This post is not going to be a sugar coated version of events. No rose coloured glasses are involved in my recollection of events. It's an accurate portrayal, an exposee if you will, of our family Christmas experience in the 70's!
Our home was a small two bedroomed semi in Slough. Given that there were five of us (mum, dad and three daughters), it immediately posed a problem. The solution was that my parents made the front room of the house their bedroom. This left one small backroom as our sole living/dining area. At Christmas this really presented a challenge. Space was extremely limited and my parents' style was sadly the antithesis of minimalistic. With the extra demands of the festive season, coupled with the whole family together in that one room, the result was an atmosphere akin to claustrophobia!
Our green tinsel style tree was put up and took its pride of place on top of our old Radio Rental TV set. The decorations would be hung by our Dad, who was quite protective of his job, with us three girls fighting over who'd bagsy which wise man and where they'd be hung on the tree. This would inevitably result in me crying, a common theme to my childhood with sisters aged 5 and 10 years older than me, who'd tire of their attention seeking younger sister! My Dad would keep the plastic gifts from the previous year's crackers and put them onto the foil boughs. Plastic moustaches and false teeth adorned the branches, and woe betide us if we dared touch them! If and when we did touch the tree, tempted by the lure of the fake red lips, the tree would topple off the TV, spilling its booty into the exposed vents. How there was not an electrical mishap, I do not know!
When it came to the big day, we'd be up early and race downstairs to a pile of presents positioned on our pre-allocated sofa seat. We'd dive in whilst the parents busied themselves in the tiny kitchen peeling sprouts and stuffing turkey. By now Dad would have started his first rum and coke of the day and, on account of the fact that he was a non-drinker all year round, would get progressively more slozzled and tearfully profess his love for his kids. They never shared in the unwrapping of presents nor did they see the delight on my face as I received my much coveted Rolf Harris Stylophone or Girl's World.
After presents, Dad would bring in the table in readiness for our dinner. As previously mentioned the room was small. TV in one corner, real fire adjacent to it on the back wall, three piece suite squeezed around the remaining wall space. The table was a big, heavy duty wooden affair that filled the floor space. The five mix and match chairs were positioned around, meaning we had to climb into our seats and squeeze into the gap between chairback and table edge. We children were left to our own devices, whilst our parents continued to make dinner. Now, this often resulted in unfortunate situations. One year I decided to see how close I could get my Christmas cracker over the table candle. Great game until...WOOF...up it went in flames. I spent the rest of that day hiding under the table crying! Barring any pyromanic disasters, dinner would be served. By this point though, the seat that was directly in front of the fireplace would be getting quite hot. leading to complaints. These protestations would go unheeded. Similarly, one person would be sat with their back to the TV. Telly was permanently on in our house. When Top of the Pops coincided with Christmas dinner, the person sat in the telly seat would have to twist and crane their neck to see, whilst the rest of us would moan that they couldn't see past them. More friction! I don't remember the food...only the arguments!
If we survived lunch we'd spend the rest of the day packing away numerous chocolate bars, satsumas and sneaky shandies! We wouldn't have been so greedy. but the Christmas food would be out on display for the whole of December and we were forbidden to so much as look at it. "Not until Christmas day!" was the household mantra, meaning that when the day arrived we'd stuff whole boxes of Maltesers, bars of Galaxy and Just Brazils, until we were green! I remember eating eight satsumas one after the other. Also being dared to eat Quality Street concoptions by my sister, consisting of all the suspect flavours squeezed together by hand into a melted mass of chocolate and fondant centres!
Tea was another stressful affair. Masses of buffet food laid out alongside the turkey carcass and leftover lunch. My Dad always used to make stilton, brussel sprout and digestive biscuit sandwiches. It was a tradtion. But when we helped ourselves to the excess of festive food, we'd get in big trouble. My big sister took five varieties of cheeses from the cheese board. She thought she was being sophisticated, sampling the dairy delights. The shout of "Five cheeses!!" was bellowed in disbelief by Dad, crumbs of Brussell Sprout, Stilton and Digestive biscuit spewing from his mouth. Even as a very young child, the irony of this exchange was not lost.
Tensions always ran high on Christmas Day and it'd often end in tears. However, the limitations of an inappropriate house were responsible for most of the problems. Money was tight but Mum and Dad always worked hard and did their best to give us girls a good Christmas. I thank them for my unique experiences and blogging material!!