A MERRY CHRISTMAS
When I was aged five we lived at 37, New Road, North Walsham. I had just started school there. That Christmas Eve it was very windy and stormy. I was having trouble sleeping and heard the front garden gate creak. For me this was good evidence that Father Christmas was visiting N0. 37. It had to be him because when I got up some hours later there were presents for me. For at least two years after that I maintained there was a Father Christmas because our gate creaked! For a while I was much admired by school friends because I had heard him visit!
I believe I was at that infants school at North Walsham when, to keep us amused for the build-up to Christmas, we were given the task of making chains of multi-coloured paper stuck together. The trouble was that the glue was rather weak and the chains regularly fell apart. We were allowed to take our efforts home with the same result leaving a trail of coloured paper behind us!
One Christmas my parents took me by train to Thetford from North Walsham to stay with my grandparents and on the way to the rail station I was allowed to make a small purchase at a Peacocks Store of a pack of Plasticine, I think on Church Street. All the trouble it caused for me at Granny’s – some of the stuff got stuck into the front room carpet as if it was my fault! For a present that same Christmas I was given a clockwork railway engine which towed a tender and travelled round a large circular track.
For some unknown reason my baby cousin Sheila was brought round to Granny’s from elsewhere in the town and it was decided to give her a bath in the centre of my rail track. I have asked her about it since but she was too young to remember the incident.
About 1937 or 38 we were living at the old police house next to the Duke William public house in Harleston. I had no brothers or sisters and my mother was semi invalid resulting in her having great difficulty in doing anything extra. I was only allowed one friend to tea at Christmas which didn’t make much of a party. That particular friend had two brothers and one sister so they had big parties to which I was invited. I liked playing Postman’s Knock best, getting the girls in the cupboard under the stairs.
One Christmas present was a shooting game. A long piece of cord was fastened to the picture rail at one end of the room and the other end near the floor at the other. Cardboard birds were then slid down the cord and the idea was to shoot them off by using a gun which fired thick elastic bands.
Another present was a copy of the book Treasure Island. This had been wrapped in a box which had originally contained California Poppy perfume, which of course added a rather pleasant aroma to the book.
It was such an occasion to have the fire lit in the front room, it made it all so cosy for me with my presents. Christmas tea was a special occasion also. Mum would get out her best china tea set which was pink with gilt edging. We would have tinned salmon followed by a Christmas cake she had made, also a trifle. How I loved to go into the sitting room or front room and smell the stale cigar smoke and of course the Christmas tree the morning after.
On another occasion I recall when we were living at Methwold we all went to Bury St. Edmunds by car from Thetford to do some Christmas shopping. It must have been 1942 because I remember so well two United States Air Force policemen on huge Harley Davidson motor cycles. The men and their bikes were so very smart. Granddad always gave his Grandchildren their Christmas box of a new ten shilling note in a small buff coloured envelope. I had mine in my pocket and knew full well it was intended to go into National Savings. In the window of a bookshop I spotted a lovely book about the British Army. It was priced at 7/6d, a real bargain. I quickly calculated that 2/6 was a fair amount to put into National Savings so I bought it. That caused me as much trouble as the plasticine did, wasting money on books! .
It was in October, 1942 we had moved to Methwold and I was attending Downham Market Grammar School. We had a class Christmas party. I cycled twelve miles there like many others and I took a jam sponge purchased from the local baker’s shop for 1/2d.
Just before that Christmas my uncle came over for a brief visit and hurried into the house carrying a large cardboard box. I guessed it must contain something for me as a present and could not rest until I had searched thoroughly. Sure enough there it was covered up in my mother’s wardrobe. In it were three model aircraft made of balsa wood and a French Army helmet. My searching rather spoilt my Christmas as there was no surprise.
I think that must conclude my memories of a boy at Christmas time. Even today, some 70 years later, I still have problems hanging trimmings and Christmas cards so they don’t fall down!