Another country

Today has been really beautiful, a proper winter’s day The wind has blown in from the Atlantic, warm and blustering and pretending to be fiercer than it is. It has brought rain and the sound or running water. The evening sky was rose edged clouds, and shafts of light. The snow has vanished and everywhere is green. It is winter as I remember it from my childhood.

We were poorer then. The run-up to Christmas was marked by the making of home-made ginger beer. There was no thought of bought-in ‘pop’ as we called it, and certainly no wine beyond my grandmother’s bottle of sherry, which also went into the trifle. Mum cooked on a heroic scale, liberated at last from rationing, but it was all traditional things. Mince pies with home-made mincemeat, high on spice, low on sugar. And the pies themselves, with my grandmother’s very short pastry, were all delicious filling with a tiny crisp crust and a little toffee on the edge where it had caramelised. There was Christmas cake for Christmas day and beyond (mince pies could be eaten in Advent) and Christmas pudding and sausage rolls, and beef roll, and trifle. We made the cake for it ourselves. And roasted chestnuts, and ‘ginger drink’ (now only obtainable at the Co-op). Also muscatels and almonds. The former were like huge dried raisins, double the size of anything you can buy now. If we were lucky there were also crystallised fruits and chocolates and sugar almonds. The filling of a fruit bowl was a thrill in those post war years. And each stocking had an orange and a sugar mouse. Christmas dinner was turkey, and bread sauce and roast potatoes and sprouts and carrots. Two kinds of stuffing, one at each end of the bird.

I would have decorated the house with paper chains and paper streamers and a paper bell and lots of holly, because we had a holly bush. We were very advanced and made a wreath for our front door with a big red bow on it. Postie remarked on it.

The past is another country. I wish I could take a day trip there. I like the weather, but, to change quotations, I also know that I take the weather with me, everywhere I go.


4 responses to “Another country

  1. You have green? I’m jealous.

    That sounds like a splendid sort of Christmas — and maybe not so very different from what you do today?

  2. rosemaryhannah

    Nooo – not so very very different – but unimaginably much simpler. No wine, nothing BUT mince pies and Christmas cake and pud. No chocolate log, no stollen, no little cakes. Much more seasonal. Much more English (sic). What I take with me is the love of family and the joy of the season. There was more joy then, and much much less wealth. In the 50s it was enough that we were alive and well, and that no bombs would come pitching in, and that food was freely available. Imagine! You could buy all the sausages you wanted to.

    Some, I am sure, found it limiting and dreary, but it seems to me to have been the limits of the sonnet, not to be scorned.

  3. This season brings on journeys into the past, I find. It was the cold I was remembering, and the effects of it – and my comments column provided me with so many more memories that I may have to visit that far country again soon!

  4. I’ve always liked the food, as a child, associated with Christmas; crisps, pineapple juice, apple juice, tangerines, apples and Tunnock’s teacakes or snowballs. It seemed like such decadence!

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