Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Past

I remember when I was about 7 or so, young enough to have no doubt at all in the reality of Father Christmas, I twigged that it was not a level playing field.  I desperately wanted a bike. I wanted to ride fast and feel the wind in my hair.

In the run up to Christmas hopes and dreams were freely shared. The boy over the road announced with total certainty that Father Christmas was going to bring him a bike. My mother was the fount of knowledge and wisdom, so in all innocence I decided to sound her out to see if she had any idea what Father Christmas' intentions were.  It was my turn to dry up, and I can still see me standing in the kitchen, "Do you think that Father Christmas will bring me a bike?  The boy over the road is CONVINCED that Father Christmas is going to bring him one, and I wondered if he you thought he might bring me one too?"
"Oh, I don't think so..." ventured my mother, " besides it is not a good time of the year to have a bike, when it is too cold to go out and use it!  I could not fault her logic, but there was also a part of me that thought it was really unfair, that Father Christmas could deliver a bike to one child and not to another, particularly as we lived so close!  My mother consoled me with the thought that I would get other presents that would be just as good as a bike. In my experience adults generally tend to agree about these things, I had no expectation that Father Christmas would dare to go against my mothers wishes...and a little bit of magic was lost, until the day.

There were three reasons why Father Christmas wouldn't be bringing me a bicycle.

1. With four children in our family, there was a strict budget. My parents wanted us to understand that presents cost money, so in our house Father Christmas only brought the 'stockings'.  We were perfectly aware that our main present came from our parents.  Christmas was a time of generosity, but not of excess.  The suggestion that we might follow the custom other children seem to be adopting and hang up a pillowcase instead of a sock, was met with the reminder that Father Christmas does not really approve of greed, and might not leave anything!  We didn't want to risk that and stuck with our 'socks' - though I was mystified as to why a sock suddenly became a stocking on Christmas Eve!  It is the old fashioned name for a sock, my father explained.

2.  Father Christmas didn't really exist.  Therefore our bedside bounty was entirely at the discretion of our parents, little did we know it.

3. My mother didn't approve of having bicycles in the winter when it was icy.  Unfortunately my birthday was also in the winter, so the first bicycle I acquired was a cast off from another child, with solid tyres!!!  I taught myself to ride by getting on a bike and pedalling.  It was before I knew fear. The idea of falling off didn't occur to me.  It was hard to ride like the wind on a bike with pedals that turned inwards with a crunching sound, and tyres that allowed you to feel every join between  the paving slabs.  On my next birthday, I did get a scooter, with ribbons that trailed out of the handlebars and a hooter, which enabled me to sail like the wind round the 'steep' bend at the corner of Larkfield and Harport.

That Christmas was whiter that white, with one of the heaviest snowfalls of my life!  Father Christmas duly delivered a red bike to the lad over the road, and I was satisfied, as Father Christmas had come up trumps and I awoke to a fab selection of all the things my mother would NEVER have bought me!  My mother was also satisfied, as she stood in the window and looked approvingly at the snow, and observed that there was little use in having a bike for Christmas, as you never knew what the weather would do!  Maybe my mother was wiser than Father Christmas - she certainly appeared to be more clued up on local weather!