Issue: July 2019
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Next deadline: August 29


Written by
Published on January 2018

With the village party, the concert and Bessie's and my debut behind us now, Christmas day was soon upon us and to the two of us it turned out to be a veritable wonderland.  

Under and around the Christmas tree, Father Christmas had left packages of all shapes and sizes.  Father Christmas had left Bessie and I each a pair of ice skates which fitted us perfectly.  Now Bessie, Carol and I could skate together but I was in no doubt that Carol would have much more skill than my sister and I due to her being a native of the area, as it were.  When we three ventured on the ice together, I was proved correct.  The two girls had had numerous girls’ gifts whereas I had a long thin parcel and a good sized square box.  I guessed correctly, they were my asked-for beebee air rifle and microscope set.  Uncle George showed me how the rifle worked and at the outset he gave me a gentle warning.  I was not to shoot at birds and if I was found to be doing so he would take it away from me.  The thing about Uncle George – he was very fair in his dealing with us but he was also quite strict and expected us to be fair back to him and Aunt Allie. 

The microscope set was fabulous.  It had some specimen fish scales to examine and what a surprise was included! A tiny piece of gold-bearing rock and in it was a small fragment of gold which had come from the Uniacke gold mines.  This was a special little gift from Grandpa Cole, Uncle George’s father, who lived just around the corner. 

As the days went by my collection soon built up with various flowers and samples of wood from different trees and seeds.  I did try to look at snowflakes outside the house but I had trouble keeping my microscope and slides free from frost.    

With the arrival of Aunt Mae (Aunt Allie’s sister) more gifts were received. I <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--><!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> did sort of anticipate the rifle and microscope but not the skates or the extra long thin package standing at the back of the Christmas tree with Bessie’s and my name on it.  Undoing it revealed a pair of skis, a gift from Grandpa and Grandma Cole.  The skis were not new but were in excellent condition, or, as they would say in Yorkshire, “they were in grand fettle”. 

After the excitement of opening our presents Bessie and I were keen to try out our brand new Bauer skates.  After our turkey dinner with the two Cole’s families and Aunt Mae we made our way down to the back lake (Gladys had gone home to see her folks for the Christmas period).  Skates were soon fitted and us three intrepid skaters struck out onto the ice, somewhat gingerly in the case of Bessie and I, watched by our guardians.  Soon we were joined by other potential skaters of children and their parents and friends and before long it was a welcome venue for many boys and girls and parents.  No television these days.  In the evening after dark we listened to the Lone Ranger and Tonto, and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on the radio.  All our entertainment was self-motivated.  We sang carols, played pass the parcel and recited little ditties like this old Yorkshire saying, “See all, hear all, say nowt.  Eat all, sup all, pay nowt”.  This made Uncle George and Aunt Mae chuckle.  I also attempted to dance the broom like my dad did at leisure time at home.  I attempted to demonstrate and nearly came to grief as I tried to get up to speed like he would and I’m sure he would have been proud of my attempt. ie  you hold your broom in the left or right hand and you hop over it one leg at a time, alternating left and right legs and changing hands at the same time.  My Dad would do this with great speed and skill whilst the family would clap in unison.  My attempts at this brought applause and cheers.  It was not as easy as it sounds when written down.  Bessie and I played “Knock knock who’s there?   Esme.  Esme who?  Esme at on straight" 

Or, Knock knock.  who's there?  Ivor.  Ivor who?  I've a bell on me bike"  This brought chuckles of admiration from the Coles. 

Christmas soon passed and we prepared for the New Year.  As the snow got deeper and eventually crispier out came my skis and I took myself to a slope on the meadow just behind the chicken coop.  Fixing my skis I started off from adjacent the small shed there at the crest of the slope and off I went, albeit slowly, down the slope and found that I was making the mistake of all learners by allowing my legs to drift apart and ended up doing the splits (ouch!).  With tips from one of the workmen I eventually got down without mishap. 

Later on, in the attic, a toboggan was discovered and proved a popular attraction with a payload of three or four passengers.  I went on this particular slope regularly, being near the house, and I ventured out on my own one moonlit night.  I started off as usual from the little shed and as I positioned myself for the downward run I happened to glance at the shed and in one of the windows were two bright eyes appearing to be watching me.  It scared me somewhat as the shed was used (I later discovered) as a slaughter house and the previous day a cow had met its end to provide fresh beef.  I thought the cow was coming to haunt me! (don't forget I was only 11/12 and still fresh from the city).  It scared me to no end and I retreated hastily to the house where I was enlightened to know that the two eyes gleaming at me were that of an owl who had found a rich source of food for itself and no doubt its family. 

I did eventually return to my ski slope a little warily later and avoided looking at the window of the shed and certainly not at dusk!

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