Some Youthful Christmas Memories

A cat belonging to David Pinder

Below is a piece of writing my father wrote regarding his early memories of Christmas:-

Being not quite five years old when the Second World War commenced, food rationing and the consequences of, namely with regard to confectionery, i.e. sweets and chocolate, provided me with one of my enduring memories of Christmas.  Specifically, that is, of the measures taken to ensure an adequate supply of sweets and chocolate for the festive period.  The weekly ration for one varied from three to four ounces of sweets or chocolate: choice was narrowed down to a bag of toffees or boiled sweets or a bar of chocolate.  Ultimately it involved self discipline by deprivation for a number of weeks before Christmas.  On this subject, one shadowy memory, shrouded in the dim mist of pre-rationing time, involved me inserting a coin into a slot machine that was situated on a railway station’s platform, extracting from the machine a slim bar of a Nestle’s milk chocolate, and then promptly devouring the the aforesaid morsel with great relish.

Another notable memory was of one Christmas I spent with my parents and brother at my uncle and aunt’s house in Mundesley, a village on the Norfolk coast.  The semi-detached house faced onto a minor road, which led to Cromer.  The rear led directly through unkempt paths and scrub to the cliff and what my Uncle David called the German Ocean.  Resident in the house was a large black tom cat named “General”, who seemed to be possessed of remarkable tracking skills.  On my way to the beech or cliff tops he would, without warning, reveal his feline presence behind the next bush or shrub, preening his silky coat with pride.

General was not the only cat in the home.  There were three Siamese as well.  They were graceful animals, with their smooth coats and slim-line physiques.  Also cheekily confident, as one Siamese cat demonstrated by leaping on to the dining table when we were about to start the Christmas dinner, and helping herself from the dish to a potato by spearing it with a dainty paw.

Christmas card from Les Mollekin

On Christmas Day morning, my memory fails me to recall any gifts I may or may not have received.  There was just one gift I can remember. That was a young cat or kitten, given by my uncle and aunt, who came in a cat box.  I was absolutely delighted.  I was thirteen and never had a cat before.  We named her “Striggles” and kept her for four years, before finding her in the gutter in the neighbouring street to home.  We suspected poison, but nothing came from it.  Curiously, the daughter of the next cat we had thirty years after, met with a similar end.  I found her lifeless body next to our car on the house drive, murdered by car thieves.  Again – not proven.

Another memory was Boxing Day in the family home in Listerdale.  I was aged nine or ten; all were sitting at the dining table in the front room, tucking into the ample Christmas fare.  Taking centre stage was my father’s half-brother Leslie, resplendent in his naval uniform, fresh from the ship, the destroyer H.M.S Dido.

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