I haven’t a mechanical drop of blood in me, but I loved going to Grandpa’s shed, especially if he was there working at some project which he always enthusiastically described and explained, but also just to marvel at the collections of things he had accumulated over the years and also marvel at how he could remember where various bits and pieces were and what they were good for. Many of these piles of “bits” had a strong “metal” smell. While the various projects such as the “Metal Man”, the Buggy Step collection, the “new” old engine on a trolley were in varying stages of undercoat paint and final coats of strong smelling oil-based paints, there was always a sense of calm and satisfaction that Grandpa could pursue his hobbies in his shed – a place for leisure- that there, Grandpa could ‘unwind’. Though, it probably hadn’t always been so, as there were still some “dinosaur” relics- of old engineering machines, drills and lathes from Grandpa’s earlier working days – in themselves still operative and fascinating. Grandpa’s interest in preserving items of the past was also to be seen in his shed with all sorts of interesting gadgets and essential items from times gone by, all hanging from the rafters.
Having grown into the custom of St Nicholas (celebrated on December 5th), where St Nick leaves a modest gift in a shoe – IF you have been good – my first acquaintance with learning about Father Christmas was at the age of nearly seven years. And, having grown with – “gifts from adults are from Mum/Dad/ Grandparents/Aunts/Uncles”– and it was not customary to ask for specific gifts – I was rather skeptical that an adult (stranger at that) would bring you exactly what you asked for, earnestly told to me by school friends who were surprised that I had not known about Father Christmas. My skepticism “proved” itself to me – that first Christmas, not knowing what to ask for in the excitement of the street party, with people milling about, – I asked the bearded gentleman for a BIG DOLLY. Next morning, a sweet doll, but small, had attached a note of explanation! Henceforth, I did have faith that there was Father Christmas, just not that you would automatically receive what you asked for, and that really seemed right to me.
A Christmas that has stayed in my memory was probably 3 years later – a very lean year for Mum and Dad. Mum had been making all sorts of mention of how – “Father Christmas gets so busy … (and as we lived in a small flat in another person’s backyard) Father Christmas may not know where to find us … and so may not come. I felt sure he would NOT miss us out.
Christmas morning I was up extremely early – more to see “Had he come?” than ‘What did he leave?” And YES ! He’d been! My faith in Father Christmas was vindicated. He’d left me a manicure set – very like one I had seen and loved in a Barber’s shop nearby. It follows that the whole family was up then. It was still early, probably around 7a.m. and already warm.
Dad took us (three kids) to the beach (West Beach)- it was heavenly – then home and mum had breakfast ready for us – and really, memories of the rest of that Christmas are mixed up with lots of others – I’m not clear on other details.
I still have the manicure set
“Let’s go camping….”
It seemed like a good idea at the time… “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” chorused all the kids. Mum was a teeny bit less boisterous. Our friend had converted a back yard trailer into a “campervan” (a hugely, over exaggerated name for the ‘Convenience’. Two adults (mum and Dad slept in the body, with a kid, little brother, in the middle) and 1 kid on each side ‘flap’. It had a canvas cover tailor made by Ken Major, and had 4 poles approximately 8feet long, fashioned from the heaviest wood imaginable – ‘cos they had to be strong !!! It towed quite nicely, and all our gear packed into it quite nicely – after the poles and canvas had been stacked in. –At the Caravan Park the fun REALLY started. Unpack the trailer, so much gear- it had surely multiplied on the trip. Poles in place into the four holders at each corner of the trailer, and kids and Mum hold them in place. — Now, the canvas over them – too hard, so heavy, OK, poles out, canvas over the poles, then poles into the holders… DEFINITELY too hard, too heavy…
OK , canvas off, poles into holders, enlist helpers from gathering crowd of interested spectators, canvas UP and OVER the poles… YAY !!! – oh oh, back to front, Ok, four strong fellows, into the trailer, lift the poles, and ROTATE, so that the canvas NOW faces the right way — 3 Cheers from the crowd !!! Now, pitch the small ‘A’ shaped tent for the gear. It was pack/unpack each morning and night for a week, but we had the best fun – though we quickly upgraded to a very fine ‘Andre Jamet’ tent the next holidays.