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Nell Tolley - Exwick's Christmas past 2.


How many people in Exwick remember what our Christmases, were like in the 1940s. Did we ever have white ones or does it just seem so? I remember very cold winter days when the windows were covered in frost and we used to heat a penny on the stove to make a hole to be out, icicles hung from the windowsills, taps became frozen, and chilblains were suffered regularly - my mother's cure for this was a handful of snow
rubbed into them and failing that a block of something called Snowfire was used. At night there was the old stone hotter bottle, blankets and eiderdown and if this wasn't enough a coat or two would if piled on top.

Shops didn't start their selling and advertising of Christmas goods so early and I am sure that made be whole event far more exciting, not that here was a lot to be had at that time because of rationing.

Most preparations we made before Christmas Eve despite the fact that we had no fridge, instead we had a walk in larder which led off the living room, with a meat safe and a big marble slab to keep things cool, and after Boxing Day nothing was wasted but was turned into stew and pies or reheated as cold meat and bubble and squeak. As everything was rationed we had to be very careful not to waste anything. Decorations would go up consisting of holly and evergreens and of course the paper chains which we had previously spent hours making. Stockings, or in my case a pillow slip, was left on the foot of the bed in anticipation of presents and we all made a great play of making sure to be asleep when Father Christmas came, remembering that this was war time we did not expect much as sweets were rationed and there was no tropical as there is now, but there was usually and apple and some nuts and if very lucky a box of dates and one year in that box I found a whole new eight sided threepenny piece! Most peoples presents were modest at this time. A good maxim to go by is if you don't expect much then you will not be disappointed.

On Christmas Eve there would be Midnight mass in St Andrews Church, with the choir in good voice, and on leaving everyone would be wishing each other Merry Christmas - this is still me time when I feel Christmas starts for me.

On the day itself after lunch we would listen to the Kings speech on the radio (no television then). But several programmes spring to minds, music with Ted Heath or Victor Sylvester. Comedians such as Arthur Askey, Bernard Miles, John Pertwee and Max Wall. There were singers, Anne Shelton, Vera Lynn, Dickie Valentine, and Gracie Fields. Later at night we would perhaps listen to Valentine Dyall as be Man in Black with his horror stories, he had a very distinctive and spooky voice just right for the job. There were also serial type programmes such as Dick Barton Special Agent, where you had to listen to the next episode or miss something exciting.

After tea we may play table games such as Cards, Draughts, Snakes and Ladders etc. and in those days we really did do as be song says, roast chestnuts on an open fire.

© 2011 Nell Tolley

These memories of Nell Tolley were originally published in the Guinness Newsletter and is reproduced with the permission of the author.

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