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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Countdown with Jane Richardson

Hello and welcome to Day 9 in my Countdown to Christmas Blog! Today’s featured guest is Jane Richardson. And with the twinkle lights all a glow on the bristly pine tree, icicles forming on the window panes and a roaring fire in the hearth, Oliver sets out crackers and cheese and perfectly chilled white wine. As Jane enters the room, Roy Wood and his band Wizzard play on the stereo and Oliver sings along to “I wish it could be Christmas every day!”

Sharon: Hello, Jane! Sharon and Jane exchange hugs before settling into wing back chairs. Oliver pours the wine while blowing kisses to Jane.

Jane is going to share her memories of a British Christmas, 70s style. This sentimental journey will make you laugh and cry. And with no further ado, here’s Jane.

I guess the simplest definition of a ‘tradition’ is ‘something that’s always done the same way,’ and while I’m generally the sort of person who will happily embrace change, there are some things I do for no other reason than sheer tradition. Take Christmas, for example. Now that I’m a Proper Growed-Up Person with children of my own, my family has developed a number of its own traditions, but there are still some things, legacies of my own nineteen-seventies British childhood Christmases, that I just can’t do without. Christmas isn’t Christmas without them.

Take Christmas stockings. My children will always find and apple and an orange in the toes of their Christmas stockings because that’s what I always had in mine. Well, now I know they were a result of my mother’s desperate attempts to make sure her kids had at least some festive Vitamin C and fibre to cancel out the effects of all that yuletide sugar and chocolate, but that’s fine. Along with that well-intentioned fruit salad - which always meant you’d reached the end of the stocking toys and it was time to head downstairs where the big pressies were - there would be one of those little net bags of chocolate coins. You know the sort where you have to prise a disc of razor-sharp gold tinfoil off each face of a circle of the sickliest chocolate ever? Yes, I know, they’re revolting, but still - it’s traditional, isn’t it? And that’s why I find myself stuffing the same chocolate coins into my children’s Christmas stockings, only these days I’ve found a supermarket that stocks chocolate Euros, a fact that for some reason tickles me hugely. A sign of the times, I suppose. After all, my nineteen-seventies Christmases were a century ago!

A large part of the British Christmas in the nineteen-seventies revolved around television. I suppose lots of people still spend inordinate amounts of time in front of the TV now over the season, but in those days there were only three television channels in the UK. Three! Can you believe it? You could set your brand spanking new Tell-The-Time Timex watch by the television on Christmas Day, it was always the same. In the morning there would be some carolling programme broadcast from some cathedral or other, and always very staid and formal. Three o’clock in the afternoon was time for The Queen’s Speech, as it is even now. Nobody in the whole world spoke like the Queen did then, and does still. Late afternoon, some kind of variety offering – mention the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show to any Brit and I guarantee you’ll get a hoot and a grin in return. In the evening would be the Christmas movie, and the dear old BBC didn’t have much imagination when it came to choosing them, which is why every person in the UK between the ages of forty to fifty-five has seen The Great Escape at least twelve times….!

Of course, for us pre-teens, the highlight of the day was the ‘Top Of The Pops’ Christmas special. Ah, that seventies glam rock! My sister and I would be setting the table with the best tablecloth and the special once-a-year dinner service, warbling along with Roy Wood and his band Wizzard telling us ‘I wish it could be Christmas every day,’ or best of all, belting it out with Slade - ‘so here it is, Merry Christmas! Everybody’s having fun!’

And we were, we were having loads of fun! Those nineteen-seventies Christmases were the best of all. We were too young to know much about politics or economics or the state of the country, and the UK really was in a bit of a state back then. Things were tough. We certainly never realised what Mum and Dad must have gone without, how they would have scrimped and saved to make sure Christmas was special. Well, they managed it perfectly. I don’t remember Christmas being anything other than completely wonderful, and that’s how it should be.

Both Mum and Dad are gone now, Dad a few years ago, Mum just a few days before last Christmas, and you know something? The last words she’d said were….’Merry Christmas.’ So, this year I’ll be setting out the same old tablecloth on my own family’s Christmas table, and setting out some of that same once-a-year dinner service. There’s no more Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special, and ‘Top Of The Pops’ is long gone, but I expect The Great Escape will be showing on some TV channel at some point. Well, it’s traditional, isn’t it? It wouldn’t be Christmas without it! And I promise you, I’ll be singing the same songs we sang back then…..’Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun.’ I’ll be watching my own kids having fun, and I’ll be remembering when my sister and I were kids and how much we loved Christmas. And at some point I’ll raise a glass to Mum and Dad to thank them for all those wonderful nineteen-seventies Christmases that I loved so much. Thanks, Mum and Dad. This Christmas will be for you.

Happy Christmas, everybody.

Sharon: Thank you for sharing your lovely memories with us today, Jane. What better way to show the footprints our loved ones have left on our hearts than by passing family traditions on from generation to generation. Lovely indeed. Your parents will be smiling down on you this Christmas Day, thrilled that they left such footprints on your heart.

Scots-born Jane Richardson now lives on the south coast of England where the sun always shines and it never, ever rains, not ever never. She lives in a state of permanent yet jolly chaos with her husband, two children (she thinks they might be hers), several felines, a pooch, a tank full of goldfish and an invisible fox who barks beneath her window every night and keeps her awake. She’s been a management trainer, a stage manager, a dresser and part-time costume assistant and a holistic therapist, so it’s fair to say she’s Been About A Bit!’
Don't forget to enter Jane's Christmas Wishes Contest at her blog Home Thoughts From Abroad!

Image: Simon Howden /


Sharon Donovan said...

Always a pleasure, Jane. You've painted such a beautiful picture of 70 style nostalgia, one I can certainly relate. Not so much with the British style, but the music, the lack of television stations and mostly, the stockings with the oranges, apples and gold foil wrap coins. But the best part is keeping the memories of loved ones alive through traditions. Lovely, Jane. Simply lovely and so very eloquently said.
Happy Christmas to you and your family.

Loads of love and blessings,

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Well, I don't know about 'style,' Sharon, they do say the seventies was 'the decade that style forgot!' Flared jeans, clumpy shoes, awful haircuts! But when you're a kid you just take it all in, and of course those where they years when my sis and I were growing from childhood into teenage years - seriously formative! No wonder the memories of that particular time are so strong. I loved those family Christmases, and yes, I do find myself keeping them alive as much as possible.
I'll miss Mum nd Dad so much this year, but I'm determined to celebrate them and all they did for us, and the wonderful fact that my dh and I can pass such happy things on to our own children. Here's to Christmas! It really is 'the most wonderful time of the year.' :)

Jane x

Sharon Donovan said...

And such wonderful memories and traditions they are, Jane. You know, I was in high school in the 70s and thought wearing the wildly flowered bell bottoms, platform shoes, funky hair and jewelry was oh so cool. Don't miss that look although it is all so retro! Would you like some coffee or tea? Here comes Oliver with pots and oven fresh sugar cookies. Dig in!!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Sharon and Jane,
What lovely memories you have Jane, it is always the simple things that bring back the most poignant memories.


Cate Masters said...

Happy Christmas, Jane! I can also relate to the three-station TV and Seventies music. Christmas isn't Christmas without wonderful songs to invoke its magic.
My condolences on your Mom's passing. I also lost my Mom just before Christmas a few years ago, and recently lost my dad. It'll be sad this Christmas without them, but we'll carry on their traditions and they'll be with us in spirit.

Hywela Lyn said...

Lovely nostalgic memories, Jane.

Of course, being a Brit myself, I have similar memories of the seventies, (although I was a bit older than a pre-teen then.) I think Christmas always brings memories of loved ones we have lost, but as you say, let's remember the lovely Chrismases we shared with them and be happy for those memories.

Another thing I can relate to is the wonderful British weather. I thought that brown coloration was rust. Now I realise it's a tan! LOL

Skhye said...

HI, Jane! YES, THOSE CHOCOLATE COINS ARE DISGUSTING. MY teenage ADHD nephew wolfs them down though! And only 3 channels??? Talk about the Dark Ages. ;) But the Dark Ages are fascinating!

Me, I remember fighting with my brother and sister over who got to sleep inside his cardboard box village he twist-tied together. I won. It was the most horrible night ever! Hard floor! No room to turn for a bit o' comfort... I never argued for that luxurious night's sleep again. And we always ate that marshmallow-mandarin-orange-slice salad. Mom just taught me how to make it. I'm not thrilled with it as an adult. But the kids love it. ???

Hugh prize: a cache of Time-Guardian treasure. To enter, join me at

Linda Swift said...

Good morning Jane, Sharon, and Oliver. What a lovely story, Jane. And I recall our English Christmas when my friend had given each of her grandchildren those bags of gold foil wrapped coins. My own mother always made a fresh coconut cake with seven minute frosting at Christmas and now that she is gone, it is my job to do that. The cake never tastes the same, but it is the tradition that counts. Happy Christmas. Linda

Lindsay Townsend said...

Beautfiul memories, Jane! Lovely blog, Sharon!

Your mum's final words gave me a happy weep, Jane. So much of the real spirit of Christmas there.

I love those gold chocolate coins! Even now.

Thanks so much for sharing - it brought back many similar memories of my own.

P.L. Parker said...

I almost cried when I read about your Mum. How sad for you and your family that year. Our memories of Christmas are so special. I have so many good ones, can't think of a bad one - except maybe the year my oldest sister found the "under the tree" gifts and we played with them for awhile (I was very young and easily coerced), so Christmas morning it was hard to act surprised, but we did it.

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Hi Sharon! Hi everybody! It's 3.30 in the UK, and Oliver, I'm about ready for that cup of tea, something with ginger and spice would be just perfect on this wet chilly day, yummy. :)

Hi Margaret - I agree, the simplest things are always the things with the sweetest memories. We must be simple creatures after all, I think. :)

Cate, how lovely to see you. I will think of you this year as I raise a glass to my own Mum and Dad. I wish you a lovely Christmas.

Lyn, hiya! I knew you'd have similar memories to mine. 'What do you think of it so far?' 'Rubbish!' ;-))

Skhye, LOL, that'll teac you to want green cheese, as they say here! Your night on the hard floor does NOT appeal! Everyone, go and check out Skhye's group and fabulous prize, it really is stunning. Happy Christmas, Skhye!

Hello Linda! That fresh coconut cake sounds mmmm.....gorgeous. I could never match my Mum's scrummy baking either. Her scones and pies....couldn't get the soup just so either. Same ingrdeients, but I guess I never had the touch!

Lindsay - expect something in the post before Christmas! ;-)

Patsy, what a fun memory! I wonder if your parents ever twigged you were acting surprised - or were they even better actors themselves! Lovely to see you today. :)

HAPPY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! And don't forget to enter my blog contest with your Christmas Wishes!

LK Hunsaker said...

Jane, you made me chuckle about the oranges and coins - we always had oranges in our stockings, also! And chocolate Euros? That's just too much fun. I'll have to remember to look for them next time we get over that way!

And I got teary about your mom. She'll be glad to see you going about your beautiful, fun traditions this year.

Our traditional movies are It's A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol.

Music related-- I remember one Christmas as a kid when we were supposed to be getting ready to go to Grandma and Grandpa's for dinner with the whole big family but sis and I just couldn't! Why? The Bay City Rollers were going to be on some special and there was NO WAY we could miss it. Such fun memories. :-) We had three channels, also, at that time, and no VCR yet.

*Hi Sharon!*

Julie Robinson said...

Thank you for sharing those memories of your parents, Jane, and I'm sorry to hear about their passing, especially with your Mum right before Christmas. How beautiful that she wished you a Merry Christmas. Shows what a lovely person she undoubtedly was, and with the first anniversary this year, it must be really hard for you. Blogging about the memories your parents instilled in you is such a beautiful tribute to the life they led, carried on by you.

Jane Richardson, writer said...

LK, I would be happy to send some chocolate euros right across the water!
I shrieked when I read about you not wanting to miss The 'Rollers. What with growing up in Scotland, you can imagine 'Rollermania' was never far away! I never did get the hang of the ankle-length trousers with the tartan eding, though....;-) I remember doing just the same sort of thing with my sis, though. Great memories!

Jane x

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Hi Julie, how lovely to meet you! And thanks, you're kind. Yes, of course there will be sad moments this Christmas, but I'm determined to remember the good times and celebrate those most of all. :) That's why thinking about all those lovely memories has been so good this year, and I've so enjoyed hearing about everyone else's family memories too. Lovely to see you! And thank you again. :)

Jane x

Sharon Donovan said...

Oh what lovely comments and memories by all the guests! Welcome, Margaret, Cate, Patsy, Linda, Lyn, Skhye, Lindsay, LK and Julie!
Isn't this great, sharing all these memories? Gather round the hearth and help yourself to cocktail hour! Oliver has made fresh pots of coffee, tea and hot cocoa, but the bar is open! Cheers to one and all! Jane, this is so great.

Mary Ricksen said...

How great Jane! It was the seventies when Christmas was just fun and I wasn't aware of the rest of the world. My parents would put our stockings on our beds and we'd find them and eat the candy and check out the little trinkets inside. We loved that
By 1980 I was supporting myself and Christmas was just another day!(grin)
Merry Christmas and hey Sharon!

Keena Kincaid said...

Happy Christmas, Jane! Our Christmases in the States weren't much different...just the television programs, a parade, football, and then maybe a Christmas special hosted by a slightly past-his-prime movie star or singer.

And each and every memory makes me smile.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Mary and Keena. Thanks for stopping in for a visit! Thanks to all for popping in to chat with Jane today. And a very special thank you to Jane Richardson for sharing her memories of Christmas, British style in the 70s. And Jane, dear friend, cry happy tears this Christmas when you set your table with your mum's best. Your parents will look down with love, knowing their job on earth was fulfilled in raising such a lovely daughter.
As always, my sincere thank you to Hywela Lyn for decorating my blog. Thank you, Lyn. You are a gift.
Until nexttime, may the luck of the Irish be with you as you travel through life.

Love and blessings,


Jane Richardson, writer said...

Mary, that's so lovely when you're a child - Christmas just being Christmas, as simple as that. How it should be!

Keena, yes, I remember those Christmas specials with a slightly-past-his-sell-by-date singer! They always had those huge sweaters with snowflakes on....euch!

Sharon ,thanks so much for having me over to your blog twice in one week! I've had so much fun and loved hearing all your guests' memories too. Lyn, you've done a sterling job with the decorations, do you fancy popping over to my house one afternoon to do mine?! ;-)
Lovely to see everyone. HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Jane x