Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Timothys Decoration Lights

January 18, 2016

Christmas is well packed away now, but one set of lights, which we don’t actually use, seemed worthy of a blog. These were lights that belonged to my late father in law. My wife remembers then in the 1960s but they may be older. They are still in their rather battered box.

image002These lights were made for a company called Timothy Whites and Taylors. The box says so.


This company had been formed as the result of a merger in 1935. The company was taken over by Boots in 1968 which resulted in many branch closures. In my home town, in the 1960s, the shop was just called Timothy Whites but officially the company had the ‘and Taylors’ as well. The name vanished in the 1980s.

We are pretty confident these lights are at least 50 and possibly up to 60 years old.

They were sold in the days when you got full information and instructions.



We have seen glimpses of the bulb set – here they are.


They came equipped with a bayonet fitting for plugging into a normal (for the time) light bulb socket.

image012 Father in law was keen on things electrical and he acquired a flasher bulb for this set. The flasher bulb wiring in which a bimetal strip could make and break the circuit as it bent when it warmed up. With the circuit broken it cooled down and made the circuit again.


It looks as though the first one had to be replaced.


This had been bought at another now vanished store – Woolworth.


Mother in Law has written ordinary on the box/label to indicate that it now contained an ordinary bulb. It looks as though the flasher cost 1/8. That’s about 8½p.

Although we don’t use these lights, they do work and here they are, still in the box but alight.


And to finish, click here to see a film of the bulbs flashing away.

Nine Lessons and Carols

January 5, 2016

As we reach the end of the Christmas period, let’s look back to the start and an event in my local village. It’s an annual event, a little before Christmas day, and consists of nine readings, telling the story of Christmas along with nine appropriate carols. Most are sung by all but some are for the choir only.

I was there half an hour before the service for amongst other things I do I am a bell ringer and we try to give half an hour of what we think is a joyful sound before the service begins.

By the way, please don’t call me a campanologist. Ologists study something. I don’t particularly study bell ringing. I just do what I can. A couple of bell ringing newcomers have recently arrived in the village which is great. It means we have a fair chance of getting 6 ringers for our 6 bells. In fact this time we had nine ringers present which meant I could step out for one set and take a photo or two.

It’s never easy getting photos of ringers. Churches aren’t very brightly lit and that becomes even less so when only candles are in use. I got the agreement of the team to use flash but please don’t ever think of using flash photography with ringers without permission. It could dazzle and cause a disaster. And keep your distance. Bell ringers know what they are doing and accidents are very rare, but surprises or intruders can distract and damage to limb or even life could occur.

Apart from lighting difficulties, ringing areas are normally quite compact and inconveniently placed. It can be hard to get everybody well included in a photo.


There we have our ringers at work. Where you can see faces you can see the intense concentration. For those who want to know the bit of stripy, fluffy material that can slide through a hand without causing rope burn is called the sally. I don’t know why.


As you can see there is no sexism in bell ringing. It doesn’t actually require huge strength and so anybody can do it although some prefer to stick to lighter bells. Personally I find the lighter ones a bit flighty and prefer the heavier ones.

But this was just the preamble. As a ringer I sit right at the back if I do attend a service. It’s ideal for quietly taking photos.


There’s the candlelit church as the congregation sing ‘hark the Herald’.

And here, down in the choir stalls are the ladies of the choir as they sing the Coventry Carol.


I am not a regular attendee at church services but the church does form an important part of village life and I can feel quite at home there. After the service there was time for a chat, with mulled wine and mince pies. What better than to be part of a friendly community, enjoying a good old sing and companionship?

Boxing Day

December 26, 2015

Traditionally this is the day for giving and receiving Christmas boxes – that is presents. For many, these days, it marks a day when people can say, ‘Phew! That’s it for another year’. And in some ways it is a bit like that for us this year. Our children and grandchildren have been with us in the run up to Christmas and on Christmas day. Today they head off to see what I’ll call the in-laws. Next year it’ll be done the opposite way around. But this year, and, indeed, into January, we’ll keep decorations up until 12th night.

Back in 1953, when I was but a nipper, it was my grandparents who came to visit us.

image002This was my childhood dining room on Christmas day in 1953. We are about to eat our Christmas pudding. I expect my mum made it, but granny, with as big a grin as I ever remember her having, has taken the knife to it and is preparing to serve it out whilst Grandad, dad, mum, me, brother and sister look expectant. Well, I expect I looked like that, but my back is to the camera so I can’t really tell.

But now to two happy young ladies enjoying a nibble of something in Christmas 1961.


This is my wife and her sister. Behind them on the old telly we can see the base of their artificial tree which sister in law still has.

I wonder what grandchildren might do with photos taken yesterday in fifty or sixty years’ time.

Dad in the paper

December 24, 2015

Dad getting a mention in the local paper where we lived was not unusual. Dad was always involved in voluntary work, usually of an educational or social kind. He never got involved with politics in terms of becoming a councillor. In those terms he and I have similarities, but once, I recall, Dad was referred to in a paper as the Pooh-Bah of Crawley. For those baffled by this, in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, ‘The Mikado’ there is a lord high executioner and a lord high everything else. This character had the name Pooh-Bah. Dad was being classed as the lord high everything else. Well he certainly was closely involved in many local activities.

And that meant his thoughts and opinions were sought – including this article published before Christmas 1959 in the Crawley Courier.


I think it says a lot about me!

Second Hand Books

January 16, 2015

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without second hand books.

I’m not anti electronic book readers. I can see they have their place and I think the screen displays are good – not bright and glaring but actually quite restful and clear. But they are not for me at the moment and that’s, in part, because of my nerdy taste in books.

The book half-brother Matt gave me back in December can illustrate the point. Matt found a perfect second hand book for me and I rather doubt it would ever be available on an E reader. In any case, this is a book in which you are expected to write. I’m not sure if that can be done in standard E Books.

Matt’s gift looks terribly dull.


It is a very plain looking book. You need to open it up to find out more.


Aha, ‘The Weekend Problems Book’ compiled by Hubert Phillips with a variety of aliases in 1933.

But what are weekend problems?  I understand gents’ barbers, here in the UK, were always wont to offer customers, ‘Anything for the weekend, sir?’  Last time I went to a barbers I was only a lad so the offer never came my way but maybe barbers realised that men had problems at weekends and that a simple purchase might solve them. Don’t write in. I know what was being offered by the barber and it certainly wasn’t this book. For this book contains problems to be solved. Like this one.


Or maybe this one.


Answers come at the bottom in this blog or towards the back of the book.

Another section which will interest both me and my wife is that containing crosswords. These have a title which is an extra clue.


This one is called Salopian which means about the county of Shropshire and that led me straight away to the answer to 1 across. In fact I have the answer in an earlier blog post I wrote (click here). Clungunford is the answer that fits. I don’t expect to solve them all so easily.

And why is this book so suitable for me. Well of course I love puzzles but this is just the kind of puzzle book that my dad had at home when I was a lad in the 1950s. Half-brother Matt was born after I had left home and was married. But he remembers similar books too. In fact he told me he felt a bit jealous giving this one to me.

And now those answers.

Question number 7 the answer is something very familiar to many Londoners. It’s UNDergroUND. Oh gosh – so simple when you know,

Question number 12 – divide the ingot into a 9lb weight, a 3 lb weight and a 1lb weight. Yes, that really does work.


Carol Singers

December 24, 2014

Respect for the ways of others has always been a feature of my family. That includes now, but I’m referring to my childhood family.

I would not have called my childhood home a Christian religious one. We were not church goers although we kids were bundled off to a Sunday School at the very local Friends Meeting House. But music was enjoyed and that always included church and religious music. And certainly we enjoyed a visit from the carol singers as Christmas approached. My dad, who had a good bass voice, often took part for our local ‘Ifield Association’ went carolling to raise funds for the good of the local community. I believe my sister also sang sometimes.

This photo, another from 1954 so 60 years ago, shows the singers outside our house.


Sad to say, I don’t have the names of the members of this group but they look to be having a good time. Dad would have been the photographer for this one and he did well to capture a sharp image. I wonder if he had some kind of flare. Certainly he had no flash gun.

I did like Christmas when it was simpler, much less commercial and not dominated by ‘how to be perfect’ TV shows. But of course, I was a young child then and most young kids don’t notice the stress that events cause parents. Perhaps they were running around like headless chickens just like so many do today.

Back in 1954

December 23, 2014

Christmas has real poignancy for me this year. For the first time in my life I face a Christmas with none of the people I grew up with. When I look back to childhood Christmases I have nobody to share memories with – except that on rare occasions – and usually when I was a bit older, we might have spent a day with my cousins and grandparents. My cousins are still alive.

But the day to day memories that might be shared with a parent or a sibling – they have gone – as far as a topic of conversation is concerned. I find it seriously daunting to be the senior member of my family; the head of three generations and with nobody older or wiser to turn to.

I am aware, of course, that I am not the only person in this situation. I can now recall that my dad and my gran both reached this situation. But it is only now that I am in it that I realise what an impact it has.

But let’s be positive. I have a wife (and I have known her since I was little more than a kid), I have children. I have grandchildren. I have cousins, nephews, nieces and even half siblings. We all have wider circles of friends – and some of my friends I have known for nigh on 60 years. And then I have a lovely collection of blog readers. Many are people I don’t know at all, but they feel like friends.

And I have memories, aided by a wonderful collection of photographs and here is one of them – a photo of a family group of children who were all at the same school in December 1954 – 60 years ago.


I am the somewhat toothless person on the left. The photo was taken by the school photographer. My mum must have known he was coming. I have no memory of normally having to wear a tie to school back then. In the middle is my sister who died back in September this year. Christmas without Paula will be odd this year. Actually she went through quite a long spell of being a real grouch at Christmas. ‘I’m not doing Christmas’, she’d say. ‘We’re not doing presents’, she’d add. And on Christmas day she’d drag her husband out for a walk where she’d meet other grouches who weren’t doing Christmas and declare these folks were the ones who had seen the light and were truly sensible. Just after Christmas and before New Year she’d phone us up and invite them to come and see us. They’d arrive with boxes full of gifts. These were nearly all second hand because Paula traded in collectibles. I have zero objection to second hand goods and gifts. In fact I’m all for it. And Paula always managed to find such appropriate things.

In the last few years she got less grouchy and started doing Christmas again. But alas, 2013 was her last one.

Having said that, compared with my brother, Robin, who is on the right in the photo she did wonderfully well for age. Robin died back in 1980 leaving a wife and two young kids. Robin and I were too close in age to be good friends as kids. I only really learned to love him when he left home. But we still had to spend childhood together – fighting and arguing as siblings do. I still miss him amazingly often. He has a grandson, who of course he never knew, who looks just like him.

I’d better finish this post by saying I feel extremely fortunate with my life. I had loving caring parents, siblings who grew to love one another, and I have had a lovely wife for more than 40 years now and great children and delightful grandchildren. Who, actually, could ask for more?

More shove ha’penny

December 22, 2014

I made a mistake yesterday and published the post about the old game of shove ha’penny which I intended to publish today. So we’ll regard this as a shove ha’penny bonus with a bit of carpet croquet thrown in.

This is my sister having a go at pushing the coins. It is Christmas 2002.


Of course Paula, my sister, won’t be up for a game this year for she died in the summer.

We had a whole range of silly games that Christmas and here are members of the family engaged in carpet croquet.


This is half-sister shoving the ½ds.


And here we see her mum – my step mother. She is much more like my age than the age of a mother!


Happy Christmas past! We’ll certainly miss my sister this year but I’m sure we’ll still have a good time. And half sister, with her two youngsters and step mum will be part of it.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

January 6, 2014

Yesterday was the traditional day (for me at any rate) of packing Christmas away. Many folks tire of Christmas very quickly and they probably disposed of the remnants days ago but in my household we stick to the old traditions.

Before Christmas I was at a party which had a quiz. One of the questions concerned how many gifts in total were given in the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Being of the age where we were taught how to do sums, I quickly had an answer – it comes to 364. Had I been given these gifts I’d have had most geese and swans – 42 of each. As far as I know I am not supposed to have swans, but geese I have kept and loved. Back in 2003 I had just three of them. They were gorgeous, beautiful birds but sadly, old Reynard changed habits and came in the day and thought they were gorgeous tasty birds.


I still miss them, waddling round the field, stamping their feet when annoyed and having long and oh so meaningful conversations with me.

Of the other gifts in the song, I see partridges occasionally here, but not as often as pheasants. Turtle doves I do not see, but collared doves we have a plenty.

I don’t know about French hens, but I used to keep mixed hens – they, sadly, went the way of the geese.

I may not have geese, but my part of the world is alive with calling birds. How about this one – a goldfinch on my doorstep.


It’s pleased I let dandelions go to seed!

There’s one gold ring in the garden somewhere. It’s my wife’s lost wedding ring.

After the swans we move on to the people. I don’t suppose I would ever have been called a maid but I have done milking. I have done drumming as well. I could say I have done piping too, either in the form of plumbing or as part of a recorder group. Dancing and leaping certainly aren’t my thing these days, but I have done them.

But now I can put all thoughts of that song out of my head until next Christmas.

The Christmas Rose

January 4, 2014

Before the twelve days of Christmas are over I ought to introduce readers to ‘The Christmas Rose’.

This dates from what might have been deemed a sad time in family life. I’d have been a young teenager – a good time for not being happy. It’s at about that point we all have to come to terms with the fact that we are who we are and that we are not going to make it as an international cricketer or whatever overly ambitious scheme we might have had. We also have to worry about relationships and wonder if we’ll ever be a success at them.

But in my house I also had an ill mother and I suspect my dad was finding it hard to cope. He knew that her illness was terminal and, like many of us, I think he felt that her illness was a situation he couldn’t control. He liked to be in control.

I think he also felt he needed to provide some degree of a normal life for me.

Christmas is always a difficult time in families where things might not be perfect. It became a bit of a token event in the household.

At some point I had come home from a jumble sale with a red rose. This was an electric light with a bulb inside. For some reason this rose became THE Christmas decoration.

Much more recently my step mother (my dad had a second marriage and celebrated a silver wedding) passed the rose to me. So now it comes out at Christmas as a decoration in our house. It isn’t THE decoration. We have all sorts of items to mark the festive season. Quite a few of them have some family history attached.


There it is, unlit and below it is illuminated.


It may come as a surprise, but this rose still has the power to induce some sadness in me. Somehow it serves as a reminder of family members, notably a mother and a brother who are no longer with us because they died far too young.

But even so, I like to see The Christmas Rose out for those few brief days of the festive season.