My grandmothers large extending mahogany table was the centre of those
Christmas events, with around 16-18 shoulder to shoulder around it, once in place
you were there for the duration for how could you make many people get up and out
of the way so that you could dismiss yourself. As children, we were better served by
our smallness and would slide under, to escape or just to enjoy, the crawl slowly
along between the ranks of legs trying to remember which belonged to whom. Once
the meal, which to me, seemed to last for hours, was over, aunties and cousins
darted around back and forth, clearing it all away, it was then time for the card
games and back everyone sat, other than those few brave souls who decided to
decline to the accompanying joshing of spoil-sport, and such like.

A simple glittery glass chandelier hung down over the centre of that table. This had
to be lit with a match as electricity had still not entered my grandmothers world,
even in the 1940's - the gas hissed casting light and shadow over the glass prisms
and cast further shadows around the walls. Lighting up time arrived long after the
room had been allowed to become gloomy with the only light flickering from the coal
fire which, - apart from the kitchen range, black and slumbering for the most part,
and the boiler in the scullery - was the only means of heating in this very cold damp
house. Lighting the gas mantals was in the province of my 'live at home aunt' and
was done with a certain amount of ceremony, and usually in response to calls from
varied visiting family for 'lights Doll, lights' and she would bustle in - after a few
shouts off stage as to where the matches were - matches in hand and with a fierce
determination to refuse all offers of help and unwanted advice from siblings, should
the gas dare refuse to flare, in fact the whole affair did seem to be a finely tuned

This page last modified on Saturday, September 13, 2008