with the curtains open so that's the temperature of the room. With the windows shut.

sablonneuse said...

Your latest posts make fascinating reading and have awiken childhood memeories for me too. It's interesting that families have their own variations of Christmas traditions which are handed down and probably changed a bit each generation.

Ms Scarlet said...

I remember the book token conundrum!
I was happy with a cuddly toy and a new Barbie.

Chairwoman of the bored said...

Another present I remember, because I liked it very much, was a set of variously-coloured beads, each about the side of a pea, which came in a box with a board with holes in it that the beads rested in, so that you could make patterns and pictures with them. I spent a lot of time playing with them.

I had a toy very similar to this except mine were coloured ball bearings. They irritated my mother because they had a tendency to block the operation of the Hoover.

I really loved playing with it but I am sure there would be some Health and Safety issue with it today.

Chairwoman of the bored said...

Ooh! I've just seen the Weekend Assortment bit.

I particularly liked the marzipan and the truffle.

And do you remember 'Meltis newberry Fruits'?

Z said...

I expect they would fit nicely in various body orifices.

Newberry Fruits had the little hard centre inside the fruit jelly with liquid fruitiness inside, didn't it? I liked the truffle but not the marzipan, but I most of all disliked a lime-green fondant number. When I got a Variety Pack of chocolate bars, the one I didn't like at all was the dark chocolate filled with white slime. What was that called?

I've never got over my bitter resentment at them taking the half walnut from the centre of a Walnut Whip.

Z said...

I remember masses of presents, SB, but now that I can't remember what they are, it could be the excitement of it all getting to me!

Z said...

I've evidently reached my anecdotage, Sandy. I do enjoy it, though.

Blue Witch said...

Fry's chocolate cream?

Blue Witch said...

And you can still get Newberry Fruits, in the right places.

We have to spend all year looking, for Mummy and Grandmummy Mr BW love them.

Z said...

That's it, BW.

I was taken aback, the other day, to see a Sherbet Fountain all sealed up instead of the liquorice sticking out as it should. I suppose innumerable (as in impossible to count) children died of germs ingested with unprotected liquorice.

Ivy said...

You`ve stirred up a lot of memories there for me too, Z. I recall one Christmas when almost all the presents I opened were boxes of hankies. I was so disappointed. Some of them are still sitting in my drawer over 45 years later!
As well as Weekend, I remember having chocolates called "Lucky numbers", a bit like Roses, but all had numbers on the wrappers. My favourite was number 6 or 9 depending on how you looked at it.

KAZ said...

I share your taste in chocolates - so we shouldn't try to share a box.
Strangely I loved dolls - so why did I decide not to be mum?

Z said...

What was with the hankies? About the dullest present a little girl can get. Imagine how pleased you'd have been with shillings or half crowns instead.

I was always pretty lucky in that I didn't get disastrous duplicates. My sister once opened parcel after parcel of headscarves. Squares, like the Queen wears, only they'd have been nylon or something rather than silk. For a girl of about 14, in the Swinging Sixties.

I never had Lucky Numbers, don't remember them. Quality Street were always better received than Roses - again, toffee and nut rather than soft centres.

Z said...

We were really pleased when we discovered that Dilly liked slimes - but she's gone off them now because of the name. "Do have a chocolate, there are plenty of slimes left" just isn't tempting.

Isn't it the worst when someone slyly takes their (and your) favourite from the bottom layer, leaving the top layer half-eaten?

Z said...

Oh, and Kaz, dolls always seemed like such hard work to me - all that constant dressing and undressing and having to take them for walks - you, having done it in play, probably didn't feel the urge to do it with a creature that you couldn't stick in a cupboard and walk away from.

KAZ said...

Excellent theory.
Apparently, I used to spend a lot of time bandaging them up.

Christopher said...

Milk Tray soft centres every time, especially strawberry cream (did they spell it creme? - I can't remember) furtively filched from the second layer as well. I really didn't like hard centres, cracknell, toffee, etc. I'd have given mine to you, Z.

Dave said...

I like slimes. I think I secretly have a soft centre.

Please feel free to save all the ones you don't like and send them to me.

Z said...

What a pair of softies you are. I'm afraid they do call them cremes (pronounced cream though, I'm quite sure). I'm terribly pleased to have found you both.

Your final sentences say something about each of you, don't they...

Chairwoman of the bored said...

Yes, yes, Fry's Chocolate Creams. I was actually quite fond of them. In fact the late Chairman would buy them for me as an occasional treat.

As for the Walnut Whips, taking the nut out was bad enough, but depriving me of the dark chocolate coffee flavoured option was adding insult to injury.

Luck Numbers, hmm. Remeber the brand but not the product.

Z said...

Another slime lover? Fair enough. I didn't know whoever chose to eat the things.

When they ruined WW for me, at least it meant I stopped eating them. Pity in one way, but not for the size of my hips.

I just asked the Sage what he'd buy me for an occasional treat. It silenced him, apart from the odd "er, um, treat?" I put him out of his misery by suggesting that he has been known to bring home macaroons. "Ooh yes, I haven't had a macaroon for ages," he brightened. I pointed out that the treat was for me, not for him.

I bought myself some Bendicks Bittermints and a bar of Montezuma's Orange and Geranium today, just in case.

martina said...

See's Nuts and Chews chocolates and Callard & Bowser's licorice were my favorites. Like you, I didn't care for dolls but was given at least one each Christmas. Best presents were a Tonka truck, Spirograph and Creepy Crawlers. What were your favorite childhood gifts aside from books?

Z said...

I was a really undemanding child, and my parents never knew that what I really wanted was boys' toys. I'd have loved a train set and toy cars. I never had any, but we bought Weeza a train set (a proper old clockwork one) when she was about 3. And I bought Squiffany a wooden train set for her first birthday, because I wanted it so much!

Oh dear, how sad!

My parents gave me a microscope - I loved that. And when my father bought himself a new watch, he gave his old one to me and I was pleased as Punch. I always wore a man's watch through my childhood and teens because of that. It's really hard to remember what I liked, because all I really remember is books!

Just finished tomorrow's post. I'll time it for just after midnight, in 5 minutes.

I, Like The View said...

oooh! ooooh! I had a peg board, coloured platic beads with a widgety bit that fitted into a hole in a board. . . hours of fun; and one year, a painting-by-numbers; and I remember the boxes of hankies, with little embroideries in the corner - simple days, eh

I was telling my children about my mother's annual treat, a box of Black Magic - and how one wasn't allowed to take a chocolate from the bottom layer until all the ones from the top has been eaten

they looked at me very quizically (The Teen said "that explains a lot")

I found a box of Meltis Newberry Fruits, of which I have very fond memories, in Waitrose recently and dult purchased it, for (my) old times sake, to share with the children: Mini-Teen had the first one - she had to spit it out a moment later, as she didn't like it (they weren't as good as I remembered, to be perfectly honest)(but actually spitting it out? what a waste)(perhaps I should buy her a box of hankies)

Z said...

I'd not mind the hankies now, but if you got more than one box, it was a real downer.

Oh yes, and there was always at least one pack of notelets as a not-so-subtle reminder that a thank-you letter would be appreciated pdq.