Wolds Diary: Festive feeling even though the cheer gets earlier every year

Ripley Castle.
Ripley Castle.
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EVERY YEAR it seems to me that the run up to Christmas gets longer.

My grandmother taught me that it was permissible to start practicing carols from the first of November, but you only put up Christmas decorations in the week immediately preceding Christmas day, preferably on Christmas Eve.

One of my fondest memories from my childhood of Christmas was as a small child in the front room of our cottage in Berkshire, decorating a small Christmas tree on the windowsill, on Christmas Eve.

It was dark and could hear the church bells ringing and the singing of carols from a group coming down the village street.

On the opposite side of the very wide village main street was an old fashioned street lamp. I looked up and to my delight saw that it was snowing and there was a white covering on the ground. I could have sworn I also heard the sound of Santa’s reindeer overhead.

Sweet rationing was still in operation then so the stocking on Christmas morning comprised of the treat of an orange, with a new penny in the toe, an apple, and some generally useful things such as pens, pencils and even a small toy.

I thought I was the luckiest child in the world if my Christmas present was a book, which it usually was. I have no close family left now but many happy memories of Christmases past. A kind friend asked me to spend Christmas day with them this year.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, I drove over to Knaresborough, en route to Ripley, where I’d been invited to participate in the talking newspaper for the blind in the Harrogate area. I arrived somewhat early at Ripley Castle, which I had passed many times but had never been to. I went into the shop and promptly found the most fabulous display of wonderful things, most of which I at least coveted, and some of which I purchased. If I want to buy Christmas gifts, I shall return there. Then I grabbed a coffee from the café (and a piece of delicious cake) and soon met up with the group who do the newspaper.

The lady, Sandra, seemed rather familiar but I meet a lot of people and I was still trying to identify where we’d met before when she mentioned where she’d been in the early 70s. Talk about a blast from the past. We’d been quite good friends all those years ago, having both served in the Hampshire Constabulary at the same station.

I duly did my recording for them and have been asked to return and do some more in the future.

I took the dogs for a long and very muddy walk the next day and then drove down to Beverley, where the manageress of a couple of charity shops there had some ties for me. I seem to have an awful lot now, as I’ve had several gifts of ties sent to me, some through the church, and some posted to me. The post office and the postmen here are wonderful and have correctly identified the recipient of these parcels.

My handyman came the next day, and re-laid my study floor and did some decorating, and now I have a very neat study, that is partly redecorated and I have so enjoyed replacing all the books neatly on the book case.

Some of us from the Pocklington Singers sang at a Christmas dinner on the Friday evening. Saturday was the Christmas Fair at the church and I spent the morning helping there, and in the evening it was The Messiah.

We didn’t just have a full house, we had an overflowing one, and although there were a couple of minor errors it went fantastically well and I, for one, really enjoyed it. We even had the Mayor and local dignitaries there.

As is tradition, everyone stood for the Hallelujah Chorus and the church, which is quite large, resounded with the music. The four soloists were wonderful as was the trumpeter.

By the end of the evening I had very little voice left, but it was truly a great start to the festive season. We made over £1,000 on ticket sales, which is magnificent.