Thursday 30 August 2012

The doghouse - Christmas 2

The best thing was the anticipation.  I especially loved decorating the tree.  We had six little painted glass birds, each with a clip attached to its feet to hold it to the tree.  I thought all of those had been lost or broken.  I remember once we planted out the tree - though it died, it was too big to survive being dug up, indoors for a fortnight and replanted, and when we went to dig it up again we found one of the bird decorations still on it, with the colours bleached away by sun and wind.  There were little glass bells with clappers and I always made sure one of them was near the stairs so that I could touch it as I ran past.

I didn't always run upstairs, only if I didn't have a book in my hand.  If I was reading, I walked slowly. When I came down, I usually jumped.  I've already said that there were 18 stairs and two half landings. The first flight was six and I had to be feeling quite brave to jump them.  It wasn't the six down, it was the length out.  I never did dare jump the seven, I knew I'd catch the last stair and have a nasty landing. I always jumped the final five into the hall.  My sister reminded me recently that our mother called me "Baby Elephant" because of the noise it made, although no one ever told me to stop.

I always loved the old glass baubles, although a few got broken every year.  There were also a few pine cones painted gold that my parents had decorated in the first year of their marriage when so much was still rationed and more unobtainable.  They bought a crib set from Woolworths and this was always set out too.  I'd not seen any of these for years and I assumed that they were gone, but when sorting out the last odds and ends of my mother's stuff that had been put in a back room here, earlier this year, I found a box where she had carefully put them away.  There was still one of the birds complete with its nylon tail and a second without.

In those days, I don't think there were many parties before Christmas Eve.  There was the Yacht Club children's party - I found up a photo of me and two friends recently in an old edition of, I think, East Anglian Life magazine.  If I can remember where I put it, I'll scan it in and show you some time.  I'll also take a photo of the decorations.  But mostly, celebrations were held after Christmas - after all, the holiday period is actually from Christmas until Twelfth Night, although now this has gone by the board and many people take down their decorations before the new year.

I can't quite remember what my parents did, but I can work it out, I think.  There can't have been anything before the day, because my mother decorated and laid the table several days early and we ate off a small table set up in the study.  I expect they had a party a few days afterwards and served turkey and ham pie to use up the wretched bird, it wouldn't have been wasted and she was a good enough cook to make it delicious.  And of course there was the famous biannual trifle, which I've already mentioned.  She had a Victorian glass jug and basin, not a good one at all, very thick and plain, but the basin was very useful when feeding a lot of people, for fruit salad or trifle, and I remember the Christmas trifle being made in it, so it must have fed at least 20 people.  And then there was the Stilton and other cheese and celery, it wouldn't have been a complicated meal at all.  Just a relaxing, chatty get-together with friends.

And that's what I enjoy about parties.  Good straightforward food so that the cook isn't worn out and stressed.  A relaxed atmosphere, where you can chat with friends and be welcoming to incomers.  I dearly love to be spontaneous, and there's nothing I love better than to gather people up and bring them home for pot luck, though that doesn't happen very often.  But as with this blog, where the interest lies less in what I say than in how you respond to it, both to me and to each other, a party is all about the guests.  If they come to have fun, no one cares if the food has gone a bit wrong, none of the plates match or you bring a bottle or pudding because the host can't afford money or time.  If anything, it adds to the jollity.

I think I'm partied out for the moment - that is, writing about them.  Something else next time.


dinahmow said...

Oh, Z! You are so right about "proper" parties being about fun and people and a good time.

Wendy said...

Well, you might be all partied out but I must say it's been lovely reading about it all. And i can just see you thumping and jumping down those stairs. That's what I'd have done too - and walked about reading. I spent a huge part of my childhood with my nose in a book. I preferred books to people actually - still do, pretty much.

I've just got home from my MIL - she's entertaining her old London poetry group today and I did the lunch for her. Good, old fashioned nosh...sandwiches of cheddar cheese and onion, smoked salmon and dill, roast beef and horseradish, and then plates of thick-sliced ham, cold chicken, sausage rolls, potato salad, coleslaw. It's the second 'do' in the last week I've done for her so I'm rather all partied out too - bit sick of the sight and smell of food ...for now.

Unknown said...

Lovely to talk with you last night!! xx

Z said...

Parties shouldn't be thrown or gone to out of duty, but for the fun of it!

That sounds delish, Wendz. But for myself, after many years being most comfortable with dogs and books, I know so many lovely people (quite a number of them through the internet) that I've changed my mind.

It was, John, hope we can do it again before long xx

Unknown said...

I've posted a comment on my blog with a link to your site. x

Z said...

I'll head over, John!

Blue Witch said...

We had the same birds and bells.

Z said...

They weren't unique? :)

mig said...

Oh I remember my Mum gilding pine cones for Christmas. It was quite magical for me.
And I so agree about parties, people are the point.