Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Christmas

It has been many moons since I last wrote about Christmas in Kingsley and, I suspect,new people have moved into the village and others will have departed. So it might be of interest to those who did not read the original article to be able to compare todays Christmas in Kingsley with how it was sixty odd years ago. 

In those days Kingsley had a school, a shop, a post office and, of course, the dear old Cricketers. It also had a second pub, the New Inn, at the eastern end of the village near Sleaford. As with most villages then and, I suppose to some extent now, the three main institutions which were responsible, in various measure, for village activities were the Church, the pub and the school. This was particularly so at Christmas. Before breaking up for the Christmas holiday the school would have been involved with the Church in putting on the Nativity play which took place in the church and also the Christmas Bazaar both popular events. 

A short while before Christmas, usually on a Friday evening, the Cricketers would be the place to go when it paid out the Thrift Club monies to all whom had been a part of that scheme and taken the opportunity to put a few pounds away for the festive season. 

In general terms people did not decorate their homes and gardens in the same way as today. Decorations were for indoors and, of course, electric lights were not available as they are now. Christmas trees were then lit with small candles which fitted into little holders which clipped to the trees branches. I can't imagine anything like that being sold today, just consider the Health and Safety police, they would have a field day. It is worth saying that I don't ever recall anyone burning down their house as a result candles. 

The tree, as far as our household was concerned was sourced locally. By that I mean it was obtained from either the common or Alice Holt forest. The trees on the common were firs with the large needles and a grey–blue colour. In those days there were a lot of firs all over the common which I guess were self seeders as they had not been planted in any order. The trees in Alice Holt were the finer spruce type with much shorter and many more needles. When I say they were sourced locally, they were actually stolen. It was common practice for villagers to go out and cut a tree down, often under the cover of darkness, having made their selection in daylight. Given that we had a village policeman living in the community, this matter had to be dealt with,with some care. The local newspapers would begin announcing, several weeks before Christmas, that tree patrols had begun in Alice Holt forest and anyone caught stealing trees would face the full force of the law. I, from quite a young age, took it upon myself to be the provider of our family tree. I preferred the forest type of spruce so I would take the opportunity of selecting my tree whilst wandering in the woods with a pair of binoculars and notebook consistent with a bird watching trip. Having selected the tree I would wait until there was a wet and windy evening. Then at around eight o'clock I would take a circuitous route to the trees location, cut it down and return by a different route. Never, over many years, did I ever encounter one of the much publicised tree patrols. or, indeed the policeman.

Christmas eve in Kingsley was usually spent in the Cricketers and followed by the midnight service in The Old Church, as it was then commonly known. I refer, of course, to St Nicolas church just up from Bakers corner. People walked to the church in those days and having been in the pub for the evening many of the walkers were in merry mood and conversation was energetic and covered a wide range of topics. The merriment was replicated during the church service and it would become fairly clear which of the congregation had availed themselves of the fine ales for which the area was noted. Alton in those days was a centre of brewing and the home of Courage ales. The cricketer contingent were always the loudest singers and took to the task with great gusto. I don't suppose the vicar ever encountered such dedicated songsters at any other time of the year. It was also the case that many of those singers would not be seen in a church again until the next Christmas eve save for the odd Christening, marriage or funeral !! 

The Cricketers would also be a popular destination at Christmas day lunch time and many a Christmas lunch was tarnished by the twin evils of an over long visit and rather too much festive spirit. Boxing day was the day for walking and many villagers would go for a stroll on that day. 

We didn't have anything like the consumer goodies that are available today and money was, to say the least, scarce but they were good days and people made their own pleasures and life was generally kinder, simpler and safer. All that remains is to wish all who read this offering a very happy Christmas and prosperous and peaceful New Year. 

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