What could be a more wonderful Christmas gift than your life story, written for you by a professional writer and printed in a beautiful volume to share with all your family and friends? Talk to us about giving a ghostwritten life story to one of your loved ones this Christmas.
Christmas itself is often a source of rich and comforting memories. The sights, smells and sounds of Christmas evoke our childhood years more powerfully perhaps than anything else.
Many of these memories of Christmases gone by have been shared by our clients in their biographies. To put you in the festive mood, here are a few of our favourites:
The Pillowcase Pud
We had an auntie who made the Christmas pudding every year. She was my mother’s sister-in-law, married to one of my mother’s half brothers. This auntie taught us all how to make the pudding. It was a family ritual. She would pick a day to come over a few weeks before Christmas. My sisters and I would all be waiting for her to watch how she did it.
Mam would save up the dried fruit for months before the pudding was made. The suet did not come in a packet. She would buy a lump from the butcher, which she had to cut up into small pieces. Some people were lucky enough to own a grater, which would save a bit of time.
Nothing came in packets. Everything was sold loose by weight. My mam bought raisins that came with the pips still in them. On pudding day it would be one child’s job to slit each raisin and carefully take the pips out. While that child was taking out the pips, our auntie would say, “Now, while you’re doing that, keep whistling.” This routine went on year after year until one year, my sister Rita asked,
“Why do you always tell us to keep whistling?”
“Cause then I know you’re doing the raisins and not eating them,” said our auntie.
Breadcrumbs were made from collected pieces of very stale bread, which were painstakingly crumbled up. Our auntie would stir up the breadcrumbs with the dried fruit, sugar and the suet in an enormous basin. She would then add a small bottle of brandy and Guinness to the mix.
When the pudding mixture was well combined, our auntie would take sheets and sheets of greaseproof paper. This would be laid out and carefully greased on our 12 Apostles table, and we would watch agog as she poured the dark sweet mixture on to it. Then our auntie would carefully gather up the greaseproof paper, twist it and tie it up to make an enormous pudding. When it was secure the whole thing went into a pillowcase, which would be full to bursting with the delicious mixture. The pillowcase was also tied up with string before our auntie lowered the whole bundle into the leg of mutton pot, in which it would be boiled for several hours over the open fire. Afterwards the pudding would be taken out of the pot and hung from a hook in the ceiling until it had dried out. Then it would be taken out of the pillowcase and the greaseproof paper peeled off to reveal a perfect sphere. The pudding would then be wrapped in clean greaseproof paper and kept somewhere dry until Christmas Day. The smell that filled our flat at this time was fantastic. On Christmas Day our mam would boil the pudding again for several hours. It would be cut in pieces from the middle like a cake and served with custard, never cream or brandy sauce. The enormous pudding would last for weeks. Sometimes we would each have a slice for tea, fried in a bit of butter. Lovely! (©Ellen Philomena Hayes 2014)
Being born at the start of the war, I had known nothing but rationing and basic wartime food. One Christmas, Papa brought home a US Army tin of ham. Christmas dinner was a feast of this tinned ham and potatoes that had been sent by some relatives in the country. All the neighbours were invited to share in what to me seemed an extraordinarily decadent meal.
Like good food, toys were a luxury. That same Christmas, my father made me what I thought a marvellous toy—a little pull along car fashioned from a plank of wood, four cotton reels and a piece of string. I played with this makeshift vehicle for hours, probably more than I played with any other toy during my childhood. It was without doubt the best Christmas I have ever had. (©Robert Jeffcock 2017)
The Home Guard Christmas Party
One of the great delights of my childhood was the Home Guard Christmas party. Each year this was held in a large hall in the local barracks. I would attend with my father and Betty while my mother stayed at home with my siblings. There would be trestle tables set out with lots of food and we’d play games such as pass-the-parcel and musical chairs. I would be so excited about the food. The sandwiches would have little flags on toothpicks which described the fillings, and I just loved the anticipation of guessing what flavours there would be. (© Shirley Davis 2016)
Christmas with the Bishop
The family were most gracious people, and one year I was invited to accompany my elderly patient, who by that time was very senile, to Christmas dinner at the bishop’s residence with them.
We arrived to be greeted by the bishop himself. There were a couple of archdeacons and a couple of canons and three other fully-fledged bishops there along with their respective wives. In total, there must have been about 25 of us seated around an enormous table for the meal. The bishop’s son was seated on one side of me and the elderly lady was seated at the other, as maids brought out one mouth-watering dish after another. The food was presented beautifully, and I had never before been to a Christmas dinner where there are two turkeys on the table. The bishop carved one turkey while somebody else carved another. Wine was flowing like water, and altogether it was a most enlightening experience. After the hors d’oeuvres, while we were still on the soup course, I told the story of how, as a young girl, I had gone for a job as a kitchen maid at the bishop’s palace, Rose Castle. It caused roars of laughter around the table. All the bishops guffawed in amazement at the idea that I, now sitting at the table as an equal, had once almost been in service to one of them. (© Sally Kendall 2008)
An Unusual Stuffing
Claire had friends and relations in Ireland. When she had left South America and come to live in England they felt that they were near her and would send her things. One Christmas, they sent her a turkey. One of the relations was working in a shoe shop on Bond Street, so they had this turkey sent there and I went to pick it up. It was in a large cardboard case with a handle in the middle, and it weighed a ton. I walked from Bond Street to Shepherd’s Bush with this case, not having money for a bus or taxi. It was a very long way to carry this great bird. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it, but I was young and strong back then and you do what you have to, don’t you?
When I got home I opened this box and it was full of apples as well as the turkey. What we didn’t realise was that Claire’s auntie had put precious black-market nylons inside the turkey, so we cooked this bird, nylons and all! (© Elizabeth Osborn 2007)