Wednesday, 19 January 2022
SITTING on my desk is a mandarin, or is it a tangerine, a clementine, or just a small orange? I can never tell the difference.
More of that later, but said piece of fruit set me thinking about my childhood. I wonder what you remember of your first Christmases? The ones you enjoyed before you started school.
Certainly in my case they were rather magical. It started with the decorations — just a few paper streamers and bits of tinsel but the house was very old and rather murky with no running water and when I was small no electric light, so any splash of colour was wonderful. Then the tree would arrive.
A E Housman, not himself a Shropshire lad, wrote:
Clunton and Clunbury,
Clungunford and Clun,
Are the quietest places
Under the sun…
He was right. So quiet that my father had no trouble finding a “free” Christmas tree, with no questions asked by the Forestry Commission.
Then there would be the goose — we reared our own. I would help feed them and a poor dead goose would usually ended up on the coat hook behind the sitting room door for a day or more before being prepared for the oven.
Little whited sepulchre that I was, my tears over poor goosey did not prevent me eating the Christmas dinner that ensued with great enjoyment.
We learn hypocrisy, or at least thoughtlessness, early.
Then there were the presents. These were almost all fitted into one of my father’s socks — we run to big feet in the Millington tribe.
There might have been a book, some chocolate, money (pennies and shillings if you remember those, we never ran to pounds) and buried at the bottom there would always be some nuts and, to return to the greengrocery mentioned above, a mandarin/tangerine/clementine.
Now rationing was long over — it had stopped before I was born and out there in the countryside we were pretty well fed.
But even then back in the very late Fifties and early Sixties, I didn’t see a mandarin from one Christmas Day to the next. Oranges, yes, but not the smaller fruit.
Nowadays you can go into a supermarket and buy a barrowload whenever you like.
But for me at that time they were very special and even now, in my dotage, the smell and sight of them takes me back. I remember how delighted I was to find them there at the end of the stocking each year.
Nowadays I don’t get so excited about fruit but I do see the wisdom of being able to be thankful for small things and things that most of the time I take for granted.
There is much sanity to be found in listing your reasons for thankfulness at the end of each day. Tangerines, smiles, little victories, worries that proved groundless...
The old gospel song puts it well:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
20 December 2021
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