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Christmas cinders

After the war had ended, my mam, of course, was not needed in the munitions factory. Jobs were hard to come by and she began to take cleaning work, moving from one place to another. Income would vary from week to week and, as she was reluctant to throw herself on the charity of ‘the parish’ some weeks there was no work and no money.

Christmas was the worst time. Every year my mam would tell us that if we were good, if we ran messages, did good turns and generally behaved ourselves then Father Christmas would bring us something. When Christmas Day dawned it was easy enough to tell us that we hadn’t been good enough, and to put cinders in the stockings that were hung out.

Every year I spent Christmas Day with my nose pressed against the freezing window, watching kids from other families playing in the street with their presents. It didn’t matter how cheap or insignificant their presents were. At least the other children had something, which was more than I had.

My mam had a job cleaning the Methodist church for five shillings a week and I was always dragged along to help her. This wasn’t too bad as it allowed me to have a sly swig of any wine left over from the services. The preacher got to know me and would often give me something to eat.

This particular Christmas Day, upset by the cinders in my stocking, I went to the Methodist church, hopeful of getting at least a drink of the wine after the congregation had left. As it was a Methodist church, I don’t think the ‘wine’ was alcoholic.

The preacher began to ask the children what Father Christmas had brought them, and they all replied, and then he asked me.

“Nothing,” I said.

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