Those of us who grew up in the years immediately following WW2 will know that the children of today receive so much more at Christmas than we did. Nevertheless Christmas was as wonderful and exiting than as it is for the children of today. The postman used to deliver parcels from my Aunties in Scotland -just the knock on the door was a cause for excitement. Nothing compared with the excitement of the night my Father lit the candles, (yes-real candles), on the Christmas Tree and they set the curtains on fire! Happy Days! My brothers and I shared one bedroom and how we looked forward to The Sunbury Rotarians coming round the streets, with Santa!
In due course I joined Egham Round Table; we had a wonderful old truck, painted red, which we called ‘The Runnymede Rocket’. At Christmas time we’d decorate it and do the rounds of the local streets with one of us dressed as Santa. Us young Tablers were welcomed by many of the young mums with perhaps a mince pie, perhaps a brandy, and perhaps -for Santa- even a kiss!
Later I joined the Rotary Club of Chertsey and, like most Rotary Clubs, we collected at Christmas. How I used to enjoy seeing the faces of the young children at their windows as we went by with Santa.
My experiences at Shepperton Aurora Rotary Club were similar. We were allowed to collect at Tescos and elsewhere, and on one night the Lady members toured the local pubs. One lady member was a curate at St Nicholas’s Church -she used to bring her Bassett hound on the street collections so that it had its evening walkie. I recall that one night we persuaded her to be Santa. Sadly one small boy was not fooled by her disguise! “You’re not Santa”, he yelled, “you’re Melanie”
And now I’m in the Farnborough Rotary Club, willing to collect, not so willing to play the part of Santa. Sadly, at our site in Farnborough yesterday, my two lady companions refused to be Santa – so I was lumbered. I’m afraid my grumpy old face and my reluctance to wear my beard (I have a cold) did not go down too well with them! No mince pies, brandy or kisses!
I did however have one memorable experience. A man came along with a younger person in a wheelchair who was clearly very disabled. The man asked if he could take a photograph of me with his companion. I duly stood behind the wheelchair and held onto the handles. The person in the chair took hold of my hand and pressed it against his face, where he held it for a few seconds. I imagine he could not speak – for me he didn’t need to speak at that moment. That brief experience reminded me that we don’t always need gifts, food or drink to make someone happy at Christmastime