Christmas Past


Like everyone, I suppose, I have very happy memories of Christmas as it was when I was a child.  There are things I miss.  Let me list a few…

  • Unpacking the Christmas tree lights, plugging them in, and finding by trial and error which one had gone lame since last Christmas – because if one bulb went, none would come on.
  • Receiving dozens and dozens of Christmas cards, delivered twice a day by children hired in their school holidays to cope with the tidal wave of greetings.
  • Hanging those cards over strings suspended between lintels and light fittings, not putting two with the same dominant colour side-by-side, mixing up the big and the small, the sacred and the profane.
  • Opening up the big cardboard box (that one of my father’s tailored suits had come in) and choosing which of the familiar sheets of wrapping paper I would use for this year’s gifts to my family. Parcels were secured with string in those days, so wrapping paper could be recycled forever.
  • Emancipating nuts with heavy steel nutcrackers. Hazel nuts were easy; walnuts needed precise application of pressure; brazil nuts needed brute strength, but only up to the moment of fracture or you’d be left with a handful of mash.

Merry Christmas to you and yours – and a reminder to make your nomination for next year’s Stroppy Git Award for Meaningless Twaddle (known in the popular press as “The Stroppy”).  Closing date: 15 January (midday GMT).

Mamma Mia!


Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

I usually follow the film critics’ advice, and often consult the Rotten Tomatoes website before investing my time at a cinema. But I made an exception for ‘Mama Mia! Here We Go Again’ – the sequel to ‘Mamma Mia’ with an all-star cast and the music of Abba front and centre.

The critics panned it but there was a special showing for charity and Mrs SG and I were invited to go with a group. And how glad we were that we went.

It’s corny and schmaltzy and syrupy, yes, and it shamelessly exploits nost-Abba-algia. But if one accepts it as a series of video clips held together by a flimsy plot, it’s brilliant and thoroughly entertaining. In fact, if one thinks of it as an opera, dragging one dizzily through a steamy emotional jungle set to music, it sits at high table. It even features a dead woman, which adds to the operatic likeness.


And there’s another thing. As we left the cinema I found myself thinking of the last-but-one Pixar film: ‘Coco’. Both films celebrate and sentimentalise our place in the river of life – the endless flow of generations, each one building on the experience, the achievements and the follies of all that went before, and honouring them. I find that moving.

Christmas Wrapping


We all remember fondly the rituals of Christmas in our youth. I remember one such ritual with especial fondness.  High in a cupboard in the entrance hall was a wide, flat cardboard box in which a suit had been delivered to my father.  The tailor’s name – Hector Powe, – was on the box’s lid.  Inside was the household collection of Christmas wrapping paper.

I had my favourite sheets, as I suppose did the other members of the family. They were like old friends and I took great care not to damage them with sticky tape or excessive creasing.  They were never cut, of course, so the sizes of gifts and wrappings had to be carefully matched.  I don’t remember new wrapping paper ever being bought.

The tailor’s box and its contents have gone – a casualty of my mother’s downsizing to a flat. But in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet I keep a smaller box with a wide enough assortment of wrappings for my present needs.  Every year some sheets are lost from the collection, to be replaced by new ones from which I have meticulously peeled as such of the sticky tape as I can.  Small blemishes are covered up by ‘From/To’ cards, stick-on reindeer and the like.

My Christmasses would not be quite the same without this.