A parkrun Christmas

Photo: Lizzie Coombes , another parkrun friend!

As I enjoyed my Christmas dinner, paper hat at a jaunty angle, basking in the warmth of friendship and good conversation, I couldn’t help reflecting that was it not for parkrun, I would never have met my special guests.

The day had started early, so early that we saw not one single excited child wobbling away on a shiny new bike. We arrived at Woodhouse Moor with nearly 400 others, most of us in Santa hats, tinsel and something sparkly, to run three laps around the park for the Christmas Day parkrun. If you think we were daft in Leeds, we weren’t alone, there were more than 93,000 parkrunners doing the same in 400 venues worldwide.

Our two guests were among the runners. Maika had been with us last Christmas. Our Japanese friend, who we have grown to know and love more and more since we first met at parkrun three years ago and now consider part of the family, stayed with us for a couple of days. She’s an expert in nutrition and loves all food, except mayonnaise, and who can blame her for that, so wanted to help make the meal – and I was happy to let her! Our other guest is also a parkrunner, she let slip that she would be alone on Christmas Day, so we invited her to join us.

So there we were, four parkrunners and James, my father-in-law, who in his day could have shown any of us, including Noel, a clean pair of heels. The conversation was interesting, exciting, stimulating and fun. Gifts were exchanged, food eaten and we celebrated the wonder that is parkrun. Who’d have thought getting up at stupid o’clock on a Saturday morning in all weathers to run around a park could lead to such friendships – and many many more? Thank you parkrun!

Advent window #81

our advent window in reverse

our advent window in reverse

It’s definitely a left brain/right brain thing, that inability to picture how something looks in reverse and then make it so. Heck, I flinch when I see a photo of me with my parting on the wrong side, how does that happen? It looks fine in the mirror. My box of dressmaking rejects is full of pairs of right sleeves, cut from fabric folded the wrong way. And as for maps, let’s not go there, well I certainly don’t go there, I can’t read maps, even if they are the right way up.

So the challenge of transforming the window of our spare room into number 18 of the village’s huge Advent calendar made my brain hurt. Each day in December, someone somewhere in Calverley has decorated a window on the Christmas carol theme. They do something similar in nearby Saltaire, but they are posher, well it is a World Heritage Site.

Drawing on the window seemed to be a good idea and indeed it was for anyone wanting to see the other side of the Little Town of Bethlehem, though it looked fine in the room. Back to the drawing board with the solution at hand, thanks to Noel, who can do the transposing thing and can read maps, though his dressmaking skills are questionable. By doing the design on coloured cellophane, the back became the front and 81 became 18.

Next year I want to be number 8.


God bless us, every one

For a special treat, mum had bought two ounces of potted beef from the butcher’s, peeled off the layer of yellow fat that protected it from the polluting air and made sandwiches with four slices of medium cut Wonderloaf, fresh from the red and white waxed paper.

I was delighted that mum’s terrible baking meant that the buns, had not risen in their little paper cases, as it meant she had to fill the gap with icing, made with real Kake Brand, the waxiest, most flavour-free chocolate covering the 60s ever produced. I loved it.

The buns and sandwiches, wrapped in greaseproof paper and tied with string, were carried to school where the dreary classrooms had been transformed into a banquet hall, with every pupil a guest and every teacher a server.Gone was the sour smell of old cabbage and peppery mashed potato, scalded custard and undercooked jam roly poly. Instead the feast of flavours from sandwiches and buns made by mums that very morning or, for the posh ones with a fridge, the night before and set on the old trestle tables, scrubbed clean and decorated with red and green crepe paper.

Those Christmases at junior school were full of excitement and anticipation. I remember thinking to myself, as I carried the precious packages of food, hoping I’d get to swap with someone who had real salmon paste, real butter and battenburg, that I couldn’t possibly wait for the games to be done, the food to be eaten and Santa to appear.

Santa, who bore more than a passing resemblance to PC Lorrimer, the local bobby, would enter to cheers from the older pupils and excited screams from the young ones and call each of us by name, handing out presents. How did he know I wanted a geometry set, complete with protractor, set square and ruler? How did I know I wanted it? What did I want with these clear plastic toys, with their lines and numbers? Santa knew. He knew everything. He knew I’d used these mathematical implements, some cello-tape, foil and a yoghurt put to make a skyscraper for my dolls.

What days, what fun, what memories. Christmas past, Christmas present and the Christmases to come.   As Tiny Tim said, ‘God bless us, every one’.

Merry Christmas.

Christmas present - the school concert