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‘A Trifling Christmas Tale!’

14/12/17 · Posted in Uncategorized

Gareth Griffins, Supported Employment Coordinator from Tauranga shares an amusing and heart-warming narrative from Christmas time as a young boy growing up in England.

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Almost invariably each year on Boxing Day my family and I would travel from our home in a place called Heswall on the Wirral not far from Liverpool to my Auntie and Uncle’s house in Blackrod up in the hills near Manchester. This is where my cousins lived.

This particular year, must have been about 1975, I had reached the grand old age of nine. The weather was cold, but as we lived near the sea it rarely snowed a great deal. This was unlike where my cousins lived which could be blanketed in the stuff for weeks on end.

On Christmas Day we traditionally wished all our relatives a Happy Christmas by phone and we younger ones exchanged information as to the relative merits of Santa’s visit that year. This year I had spoken to my cousin, and good friend Alistair, now a top research scientist in the States. We had caught up with the latest Action Man figures and equipment we had received and got onto more serious issues…when I asked him if it had snowed where he lived, to which he replied that it had, and was still falling. My heart skipped a beat as I planned out what we would do on our arrival in this winter wonderland. The conversations ended and my mother reluctantly discussed the arrangements for the visit tomorrow to my Auntie Florence and the production of the much maligned offering of the annual sherry trifle.

Each year without fail my mother would produce a sherry trifle to present to my Auntie Florence on our arrival. The problem was that this attempt to produce a culinary delight was inevitably doomed to failure as it was invariably one that started life in a packet. My mother’s domestic skills in the kitchen were at best, rudimentary and at worst disastrous.

My brother recently reminded me of her take on the staple fair of home grown green beans and courgettes fried with bacon. One day she announced it was a ‘Cowboys Breakfast’, as she had added baked Beans into the mix. Suffice to say the sense of anticipation was not matched by the ‘Western’ themed offering. My mother’s ability to produce a dessert worthy of a family function had truly deserted her. This was not something that eluded my Auntie however, who seemed to effortlessly produce trifles that would happily grace any posh nosh restaurant- an ability that was lost on my mother.

Moving swiftly on with the story… The following day arrived and we were all about to set off in my father’s bright yellow Lada Estate. A car built in Russia for Russian winters of -40 degrees and with a fan heater that produced the same effect as a blast furnace, easily capable of melting eye brows at 40 yards. As we wound our way toward the end of the road a solitary snow flake fell from a leaden sky and my heart leapt as I imagined returning home to snow men and toboggan races down the cottage lined hill of the little village I called home.

The journey continued and my father filled our heads with stories of his own childhood in Wales. More flakes fell and by the time we reached the tunnel that runs under the River Mersey and into Liverpool, children could be seen scraping together handfuls of snow to throw at passing cars. These children were what my mother termed ‘rough’ and ‘common’ types who she said were best not to mix with.

Moving on through the city and into the surrounding suburbs, evidence of snowmen emerged, and they even grew in stature and status as the snow deepened and we reached the more affluent areas. Here children had indulged in using carrots, coal and pipes to stick to huge round heads, instead of stones, and branches ripped from healthy growing trees used by the ‘common’ types my mothers had kindly pointed out to us.

As we climbed up the hills around Manchester the car made light work of the incline as cars and buses slid sideways around us. My father chortled and reminded us that the Russians had won the Second World War with vehicles just like the one we were in.

Eventually we reached Blackrod and all piled out of the car into deep tracts of freshly fallen snow. My mother emerged last with her trifling trifle slopping around noisily inside a glass bowl, freed from the confines of a carefully secured blanket that had kept it in place on the back seat; it seemed to have a life of its own.

After a full roast dinner and of course the annual trifle competition which was awarded to my Auntie on the basis that people actually ate it, we went outside. For what seemed like hours on end we had snowball fights with neighbouring kids, built a snow house (of sorts) and even sleighed to the bottom of the drive, now almost impassable to cars.

As all good things come to an end we eventually returned home along roads that were now only just passable. We made our way into Liverpool and again spotted snowmen whose stature notably diminished the closer we got.

On reaching the surrounding countryside around my home village I noted the snow was still lying on the ground but in other places it had melted and the road was clearly visible. And so we went on until the carpet of snow I had envisaged on my return was merely a dusting, almost a divine after thought.

We finally made our way into the village and things were no better, by the time we made our way into our road the snow abruptly stopped altogether. At this point I burst into tears and cursed the unfairness of it all; much to the restrained amusement of my parents. Well my mother needed something to smile about after the embarrassment of having to return home once again with an untouched sherry trifle.

One Response to “‘A Trifling Christmas Tale!’”

  1. That’s so cool Gareth! A far cry from the melting tarseal and sunburn of a Kiwi Christmas. Thank you for sharing

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