The new Creative Writing group – now called Scribblers – met on Tuesday 13 December. Inspired by the festive season they brought their own writing and agreed to put it on the website for us all to enjoy…
Sheila started us off with her amusings:
As Christmas approaches I am fascinated by TV adverts. John Lewis seem to think that watching animals on a trampoline will make you rush to their stores and spend. Waitrose imagine that the story of a poor little robin flying to the other side of the world just to kiss another robin next to a mince pie and getting nearly drowned in the process will make you feel you cannot go another day without some of those mince pies.
Last year John Lewis had a very odd Christmas story about a man on the moon who sat there waiting for his Christmas presents to arrive. Luckily, they did. If I landed on the moon, I’m sure that nobody would even remember I was there, let alone send me gifts!
Let’s not forget good old Coca Cola who apparently send an enormous lorry through every town, playing their song as it goes past.
Companies spend millions of pounds to encourage us to spend, spend, spend. On the other hand we are lucky to have lovely small shops in Dorking, most of which do not advertise at all but stock some very interesting and unusual gifts. Avoid trampolines, half-drowned robins, moon landings and huge lorries – just buy local!
Inspired by Dylan Thomas, Ann T wrote:
A Childhood Memory of Christmas
Back through the many Christmases I tumble-back through the tired-tacky years, back through the teenage-cynical years, back through the forgotten years, back and back to the big-eyed, sparkle-bright years.
I am asleep in the bedroom I share with my sister and am snuggled in dreams of baby Jesus in a manger, smiling reindeer and Santa cosy in red fur. Groggily I pull myself out of this warm, dozy world and open my eyes. Sensations snowball one after the other: dim light through the curtains, the soft asleep breathing of my sister, a crisp nip in the air and something else… a muffled silence of expectation. The room is the same as ever but the morning is filled with a flimsy fluttering frisson, a bubble which bursts with the wonder that this is Christmas morning. It is here at last! My stomach is full of bells which jingle with excitement.
I whisper “Christmas!” to my sister and she emerges murmuring from her sleep, her eyes meeting mine with the same unspoken questions: “Has he been?” and “Have we been good enough?” and “Dare we look?”
Through the half-light glimmer I can see a hump at the end of my bed – it’s light-coloured and filled with bright, angular shapes. A tentative poke with my feet makes it sound like crisp leaves crunching or wrapping paper scrunching.
Whispering, we drag our packed pillowcases to our parents’ closed bedroom door to stand, whispering and waiting, cold-footed and impatient. We are joined by our brother, his bright hair sticking up, his face puffy with sleep. Gossamer-light we stand, tip-toeing and miming at each other to keep the excitement from spilling out. But it does. In giggles and frothing waves it splutters away until mum and dad call laughingly that we can come in now.
We three dive into their warm bed, dragging Santa’s treasures with us. Our bright eyes meet their eyes which are tired but glittering too. Because they know that they have baked us a giant Christmas cake – they have stirred in fun and love and packed it with food, games, presents and smiles. It is glossy-white coated and slickly iced and our laughter is the silver sparkles on the top.
And so I roll on forwards and forwards through the years, through the many angel-filled Christmases until the cinnamon-warm memories waft over to the present day and I yearn to taste that sparkle-brightness again. But much more than that I long to thank my lost parents for the magic they wove which will stay with me forever.
Gill showed how Christmas can also be a time of hope:
The boy stood behind the brightly-lit tree surveying the scene before him. The house was exactly as he remembered but looked more welcoming, dressed as it was with sparkling lights and a cheery Santa figure placed in the centre of the small front lawn.
His face was etched with lines that belied his age; he was not yet 20 but had the demeanour of a person many years older. His clothing was dirty, stained and shabby and hung from his thin frame, while his boots were scuffed and worn.
It was five years since he had left the village but it seemed like a lifetime. He had little recollection of any particular days during this period; his life had been walking, sleeping rough and avoiding trouble – not because he was a good and moral person but because any involvement with the police would jeopardise his anonymity. He had not been ready to be found; any reconciliation must be on his terms.
On the way through the village he had stopped at the church and spent time at his mother’s grave. He was reassured to see the carefully tended plot and fresh flowers; clearly he was not alone in continuing to mourn her loss. This had been the catalyst for his departure which he had considered for many months, more seriously once the disease was visibly draining the life from her frail body. The bullies at school exploited his grief, his studies deteriorated and his father’s anger increased: at the world in general but more so at his son’s academic failure. He waited until his mother’s passing then left for London with just a backpack, his savings and a few notes he took from his father’s pocket. It had been mid-December; he could not face a family Christmas without her.
Now he had finished grieving and was ready to come home. He had made friendships and found some inner peace along the way. He would never be the son his father had hoped for but he could now try and explain why and could only hope his father would understand and believe he was a son he might in future be proud of.
The boy slung the backpack over his shoulder and opened the gate. He hoped they could forgive him.
Ann P had a very different approach:
The Night Before Christmas
(to be read in a broad Oxfordshire accent…)
‘Twas the night before Christmas
And I’d lost my bag,
Dropped on the bus
As I was lighting a fag.
“Bugger,” I thought
As the bus pulled away,
“Now how’m I supposed
To spend Christmas Day?”
You just can’t imagine
The state I was in.
I was planning to purchase
A bottle of gin.
‘Cos that’s how I like
To spend Christmas Day:
A glass in my hand
And my lunch on a tray.
Watching East Enders
And all of that crap
With a shawl round my shoulders
And a cat on my lap.
But now I’m off
Reporting my loss
But the blokes at the bus station
Don’t give a toss.
“Cheer up,” they say,
“Come and join us.
We’re having a party
On the Number 8 bus.”
So I did, and now,
I don’t mind telling you,
I had a great time
With the Number 3 crew.
I partied all night
And that ain’t no joke.
What did I get for Christmas?
I got a new bloke.
Jean summed it all up:
Every year at about this time I am in danger of falling victim to the “bah humbug” syndrome. I start to feel irritable and churlish as the annual build-up of pre-Christmas commercialism approaches its climax. I mutter grumpily about false values, rampant consumerism and over-indulged children clamouring for the latest digital gizmo.
But then something happens, something evokes a memory – perhaps the pinewood scent of a Christmas tree or the strains of a well-loved carol – and I find that the Spirit of Christmas Past is leading me back to my childhood, when Christmas glowed with a special magic.
The run-up to Christmas began as soon as I had celebrated my birthday in early December. My sister and I would spend hours licking and sticking paper chains to decorate the house and making our own Christmas cards. With a friend from school we would solemnly present a nativity play for our parents, we three children playing all the roles: Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper, the angel, the shepherds and the three wise men leaving their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We would go carol singing, too, for the benefit of our long-suffering neighbours, and of course there was the ceremony of stirring the Christmas pudding and making a wish.
At last it was Christmas Eve, the tree would be decorated with baubles and fairy-lights, the little crib with nativity figures carefully set up and the house festooned with holly and laurel from the garden – and of course our paper chains. Then it was time to go to bed, to hang up our stockings and to try and go to sleep before Father Christmas arrived.
In the morning my stocking – one of Dad’s woolly socks – would be bulging with little surprises, simple treats in those post-war days but always thrilling and always including a tangerine and a walnut tucked into the toe. Then there was the excitement of the “big” Father Christmas present. I will never forget the year I received a really very basic but much-loved toy farmyard with a starter kit of animals. These were added to through the year as pocket money allowed.
Later there would be the Christmas dinner with turkey and plum pudding, paper hats and crackers, then more gifts from beneath the Christmas tree – books, board-games and little toys, with perhaps a tin of Quality Street. The magic of Christmas would last until Twelfth Night when the tree and decorations would come down for another year.
Nostalgia takes me back, too, to my first pantomime, Cinderella, when I was five years old – an unforgettable introduction to the theatre. And later on, as I grew up, my first visit to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve with carols, candlelight and the mysterious night behind the stained glass windows.
I return to the here and now, silently thanking my late parents for the memories they created for us and knowing that this year, as every year, Christmas will once again flow with its own magic. Children will gaze wide-eyed with wonder at the lights on the tree and wait excitedly for Father Christmas.
And in a world darkened by the shadows of suffering and strife, people of all faiths and none will respond to the spirit of light and love, lend a hand to those less fortunate than themselves and share the ancient message of peace and goodwill.