Geddington – a life in words and memories – December

As the winter solstice passes and with Christmas in the offing, it is interesting to realise that the same issues took up the Holding sisters’ thoughts in 1929 as they do ours today. Thoughts of the cold and harsh weather to come, preparations of food to keep children fed or to add to celebrations, party frocks to make, the end of a school term and exams, the postman and what he might bring….

Here are Daisy Holding’s memories of a Geddington December in 1929

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..And lastly December..

1st December

Queen Alexandra’s birthday..and also Auntie’s.

sea-shell-spoonAs we salt the vegetables we admire Cousin Flo’s idea of a sea shell spoon. We brought a number from Hunstanton and use them also in the soda and sugar. Today we had spiced shin of beef and veg in the casserole accompanied by suet roll, potatoes, brussels and blackcurrant jam!

I am reading ‘Show Boat’. I love it, especially the parts referring to Queenie’s delightful cooking!! That spiced ham! I can almost taste it. That reminds me how once Grannie Furniss told me the first time she ever stayed all night with Gt. Grannie Croft, they had stuffed and spiced home cured bacon for supper. ..she ate so much it quite alarmed dainty little Gt Aunt Esther who thought she would never stop eating!

Grannie Furniss loves what she calls ‘reesty bacon’ ..not a dictionary word I think but I know what she means. Auntie likes old ‘mealie’ peas and broad beans with tough skin! She wouldn’t thank you for luscious ‘marrow fats’. Little Sister and I ,much to the children’s disgust, always take sugar to soup. Funny creatures aren’t we all?

When days seem full of just juggling with pots and pans, preparing meals that vanish out of sight with startling rapidity, I just think of those women who make housewifery ideal and even holy.

4th December

The children (the boarders at the school) have colds this morning and all look off colour. Exams have started. The little ones had their English paper yesterday. Out of a choice of subjects for composition Joan has selected ‘The Cat’ and has written the life story of Muffy and her family.

Hastily clearing up after dinner we don our outdoor togs and get out for a walk before tea. The winter sun is setting rosily in the west and high in the sky the new moon is rising…  At the Lodge by the gate,the blue smoke curls lazily among tsunset-over-the-crosshe bare beech trees. I always imagine the busy housewife who lives here and opens the gate into the Park has just made up the fire against her husband’s return. Jean and Chassie, little neighbours of ours are out for their airing with Nannie. We stop and chat with them. Now rushing along and hooting at the Park gate comes the Red Mail van. We all greet our friendly postman but he passes us by! Had he any letters for us he would pull up and hand them out with much ceremony.

We have promised our girlies a sweet making orgy one evening. They bring their pennies to save for Mummies and Grannies’ Xmas Boxes which are to be boxes of sweets. They have already started to make wondrous table decorations for me from twigs, pine cones and beech nut husks.chestnuts

The (radio) announcer warned us of a terrific gale and rain, yet as we went to bed all was quiet, clear and bright. Scarcely had we gone to bed when the wind began to howl and the rain pattered on our window. Rapidly it increased in violence. We were restless and alarmed. Quite early we got up for the water was pouring in and we were helpless to prevent it…We stumbled about in the darkness almost in tears.

A cup of tea worked wonders and we set to work with a will to tackle a sink full of dirty pots and pans. There is almost a Christmassy air about these dark mysterious mornings. Piles of brightly coloured sewing, almost tawdry, and breakfast while it is still dark, speak of the Xmas rush.

7th DecemberImage result for 1920s evening dresses

d054 Caroline Holding business cardAfter a wild and stormy night, we gladly greet the morn. Little Sister has three delightful evening gowns in hand. This particular creation is black satin beauté trimmed with diamanté. The bodice is low and sleeveless, pointed at the waist with shaped skirt, short in front and flowing at the back. It is all picôt edged. On the shoulder is a handmade flower with a brilliant ornament in centre. Another delightful little frock is blue georgette trimmed with silver tissue. Perfectly plain tight bodice, skirt dipping at the side and a large, soft silver tissue bow at the hips.

12th December

Just after dinner came the Mole Trapper. I cannot put him up this year.

honestyThe leaves I pressed under the carpet are a great success. They look very lovely arranged in my pottery vases with silvery honesty from the garden, sprays of fir cones and painted beech nut husks.

30th December

It is my Birthday and since writing the above Christmas has come and gone. This has been a busy happy day.

Now I must return to those hectic days before Xmas. As the hols approach the children get restless and excited. Exams are the order of the day and they come home tired and spent. However the thought of hols helps us along. There is so much that must be done, I have no time to prepare cakes, puddings or mincemeat.

We enjoy the breaking up party at St Albans and the children do their play ‘Sleeping Beauty’ very nicely.

marzipan-fruitsOne night we devote entirely to sweet making. We carry the stove into the house-place and give up ourselves completely to this sticky orgy. Oh! You ought to have seen them scraping up the cooking boards and basins.  Next morning we pack up the fondants, marzipan fruits and flowers, toffee-three kinds; creme de menthe, turkish delight and so forth. Mummies, Grannies, Grandpas, Misses Sykes and Sheffield get ornate boxes, all tied up and dressed with ribbons and Xmas labels.

We are all delighted with the gifts and greetings we have received from kind friends. Calendars, Pork pies, Wine, chocolates and sweets!! They all helped to make our Christmas a very happy one. Dainty hankies and serviette bands from a dear friend in China, as well as those from nearer ones, will tell us of kindliness and thoughtfulness throughout the year. But what of those necessaries from loved ones who knew just wellington-bootsexactly our needs? I mean sturdy shoes and stockings, Wellingtons and gloves!

Thank you everyone and may the Good God reward you all.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Margaret Alice Holding.

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