Friday, 20 December 2013

Advent Diary, day 20 - Gardener’s Christmas Tales (1st of 3)

A scene from “A Christmas Carol”  filmed in Shrewsbury.
This is Fish Street, with the Bear Steps just off to the left.

So, in December the garden is mainly found in a great number of garden catalogues. The gardener herself hibernates under glass in a heated room, buried up to the neck, 
not in compost, but in garden catalogues and books.

Gardener turned up not so much for work as to bring annual Christmas greetings, coming into the kitchen with clean boots, well-scraped on the mat, and ready for a cup of tea, a piece of cake and a long leisurely ramble over the past.

One of gardener’s pet grumbles is the ingratitude shown by kids. He had been telling us his favourite Halloween story, about how he’d given a ‘whole ruck of them’ sweets and bags of crisps, and how the ungrateful little blighters had opened the bags on their way to the garden gate and tipped them all out on the path. “They never got nothing from me any other year!” Gardener snorted in disgust.

“Christmas is just the same”, he continued."Who believes in Christmas today;  people under forty. they don’t even bother to go to Church, do they.”  (Gardener is not in the least religious)

“We were lucky if we got a present, a horange and a napple is what we got. The kids today’d chuck it back at you. Apple and orange is good for you, they tell you years ago. Fruits is good for you. Now kids don’t wanna eat it. If you had a banana they took the skin off you. I reckon if we all went to Church the world would be a lot better place. if everybody made a heffort to go to Church on a Sunday, dress up and go to Church, get to know all your locals and that, it would be a better place, like it did years ago. Like in Wales, see, they had Chapels, they used to dress up, all in their nines, go to chapel and they talk then, they’d get to talking, and they knew everybody in the village, all the scandal like."

"I can see my grandad now, with his trilby hat on and his suit on and his tie and all dressed up to the nines and his wife, granny, her ‘d have her big hat on as well, every Sunday, they’d walk about 2 1/2 miles to the Chapel. That’s the only time her take her pinny off, to go to Church Sunday morning, 11 o’clock like. get back for one o’clock for dinner and that. You’d put your meat in in the morning. and be back for one o’clock."

"The Welsh are more religious than what we are, chapelwise.  I used to go to Sunday school every Sunday from the age of 4 till I was 10 and-a-half. We left then, but up until then, every Sunday morning we was off to chapel, 2 miles away, we’d walk, all of us, we’d do drawing and all sorts, up at Ditton Priors. It’s still there, the little Chapel is.  Then at Christmas, we’d have a big do, in the main big Church, and in the Village Hall, and they used to give us a little present each, more than we had of our parents like.  It was a toy off the big christmas tree and they’d call your name out and you’d have to go to get your little parcel like, up under the tree."

"Mother’d give us a penny and you’d buy a penny stamp see and you’d put it in a book, off a Sunday, then you’d have your penny stamps all in there, I think mother got all the books, well I don’t know who’s got them now, but somebody’s got all the books, because we never cashed them in, so some lucky bugger’s got em or they’ve all been chucked away."

Part 2 to follow tomorrow.


  1. Gardener sounds like an old curmudgeon. The kids I know are swell and my grands love oranges. Dianne

  2. Does he believe himself, or is it a ritual grumble?

  3. Your ear for speech is phenomenal, Friko. I could hear Gardener grousing happily away over his cake and cuppa. :-) Roll on, part 2....

  4. Bless his little cotton socks - Gardener's a one-off. I never tire of hearing about what he's been up to. Wish him a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from his hundreds of blogging fans. Happy Christmas and New Year to you and Beloved too.

  5. We love apples n oranges here - not so much bananas, but will eat them. I love your posts. Looking forward to part 2 - cheers, Eh :)

  6. From listening to his rambling/ recollections I'm thinking Gardener has to be well into his 70s - does he have grandchildren he can tell all these stories to? Looking forward to part 2.
    If we were lucky we'd get an apple orange some nuts and maybe a coin in the toe of one of Dad's socks - no big stockings in our house.
    Merry Christmas Friko - thank you for your author recommendations, I'll be trying some more of them in 2014.

  7. I love Gardener! His rant is epic! I wonder who would play him in a movie? He's definitely movie fodder, I think (in fact a lot of your blog posts are!). I can't wait to hear the next part. And it's so well told -- are you sure you weren't recording him, for I can hear him clear as day, right here!

    We always do an orange in the toe -- although, these days it's clementines! The socks are one of the best parts!

  8. Ah,yes, the good ole days. Nice that we just remember all the good parts.

  9. Mandarin oranges in the toe of the stockings, nuts and a candy cane - we still do it and the kids act like they've been given the moon.
    I can just picture the kitchen, the mugs of tea, plate of cake and the sound of the voice..........
    Looking forward to Part 2.

  10. ha. gardener is an interesting character...and there are def some things that i am sentimental about...a simpler holiday is not a bad thing...smiles...

  11. Friko, your capture of Gardener's Christmas reminiscences is so beautifully done. Yes, some of what he says over the tea and cake is edging towards outrageous, yet, there's much to recognize in all his words taken together.

    A tangerine could be reliably found in the toe of "my" stocking hung by the chimney with care. I was aware early on in my young days that Christmas morning was not all about "riches" to be found under the tree. (My cherished lovely Christmas dolls were given me by my dear Great Auntie, who also taught me to knit.) Christmas was more about decorating a tree, helping my mom with her baking, having some time off from school (!) and several church services. My favorite was the evensong service on the last Sunday of Advent...with its Lessons and Carols. My brothers were part of the boys choir. There was no girls choir.

    Let me stop this travel down memory lane now. More for us to perhaps talk about when we next meet.


  12. a horange and a napple, that made me laugh.
    I remember Christmas parties from the company my dad worked for. There'd be games and food in a big hall rented for the night and at the end we'd all sit by the big tree while someone's Dad in a Santa suit read out names and we'd go up to collect a small gift.

  13. Although I am nowhere near Gardener's age, I can be just as miffed over someone showing ingratitude. For instance, the other day, on request of the local school's librarian, I helped a girl with her presentation for her English class by sending her some notes I had made about that particular subject. I never heard another word, although I know fhrough the librarian that my email arrived.
    When I was a kid, I can't remember ever having received a Christmas present other than at home on Heilig Abend, from my Oma and Opa (they were always there with us) and my parents, and from some aunts and my godmother.

  14. Hi Friko - yes .. I could hear Gardener with his dialect and phrasing .. and can see him - wrinkled, burnished, but oh so hardworking throughout his life .. bet the kids taunt him during the rest of the year, and take the mickey out of him.

    Sadly - I can believe the kids would throw 'the money' away ... I've seen people give their sandwiches to 'homeless' people in the street - only to see an inspection take place .. then a disgusted throw!

    I just remember how we all kept everything - things could always be reused somewhere along the time of life ... things were money, and money was hard earned ... values are somewhat diminished now-a-days ... I too related to Librarian - having been asked to help with someone's daughter's project in the States ... not a word since - it took up quite a lot of time, as I tried to present some quality information ..

    It's good to have the memories ... and we're lucky with the education we've had ... enjoy perusing those gardening tomes! Listening to some wonderful music in the background ... and I'm so looking forward to part 2 - Gardener is a classic ... cheers Hilary

  15. maar het blijft altijd een mooi verhaal.

  16. XMas ... yes ... welcome ... but also Winter Solstice ... welcome ... sun ... smiles ... Season's greetings, Friko ... Love, cat.

  17. It's like the classic grumbling you'd hear years ago in Spain . Older people, would moan that everything had been better under Franco .... to which the only reply was ," Well yes , you were younger then ".

  18. I am really enjoying these grumblings......he can visit me any day...I could listen forever
    such an interesting an interesting way
    and I rather think he is religious in his own way

  19. There's been ingratitude for years, and gratitude as well. I'm impressed by the thoughtfulness of some of the students I work with. Others, well, they fit right in to Gardener's grumbles. Does human nature change with the times? I don't think so.

  20. PS. I just posted my annual Christmas Eve story, if you'd like to have a read…


  21. Loved this bit..."That’s the only time her take her pinny off, to go to Church".
    I don't agree with him that the world would be a better place if we all went to church - we've seen the revelations of terrible abuse by the church, and the coverups etc. It is nice to be sociable, however, and to talk to one's neighbours.
    Ingratitude...drives me mad! I've always insisted that my kids say "thank you", it has driven them mad, but now they are adults it comes naturally to them, and they have lovely manners. A little manners goes a long way. I would not go out of my way for someone who in the past didn't acknowledge a favour done, but I absolutely would if someone just has the good manners to say "thank you"; costs nothing!


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