Christmas must be the most exciting time of the year for every child however old they are! When my sister and I were little we were always desperate to get to bed and get to sleep so we could wake up to find if we had been good enough to have presents in our stockings which we’d laid at the foot of the bed. These were old grannie’s lisle stockings, very thick and very long for little arms to plunge into. My parents weren’t so keen for us to have an early night and usually we would go for a walk after tea, maybe down to the river, maybe across Jesus Green (a large open common) into Cambridge to walk round the closed shops and look in their brightly lit windows. I seem to remember that every Christmas Eve was dry enough for us to go for our little walk, but with damp pavements to reflect the golden lights spilling from the shops.
When my children were little it was the same, we would walk them around Uphill trying to find dry grass to give Santa’s reindeer. Although we lived in the north we always came here to my dad’s house for Christmas, along with my mother-in-law, my aunty and uncle and my sister.
After a meal, usually midnight soup, we would keep the children up as long as possible so that when they did go to bed, they would fall asleep quickly and give us time for last-minute preparations. Because I had resident baby-sitters, I was able to go to the pub just for a couple of beers and then home again for the final wrapping and getting ready for Santa to arrive, the children already having put mince pies, sherry and carrots for Rudolf on the fireplace. One Christmas we had bought my daughter a bike which had come flat-packed, so when we returned from the pub, husband, granddad and family friend were busy trying to assemble a pink glittery bike and drink a couple of fingers or whisky at the same time!
With the house full we would be in dad’s room with the children in sleeping-bags on the floor, my sister would sleep in her room, dad would sleep on the settee and aunty, uncle and mother-in-law would have rooms in the little hotel just opposite.
So it’s Christmas Eve again; we have just had a light dinner with a glass of Chianti… we’re each doing our last few little tasks and then I dare say my two children, husband and I will repair to the Dolphin!