Hello everybody, and welcome to a golden blogmas day three! Today, for our first post, we have the multi-talented Jenni Bayliss-Jennings, who writes across pretty much every age category and excels at all of them, here to chat about winter memories with us. Onto the post!
I have a confession to make, I don’t much care for summer. I suppose it’s not too much of a surprise given that all my books thus far, have been set in either Autumn or Winter. I can’t help it; I am a sucker for the colder months. Maybe it’s because I was a winter baby, born when the ground was covered in thick white ice. Perhaps it’s because all my favourite books as a child were gothic tales of witches and ghosts. Or maybe it is because my favourite childhood memories are of crisp leaves, blustery walks, and a deep sense of cosy which I have spent my adult life trying to re-create.
I don’t remember ever feeling cold as a child, but I know that I must have been. We didn’t have central heating and in the 1970s double glazing was a luxury not afforded by the likes of us. I remember the absolute delight of waking up to find Jack Frost had visited in the night and painted the insides of my windows with leaves made of ice. We had electric bar heaters fitted above the tops of the doors and on nights when it was especially glacial in the bathroom, my mum would fill the old baby bath with hot water and my sister and I – my brother wasn’t born yet – would bath downstairs instead, kneeling in the too-small bath in front of the gas fire in the front room. We would then be wrapped in thick scratchy towels and dressed in pyjamas which had been warmed over the fireguard. It is a testament to my parents’ care, that I remember those days so fondly.
Deepest darkest winter would find my dad regularly teetering on top of a ladder in the garden, pouring kettles of boiling water onto frozen pipes. Or knocking the largest icicles off the gutters, so that they neither broke the guttering nor speared one of his children. It snowed every winter when I was a kid. Thick snow that came over the tops of your wellies. Sometimes we’d be pulled home from school on a sledge. When we got home the gas fire in the front room would be blazing and my mum would be stirring a saucepan of soup on the kitchen stove to warm us up. I am sure it must have been quite stressful for my parents, trying to keep their children warm in such a chilly house but to me those are halcyon memories which I will treasure forever.
There was a toyshop in the Highstreet, a proper old fashioned one, with dolls prams and train sets, Sindy Dolls, teddy bears and boardgames. I used to love it in there. We would go in every single week, not to buy a toy – we only got presents on birthdays and at Christmas and never in between – but just to look around. It felt like the most marvellous treat getting to look at all those toys. It was a dark shop that smelled of dust and new plastic and promise. Only years later did I realise that those weekly trips were so that my mum could pay into the shops save-to-buy scheme; she put money into a pot every week and the toyshop kept it for her so that at Christmas she and my dad could go in and buy all our presents.
Which leads me to my childhood Christmases and possibly the reason I still love it to this day, so much so, I write books about Christmas! Like I said, we didn’t get gifts at any time other than birthdays and Christmas, so Christmas was a BIG deal. Add in Father Christmas visiting in the middle of the night and the excitement cranked up to a thousand! I can remember that enchantment so vividly. It was pure magic. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Father Christmas and his elves and his flying reindeer were real. That utter assuredness still makes my skin tingle to remember.
It was of course, early to bed on Christmas Eve, followed by hours of desperately waiting for sleep to come. I would be so wired I could hardly breathe. But first, we left a glass of whiskey, a mince pie and a carrot on a plate next to the fire. We didn’t have stockings, but we would put a pillowcase outside our door before bed. As a rule, my dad would always be up first on Christmas morning. His excitement meant that he would be shaking us awake at 6.30am, unable to contain himself any longer, whispering “I think he’s been!”
There was one occasion that I woke before my dad. It was still dark, maybe 5am, I was probably five years old. I woke up needing a wee so bad. After lying in bed for a while, wondering if I dared go to the toilet and risk frightening Father Christmas away in the act of leaving my presents, I finally decided I had to take the chance or risk wet pants. As I tiptoed into the hall, I looked down and saw that my pillowcase had been filled. I nearly wet myself there and then. Opening my presents without my parents was out of the question and I knew it was too early yet to wake them. It was just me and the knowledge that Father Christmas had very recently been. The house was silent. The amber glow from the hall light lit scene. I could still feel his magic hanging in the air around me. I knew that downstairs the mince pie would be gone, and the carrot nibbled. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world. I had a wee and tiptoed back to bed to wait until my dad got up. I snuggled under my blankets and lie awake, basking in my secret knowledge and knowing without a single doubt that there was magic in the world.
Thank you so much for reading!! Are you a fan of Jenni’s books? What are some of your favourite winter memories? I’d love to chat in the comments or on socials!
Speak very soon,