We thought we would celebrate this festive time of year by sharing Mr Wade’s Christmas memories with you. Mr Wade filled lots of notebooks with his memories, drawings and poems and in 1996 the Curator Michael Jessop compiled them together in the book ‘Days Far Away’. The following extract is from that book:
“The whole week before Christmas was one of intense excitement – the excitement of anticipation. There was all the fun of buying presents and Christmas cards. Many walks down the village street to the little shop kept by Miss Faull, a strangely muddle headed spinster and her crazy old mother, who mumbled, and wore a reddish coloured wig.
Choosing our Christmas cards required much consideration. They were heaped up in boxes according to price, although not always in their right box. One would find the same card in two or three boxes at various prices; unfortunately those most delectable with lovely frosty sparkles were all in the highest priced box and seemed determined to stay there. My sisters would make some of their presents with their needles and I would draw and paint some of my cards.
The landscape was covered with pure white snow gleaming in the winter sunlight. We made a lovely snowman out on the lawn. Then Nurse, having wrapped us up in woollies took us for a lovely snowy walk. The village boys had made a scrumptious slide, which I was not allowed to go on, though I managed, when she was not looking, to stamp in some lovely splashy ice puddles.
We returned with tingling toes and fingers to find a heap of evergreens on the floor of the back hall, which Old William the gardener had cut for decorations. Holly with bright red berries gleaming against the dark green leaves. Yew, box and ivy; the leaves still glistening with drops of melted snow. Nurse gathered up an armful of evergreens for the Nursery. Soon the room looked very gay, with holly on the picture frames and some coloured paper chains that Nurse put up over the table with a large red balloon hanging from the centre. In the afternoon we finished off our ‘home presents’, writing the little labels that had pictures of holly on them and tying up the parcels with glittering tinsel cords.
When Nurse tied a stocking to the post at the foot of each bed, we knew it really was that wonderful time, Christmas Eve. We were secretly determined to keep awake to hear the bells of Father Christmas’s reindeer team that draw his sleigh when he comes to fill the stockings with toys but all in vain; in less than no time drowsy eyelids closed over sleepy eyes.
Early awake in the darkness before Nurse had time to draw the curtains, full of eager expectancy, we crept to the bed post over the billowy eiderdown, to feel the exciting bulges in the stocking. Then, when at last dawned the day, what cries of delight and glee as we unwrapped the many toys that our stockings contained, delving down to the toe which produced a fine glowing orange. What an exciting pile of treasures lay on the eiderdown admist the wisps of crumpled paper.
This was a RED LETTER DAY.. The two magic words, Christmas Day, words which thrilled small beings from silken locks to satin shoes and made small feet jump for joy.
The Christmas tree awaited with its spreading branches forming a dark green foil to the sparkling load it bore; tiers of red, green and yellow candles entwined with wreaths of glittering tinsel, the gleaming pendants, coloured glass spheres and starts flashing silver rays as the tapers flickered. The crackers, gay coloured glass birds perched on twisted glass hoops with tails of the silkiest spun glass. At the top of the tree, a silver fairy with wings of glittering frosted gauze, crystal circlet on her brow, diamonds gleaming on her dainty shoes, holding aloft her fairy wand.
Many another fascinating toy grew on this magic tree. It produced watches of solid gold, violins, banjos, boats, white furred rabbits, dolls, a large wash leather cow, ducks and swans to swim in the bath. Round the base of the Christmas tree are many gaily coloured books. ‘Aunt Louisa’s Picture Books’ many with highly glazed covers.
So alas, we must leave our wonderful Christmas tree with goodbyes and goodnights; sleepy but too excited to sleep, small arms filled to overflowing with treasures, tiny fingers clasping tightly some toy specially precious, to be taken into cosy cot and cuddled”.
Days Far Away is still available in our shop and we are currently working on a project to transcribe and digitise Mr Wade’s notebooks. We hope to share more extracts with you in the coming year.
Merry Christmas from all at Snowshill Manor.