Its around this time of year that people start to ask me to compile my Christmas list.
I’m by no means a saint (far from it) but I always tell them that I’m not bothered; to buy me whatever and to not spend a fortune?
When I was a kid I would spend hours upon hours dribbling over toys from Kays catalogue making lists galore. Lists on top of lists. Now a days its not so important.
I’ve found recently that Christmas has been about a lot more than just pressies. Of course its always nice to unwrap something special but it’s not the be all and end all.
Christmas was and still is magical . I have the foundest memories of Christmas as a child, and now as an adult.
When we were kids Grandad Clarke would usually be left in charge of babysitting duties on Christmas Eve.
He was my hero. A wonderful yet very quiet man. I remember he always dressed immaculately in a suit and tie.
I would pull a ‘big chair’ up and sit next to him. Enjoy his company, the smell from his pipe, laugh when he laughed and our limited but precious conversation.
My little brother Mark and I would be allowed to stay up well past our bedtimes, until midnight! Grandad would let us join him in a tiny glass of his favourite tipple -Sherry -before ushering us upstairs to bed. Boy did we feel grown up!
Christmas morning always started with a full English, cooked by dad. He makes the best breakfast…everything was fried, even the baked beans. Marvellous, and yes terribly unhealthy!
In my early twenties these were a god-send for soaking up the alcohol from a day and night spent partying the previous day .
The legendary Henrys Bar had a lot to answer for…
It was the place my friends and I would excitedly gather every Christmas Eve lunch for celebration drinks.
Seemingly half the population of Sheffield did the same. It was crammed to the rafters, hot, so noisy you couldn’t hear yourself speak … and absolutely fabulous.
It could get riotous at times , with us dancing on the bar, the tables , even in the water fountain.
Some men we ‘used to hang around with’ would often bring shaving foam and when we were suitably ‘squiffy’ would foam us! Not the greatest look , ‘Alice-cooper esq’ eyes, and it played a bugger with your hair. It was so bloody sticky and awfully itchy. I once welcomed Christmas in with the rash of all rashes all over my face!
One year the shaving foam got swapped for Immac hair remover and some girl lost half her hair… I remember watching in horror as clumps of her beautiful brunette bob came away in her hands. Her Christmas most definitely ruined.
Foam was rightly banned from that day on and it was obviously never the same again in Henrys. Somebody always has to go to far and spoil things don’t they?
Yes … there have been some quite awful Christmas Day ‘alcohol related’ mornings! …with threats from Mum that “you had better eat your Christmas lunch . I’m not going to all this trouble for nothing… ”
This was normally followed by pressie giving and receiving … and of course I always ate my lunch.
The smell from Grandad’s pipe smoke would waft around the house, mixing with that of parma violet (grans scent) turkey cooking nicely and warm mince pies.
Laughter … I remember there was always lots of laughter… and enough Quality Street to chuck your hat at.
Grandma who insisted she no longer drank alcohol would sit in dads arm chair like ‘Lady Muck’ and make her way steadily through a bottle of Baileys …in coffee … because apparently that didn’t count?
I do miss her and her stories.
The very same stories she revisited more or less every time I saw her .I never got tired of listening to them. The way her face and eyes would light up when she told me about Mouse Island and her Greek love affair were priceless…
Every year ( and still to this day) around noon on Christmas Day the men (dad, brother and both grandads) would make their way to the local pub , leaving the ladies chatting, drinking Martinis and preparing lunch.
I’ve never been one to follow the ‘rules ‘and from the age of 15 (encouraged by my mum I might add) I have joined the men in the pub. I love men’s banter and I was the first honouree female allowed in ‘Perverts Corner ‘ but I’ll tell you about that another time.
Sadly Grandad Clarke, Nanan Clarke and Grandma Herring are no longer with us ( not in body anyway but always in spirit ) and Christmas has never really felt the same since.
Don’t get me wrong Christmas is still great but it’s also very different to back then.
On a positive ‘times are a changing – get the women out of the kitchen’ note mum now joins us for an hour in the pub Christmas Day and has a few cheeky tipples leaving everything to cook nicely back at home.
Cancer has made her many things but it’s also given her a ‘if it burns it burns’ attitude.
To date it has never burnt. In all honestly it’s never anything other than delicious.
For me it’s these little things that make Christmas…
the memories, the people, the smells, the food, and the feelings you experience when you spend time with your nearest and dearest friends and family.
Without sounding like I’m auditioning for ‘Miss chuffing World‘ here’s what I’d really like this Christmas… and yes world peace would be one of them!
Here’s my Alterative Christmas Wish List
A cure for cancer. (I’ll start with the biggy) This disease plagues me. I detest it. I hate the word and what it does to people. It took my nanan (stomach cancer) and has recently affected two of the most precious people in my life.
That Mollie the dog could:
A.) take herself for a walk – these cold mornings are a killer and I’m forever sporting frizzy hair
B.) that she could clear up her own poop, it makes me heave . I’ve never fully recovered from getting poo stuck down the tip of a false nail!
C.) most importantly that she could talk. Our one-way conversations are very frustrating..
That chocolate wasn’t fattening and it was perfectly acceptable to eat it for breakfast.
I was reading the other day about toilets. Yes really … toilets. Can you imagine not having the basic luxury of being able to use one? Nope in this day and age neither could I but in some parts of the world people still don’t have access to a safe working toilet! The charity Tearfund are proposing to change this by ‘Toilet Twinning’ Read about it here but what a wonderful gift to give someone… the use of a toilet. (That is something I never thought I’d ever write)
To be spot-free for the rest of my life and any scarring I have miraculously disappear!
A life-time supply of Super Plus Tampax. I go through loads, spend a small fortune and I never have any around when I start my period!
That chocolate wasn’t fattening and it was perfectly acceptable to eat it for dinner.
Remember Girls World? … a mannequin head for little girls to practise their make-up skills on. You used to pull the hair out of the top of her head and style it. I want that facility. How bloody handy would that be? You want longer hair … just pull it out from your head. It would save a lot of pain growing out my on / off fringe!
For ladies weekends away to be compulsory like Bank Holidays and also to be paid for by the government. There is no better way to spend a weekend than bonding with great mates over cocktails and giggles. It could be filed under team-building, and I’m big on that.
That there was a size 13 in clothes? Sometimes a 12 is slightly too tight ( dam you chocolate induced hips!) and a 14 too big… on occasion I find with trousers that the fabric puckers up around the front and it looks like I’ve got a little willy? I don’t. I’m Tracey, not Trevor.
That chocolate wasn’t fattening and it was perfectly acceptable to eat it for tea.
I could go on – rehouse the homeless, look after the elderly, protect endangered species … but I’ll leave it there. I really don’t have my sights on the Miss World title.
Like everybody else I love giving gifts as much as I love receiving them but like I said earlier it doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. The mere fact you ‘thought and bought it’ for me is enough ..
I might not remember what you bought me a few years ago (and vice versa) but I will always remember the feeling I got when I received it.
Loved.Blessed.Appreciated… but mostly just loved.
Lastly and joking apart I’d swap it all to have just one thing…
Just one Christmas wish
A healthy and happy mum.
Now that … that would be the greatest Christmas present ever.
Until next time, Tracey x
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