So are you all going 'home' for Christmas? Not necessarily to your own homes, (perhaps like us you are going to spend too much of the holiday on the motorway). We have family on the east and south west coasts of the UK, with a large contingent (the refugees from Scotland and Wales) in the Cotswolds/Midlands. So, there's a lot of driving if you want to see everyone - and a lot of that strangely Celtic phenomenon we talked about a while ago - 'hiraeth', a longing for home. Do you still go home to the house you grew up in? The pilot's family moved all over the world but their house on the Suffolk coast has been a constant for around thirty years. I don't have a 'home' in the same way. The houses my father designed and built are lived in by other families now - Christmas memories are just that, distant, not layered with more recent visits. Which could explain why I long to finally put down some roots and give my children somewhere to come home to.
My parents moved to Devon in 1977. This was the time of strangely familiar sounding petrol crisis, economic depression and unemployment. Everyone thought they were crazy to move somewhere so remote but Dad had been reading all the warning leaflets distributed to each family about how to survive nuclear war and he wanted his children to grow up in a safer place. Canada was a possibility (we have relatives there), but as Mum didn't really want to move in the first place Devon was far enough.
Devon and Cornwall are popular holiday destinations - a lot of our friends now pack their children off to the coast for the summer. Growing up there is rather a different experience. I'm more with Ted Hughes/Sylvia Plath - the wild beauty of the landscape is tinged with something darker, a harshness and 'head pincering gales' as he put it. It is very cut off from the rest of the country - once you're past Stonehenge you are entering a world of superstition and bleak moors as much as thatched cottages and cream teas. The summers are glorious in my memories, the winters snowbound, dark and punctuated by long power cuts.
If you're old enough to remember them, what are your memories of the 70s, and your family Christmases? Dennis Cass made an interesting comment the other day when we were discussing whether 'All the Lovely Ruined Things' is uplifting or depressing as a title. He pointed out that during the 70s, cinema, TV, books all developed a much darker strain - maybe its schadenfreude - when things are tough you want to see people who are worse off than you to make you feel it's not so bad after all? Perhaps it's like our discussion of why on earth all those awful tales of childhood abuse litter the bestseller lists at the moment.
When I think back to the 70s it seems pretty glorious to me. At my daughter's age we were suddenly living in a very wild and beautiful place. We had space, freedom - it was like Enid Blyton - freewheeling through the lanes, riding muddy little ponies, building camps in the wood. We had all the grandparents, aunties and uncles to stay each Christmas. 1977 was also the year I was given my first casette player - up until then it had been those massive eight track or reel to reel tapes. At six I loved Beach Boys, Elvis and Darts. Den Hegerty was my first crush (I know ... the three year old just asked me who the funny man dressed as a dalmatian is in today's video clip). Bizarrely he ended up living near one of my school friends - that he was a close friend of her Dad's seemed just ... wrong somehow. I last saw Den in Tiverton library when I was 18 and had already left home. I bet they're still touring ...
Our part of Devon is a bit like the Bermuda triangle for semi-retired celebrities. The Cure lived in the next town, my brother worked for Rik Mayall for a while, you'd occasionally see the other one (not Tracy Ullman or Lenny Henry) from 'Three of a Kind' wheeling his trolley through Tescos. Fellini's costume designer lived next door to us (I learnt a lot from her), with a husband who fought with Franco. Caroline Quentin ended up buying the house that Dad has never really got over losing. I drove past it last time we were home - Morebath Manor is the model for Combe Grange in the book. My memories of it are fragmentary, the house in the book is a fiction, but rather like my characters start with a grain of fact the places and houses are rooted in truth. One day I want to write a 'Cider with Rosie' type tale about the place - there is a lot of raw material.
TODAY'S PROMPT: How different are your Christmases now from when you grew up? Do you still go 'home'? Have you deliberately set out to have a different life from your parents or have you retained a lot of their traditions and beliefs? Maybe you have moved away, chosen a different life - or maybe you have stayed in the same town. Today why not take some time with your journal and paint a word picture of Christmases past - jot down the images that come to mind when you are thinking about some of your best times growing up. Mine would include: coloured fairy lights, rock & roll, Morecambe & Wise, the smell of indoor fireworks, moonboots, Tammy annual, wood fire, copper chimney breast, mulled wine, prawn cocktail, shagpile carpets. Your word picture will conjure up different things to different people, but to you it will be the key to writing about your Christmas when you are ready to, your sense of coming home.
If your juggling skills could give the Cirque du Soleil a run for its money this is definitely the blog for you. Books, art, music, family life and daily prompts to help you write that book you have in you.