The thing about Christmas, it’s such a chuffing faff. Charging about getting everything ready, it’s just far too stressful. Yet somehow stuff keeps leaking through out of the past. If you aren’t careful the real Christmas creeps up on you and before you know where you are the commercialism is lost and the retailers have to turn up the canned music to drown out the memories and keep you spending.
So I thought I’d give you four stories for Christmas, just little ones, nothing special.
A couple of days ago I was at our local homeless shelter. It’s nice; an awful lot of folk remember them at Christmas. People are very generous; they have had people turn up with a turkey on Christmas Eve. It’s great, don’t knock it, but what can you do with a turkey (often frozen) on Christmas Eve? In their situation they say thank you, and pop it in the freezer to keep for later in the year. What they do is dig deep and buy Turkey crowns, which they are already cooking on Christmas Eve. So I mentioned this to a friend at a neighbouring church and during their carol concert he stood up and explained the problem. I got a phone call; they’d raised £75 so the Homeless Shelter would have the cash to buy the Turkey crowns. So I dropped the money off. Whilst I was there people were coming in with home made cakes, a box of Christmas goodies suitable for a family, one local businessman brought in cases of toilet rolls and paper towels (A toilet roll is for life, not just for Christmas).
Another story is from a few years back. A friend of mine, she’s a Jehovah’s Witness, and before she emigrated she used to do the whole door-stepping thing.
She and another lass were working their way through one part of town, a nice enough part of town, and they were working along a street of pleasant semi-detached houses. It was a seriously cold evening just before Christmas Eve. There was snow on the ground, an icy wind, the works, and to be frank I suspect they were loosing heart. Anyway they’d do the last semi-detached house and finish the street. First half of the house was all in darkness, the second half they knocked on the door and the ‘gentleman of the house’ came to the door, stark naked.
My friend Kay kept him talking, on his doorstep, in the icy cold, for nearly half an hour. Finally she just glanced at him, said “I think it’s turned blue, you better get inside before it drops off, Merry Christmas,” and let him escape.
Apparently the two young women were still giggling about it when they got home.
Never forget that Jehovah’s witnesses can include almost sensible married ladies of a certain age who’ve seen it all anyway.
And another story, back a lot more years. I was a kid at the time. On a small dairy farm, Christmas day can be hard work. My mum would be up an hour early to get the Rayburn turned up so the turkey could go in, and then go out and feed calves. My Dad would have been up an hour early so that he could get finished milking, mucking out and feeding stock and be back in the house for about 11am.
So we tended to open our presents after 11am. Then it’d be dinner, and a brief snooze in front of the fire, and out after the Queens Speech to feed round and milk. A side effect of this was that you were always ready for your tea on Christmas Day. You got it about 6pm and you were hungry.
Anyway, back to the year in question; let’s get on with the story. My Dad has started morning milking, it’s as black as the ace of spades because it’s barely 5am and a retired neighbour walks into the shippon where my Dad is milking. Obviously the first thing you think is that something’s wrong. Not a bit of it, with the words “My kids are grown up now, yours are still young enough to want their Dad about on Christmas morning,” our neighbour picked up a shovel and went and started doing the mucking out. By 9am the work was finished, and handing a box of Milk Tray to my Mum, and a bottle of milk stout to my Dad, he wished them ‘Merry Christmas’ and walked home for his breakfast.
And a last story, from even further back. I might not even have been born. It was back when postmen travelled on push bikes, even on our round. Not only that but they still made deliveries on Christmas Day. Christmas Day is one where you make the effort, you’re that bit more hospitable than you’d normally be. So when the postman knocks on the door to hand you the letter or parcel, you don’t just say thanks, you hand him a glass of Sherry, (or more likely Scotch.) Even now, the postman in a rural community is part of the community if he or she wants to be, back then it was probably compulsory.
So on that Christmas Day the postman delivered his letters to Rampside, and then he worked his way round Roa Island, imbibing Christmas cheer and good fellowship, and finally wrestled his increasingly recalcitrant bike into the lanes to deliver to the farms. At this point the bike was winning (two falls and a submission).
So he abandoned the bike, the letters and the rest of the round and walked the four or more miles home. Three young brothers from one of the farms, wondering where the Christmas post was, went out to look for him, found the bike and the letters and delivered the rest of them.
So there you have it. If you’re not careful, Christmas can creep in and surprise you. Merry Christmas.
So just curl up with a good book
The fourth of these collections of anecdotes, rants, pious maunderings and general observations on life. Yes we have dogs, quads, sheep and cattle, but in this one we follow the ‘lambing year.’ It starts with ewes being put to the tup in late autumn and finishes in summer with the last of the laggards lambing.
But as well as this we have endless rain, as well as sleeping in a manger. Be brave and you’ll meet young ladies in high heeled cowboy boots, Sir John Moore of Corunna, brassieres for cows, and, incidentally, David Essex.
As a reviewer commented, “Should be mandatory reading for anyone moving to the countryside for the first time. Charmingly accurate and educational. Utterly first class.”