George aged 94 was brought up on a farm in Mitcham. An innocent enough statement until you realise that Mitcham is today very much part of London. The family had owned the farm since the 1870s and sold in 1929 to make way for factory and other developments. It must have sizeable because it had 20 odd cows and 70 pigs.
George was the second youngest of seven and by many years is the only survivor . His daughter died twenty years ago,his grand daughter lives in France. His eldest sister Sally a nurse died on a boat torpedoed out of Singapore. Another sister Maude swam the Channel. Both the other brothers were wounded in the War. He still has regular contact with several nephews and grand nieces.
Such were the times that George remembers children coming to school without shoes. He and his brothers shared a bed. But owning a farm meant they were relatively well off and so many came for Christmas that there had to be two sittings.
Events started early as puddings and cakes had to be made. Pigs killed and chickens hung. Until the 1960s chicken was a luxury food. The children made their own paper decorations and although there were no lights on the tree,”we always made it look great.”
“I remember my parents going down the pub on Christmas Eve and always coming back singing. In fact we did a lot of singing. Brother Jack played the drums my Mum and Dora played the piano. My Dad loved to party, we only drank beer and we would have a right knees up, sometimes not ending until 2 or 3. Coming back from the pub they had a barrow which carried the beer for the next day. We were told not to bite too hard on the Xmas pud in case we had a three penny bit. It was a family joke.
On Boxing Day my parents would put all these packets of sweets on the table, each had a number and we would throw a dice to see who got what. I remember once getting a model of Donald Campbell’s Blue Bird car and spending hours winding it up and watching it run. You could get a train set for 2/6(12p). We didn’t have stockings we got our presents first thing. I remember my brothers and I creating games out of cardboard boxes. In those days you had to make your own or go without. ”
I have been visiting George for five years. Each year he announces at Christmas that this will be his last. A lot family and friends came round on Saturday. “They know this is my last Christmas.” But I reminded, as sure as he makes a ginger cake every year, this is what he always says. On the last visit before Christmas we always have a beer. Bless.