by Jeanne Hambleton © 2008
NFA Leader Against Pain-Advocate

Over the holiday period I read an article about re-cycling unwanted Christmas presents and the writer gave instructions not to give the gift back to the person who had presented it – unless you wanted to lose their friendship.

She even warned you should unwrap the gift for fear there could be a tell tale message inside – maybe an endearing note, not for everyone’s eyes – h’mmm. It seems one person had a special shelf in her cupboard where she kept such gifts with reference to when and who gave her the gift – obviously she was well organized and not looking for any embarrassing situations. I bet she was a pretty lady ‘what lunched’ with no children, no career and a well-to-do husband.

Somehow it is not something I could bring myself to do. Personally I think I would rather donate anything I really did not want to a raffle for a worthy cause. If you belong to any groups they are always crying out for raffle prizes to help meet their running costs. It is a bit like unwanted raffles prizes – mine go back too. I suppose there is always a chance the person who originally donated that prize as an unwanted gift might win it back – and so it begins again. I once donated a rather unusual beauty bag I had with some products I purchased. I saw this come back to the table twice. Glad I did not win it again.

I have now seen an article about someone selling her gifts on eBay including presents she bought for her son who did not want them. Apparently this is a huge market with much sought after games raising big money. All I can say is spare a thought for the poor children in poverty stricken areas in the UK and in deepest Africa who had no toys or presents at Christmas. Some starving children are lucky if they even got food on Christmas Day or any other day. It would be nice to think they might benefit – but of course they don’t.

As a small child I cannot remember an abundances of toys (or even a Christmas tree) – and the few things I got – about 3 at the most – I could not bear to part with. These went to bed with me, stood nearby when I was bathed – they were so precious. I had a small black doll in a yellow knitted dress, bonnet and booties, no teddy bears, a second hand tiny dolls pram, five stones (a game we played in the gutters), a whip and top and a ball. My Dad gave me some sash cord for a skipping rope. That was not all at one Christmas either. When I complained about what other children had and all their toys, I was gently reminded we did have food on the table every mealtime and to be grateful and this was true.

Of course my children had a very different time – endless teddy bears, stockings filled with bits, a big toy and lots of smaller toys – and it appears this has not changed with the next generation – and there was food on the table. But are the children today any happier – I think not.

How many things have changed? They call those the good old days. Looking at the UK today, I am beginning to think they were.

There were good times. Britain was a United Kingdom. Folk would help one another. They were willing to share with you if you had none. Children were well behaved on the whole – knock down ginger was very naughty. (We would quietly attach cotton to several front door knockers and then run down the street breaking the cotton and knocking the doors). It was such fun to see everyone come out of his or her front door to find no one there. We used chalk on pavements and danced around the squares and numbers playing hopscotch.

Children stayed at the dining table until everyone had finished eating and then asked permission to get down from the table. Everyone said hello and goodbye as they arrived at the house or left. The children respected their parents, grandparents, elders and their teachers. We hated getting the cane, a smacked bottom or clip around the legs. Obviously the children had squabbles but that was nothing a smacked bottom and straight to bed, would not fix.

There was no television or mobile telephones. We did enjoy radio broadcasts and the big fights from Madison Square Gardens, USA. We played cards, dominoes, shove ha’penny, draughts as a family. My Mother’s favourite music on the radio was Henry Hall and his orchestra with Betty Driver (barmaid in Coronation Street ITV soap) as the main singer. In those days the radio broadcast one band and one singer with lots of tunes – Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Little Man You’ve Had a Busy Day and more.

I was often taken to the pictures (cinema) as a very small child. There were several picture houses to choose from. We always walked, as there was no money to go to the pictures and catch a bus. For my Mother this was her escape from her drab existence. Watching the Hollywood glamour movies she would lose herself for a brief while in a world of fantasy. Oh, how she loved Fred and Ginger! I also remember she was an avid reader of romantic novels and I would be sent to collect the ‘new issues’ from the library at the newsagents. That was Aunty Glad’s shop. Any little luxuries came from collecting cigarette or Brooke Bond tea coupons.

We all talked to one another and had real conversations but I was expected to be quiet while my Father ate his meal. We did not have a telephone in my home until I was 18 years old and working for newspapers.

Doors and windows were left unlocked – very few folk had cars so there was little pollution – almost everyone had a pushbike in the family, which everyone used. We could catch buses – running every five minutes, trolley buses, trams, the Underground or we walked a lot. We had small gardens, but lovely parks and municipal swimming pools at cheap prices. We did not get away on holidays but we would spend the day at the lido lying in the sun and dipping in and out of the pool.

Then there was Ally Pally – Alexandra Palace and it’s lovely gardens. This became a roller-skating rink and later an early TV studio as it stood on high ground.

I was married with one child before I passed my driving test (first time) and had my own vehicle – a brand new red Ford van. I then lived in Romford, close to Dagenham, home of the Ford. What else would I drive but Ford? This was life in North London half a century ago.

So as a child I was taught to respect other people and their property, to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ all the time, not to tell lies, keep clean, be well behaved and give up my seat on the bus to an elderly person. That was not too much to ask of a small child and I think those teachings served me well. In spite of financial hardships I was always clean, warm, well fed and had a happy childhood. I would change nothing.

This brings me rather nicely to a story of a mother who was trying to please everybody. It made me smile and reminded me of my days as a member of the PTA (Parent Teachers Association for the school your child attended). We were always being asked to bake cakes.

Have you ever told a white lie? You are going to love this, especially all of those who bake for church events.

Alice Grayson was to bake a cake for the Baptist Church Ladies’ Group in Tuscaloosa but forgot to do it until the last minute. She remembered the morning of the bake sale and after rummaging through cabinets, found an angel food cake mix and quickly made it while drying her hair, dressing, and helping her son pack for Scout camp.

When Alice took the cake from the oven, the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured. She thought, “Oh dear, there is not time to bake another cake.”

This cake was important to Alice because she did so want to fit in at her new church and in her new community of friends. So, being inventive, she looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake.

Alice found it in the bathroom – a roll of toilet paper. She plunked it in and covered it with icing. Not only did the finished product look beautiful, it looked perfect.

Before she left the house to drop the cake by the church and head for work, Alice woke her daughter Amanda and gave her some money and specific instructions to be at the bake sale the moment it opened at 9:30 and to buy the cake and bring it home.

When Amanda arrived at the sale, she found the attractive, perfect cake had already been sold. She grabbed her cell phone and called her mom.

Alice was horrified – she was beside herself. Everyone would know! What would they think? She would be ostracized, talked about, and ridiculed! All night, Alice lay awake in bed thinking about people pointing fingers at her and talking about her behind her back.

The next day, Alice promised herself she would try not to think about the cake and would attend the fancy luncheon/bridal shower at the home of a fellow church member and try to have a good time. Alice did not want to attend because the hostess was a snob who more than once had looked down her nose at Alice because she was a single parent and not from the founding families of Tuscaloosa but, having already RSVP’d, she couldn’t think of a believable excuse to stay home.

The meal was elegant, the company was definitely upper crust old South and, to Alice’s horror, the cake in question was presented for dessert! Alice felt the blood drain from her body when she saw the cake!

She started out of her chair to tell the hostess all about it, but before she could get to her feet, the Mayor’s wife said, “What a beautiful cake!”

Alice still stunned, sat back in her chair when she heard the hostess (who was a prominent church member) say, “Thank you, I baked it myself.”

Alice smiled and thought to herself, “God is good.”Alice narrowly avoided embarrassment through a grandiose claim (white lie) made by someone else. I guess the moral of this story is do not lie, not even white ones or you might end up eating your words. Talk soon. Jeanne

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About FMS Global News

Folllowing Rick Usher's death in December 2008, at his request in September of that year, I had agreed, as his principal contributor and an experienced journalist, to run the FMS Global News service due to his heavy commitments to music and raising research funds through this avenue. Following his sad and sudden death I hope to continue his work as he would have wished.
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