Christine Grahame: The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future
Yes I'm in a Dickensian mood today and why not, it's Christmas after all and it's is not just about online and Amazon but about reflecting and evaluating what really matters
You see, when I was wee enough to believe in Santa, and that was a few moons ago, the prefab at Sighthill was just wonderful at Christmas. We had no luxuries, no central heating (only Americans had that then), just one fire in the living-room and the rest of the house like the Arctic with frosted ferns on the inside and tartan legs by that fire.
Ah but at Christmas, dad would come home with a real tree, supported by bricks, stuff it into the coal bucket, nae fancy tree holders then, and we decorated it with homemade lanterns and real candles which were lit as soon as darkness fell. From the papier mâché ceiling hung mair homemade paper chains and when I think of it now, I don’t know how the house didn’t burn down.
There was one BIG present. My favourite was a doll wearing sandals, a yellow dress and a straw hat. I think mum must have trawled Edinburgh to find it because I had made it plain to Santa and everyone else, as I stuck my letter up the soot stained chimney, that no other doll would do.
Dad’s thick hand-knitted socks were nailed to the end of the bed and were checked throughout the night until the mandarin, Smartie tube and coloured crayons were a signal that Santa had been and we could rush downstairs to find the dolly with the straw hat and my brother’s clockwork train set there right where “he” had left them beneath our highly flammable tree.
Later Granny Grahame and Uncle Dod would arrive for dinner to a heaving table where there was wine and dad had polished the Mackintosh Reds within an inch of their skin with the smell of roasting turkey and the bubble of the boiling pots filling the house.
Now I am the granny, Granny Scotland to be exact. How did that happen? Doesn’t time sneak up on you? This Christmas day I will sit at my son and his family’s table. Yes there will be central heating, and the telly with sales adverts for half-price sofas, kitchens and bargain holidays but there will also be Skyping to Canada where the other granny lives, and yes there will be more than one BIG present but it’s still about being with family and friends.
As for the future? Who knows and do I really want to know? One thing for sure, for the next few days politics though important to our everyday lives – how we care for our elderly, what future we provide for our children, whether we build homes and ensure no-one need sleep rough, provide a living wage for those who work and help those without work to find it, take care of the frail, the sick and the vulnerable, don’t make our living by selling weapons to warmongers, or be party to illegal wars – politics, is parked.
So, a peaceful Christmas and contented New Year to you and let’s hope all those hideous conflicts which every night haunt our homes come to an end and those displaced from family and home find some kind of peace too.
Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale