Saturday, 24 November 2012

Ghost of Christmas past

It could have been 1969. I was fourteen and in love; it was the night before the end of term and the start of the holiday. Somehow at the last minute I had acquired some money and determined to spend it on a Christmas present for my boyfriend.

There were six shops spread over the village: the two on the green could be discounted immediately, Winters was a hardware store and the post office only sold stationery. Similarly Pete's shop on the estate only sold groceries,which left the three nearest to our house.

At the end of our lane was a real old fashioned village shop that always had a cooked ham in the window and sawdust on the floor. It was inconceivable that a place selling paraffin and chicken food could contain anything desirable so that left the papershop and Bettles. It had to be Bettles really because it was where we bought everything except newspapers and clothing.

The shop window had been stuffed with Christmas gifts - smoking sets, bath cubes, jellied fruits - and festooned with cottonwool and tinsel. Fairy lights blinked and made me feel warm inside because it was Christmas. I saw there were men's nylon shirts piled in one corner. My dad had just started wearing nylon shirts- what a liberation they were for the modern man, coming in every colour under the sun, with no need of being ironed (drip dry). I had just enough to buy the purple one.

I seem to remember the gift was received politely and my boyfriend appreciated the urgent desire to give and to please that it represented. Later in the holiday when he came over to the village to see me he was wearing a Ben Sherman shirt: two tone check cotton with button down collars. The purple nylon never made an appearance, nor was mentioned from that day to when we split up, acrimoniously and dramatically, much later. My dad though continued to weat his maroon one.

Our village was only about three miles from the town. From the town it was another six miles to the city. Buses to town were about two an hour and every two hours to the city. So you see we were not geographically remote. We were cut off by being poor and it made us ignorant and gauche, though we didn't realise that until we had nearly grown up.

No comments:

Post a Comment