Rosie Clarke on her childhood memories...

Whenever I start to think of Christmas I remember what it was like to be a child after the war. Although very young, I know that presents were not often very much and must have been difficult to find. When my mother found some large composite dolls for my sister and I one year, it was very exciting.  They were dressed in knitted clothes and sat on our beds when we woke up.
 
My mother was herself like a child at Christmas.  She loved the excitement and the magic of all the decorations and our home would be festooned with paper chains, often homemade and hung with silver tinsel and she refused to take them down for months!  In later years there was so much tinsel hanging from the tree and the chains that it looked like a fairy grotto.
 
When finances allowed, we were taken to Father Christmas to see dimly lit scenes of reindeer and a large and red-faced gentleman, often smelling faintly of spirits, gave us cheap gifts from a sack.  It was the big stores in Hastings that had these grottos and I remember going at least once or more as a child.  My mother loved presents and would be excited opening hers; though I’m not sure she ever got quite what she hoped for.  I think it was a big diamond ring but that didn’t quite happen, though when things were at their best she did have a ring with pearls and garnets I remember.
 
So we were taught to be excited and usually had several little gifts to open, because we had parents who worked hard and were able to give us small things.  Today’s children would probably be disappointed with a colouring book or paper dolls that we could cut out and dress with paper clothes, but they seemed exciting to us, because there was often little in the shops as the country recovered from years of war.  Later, as we became teenagers, things were much better, both for us and for other children and it is a good thing that today’s kids don’t know what it is like to have their sweet ration put in a jar and doled out one or two boiled sweets in a day. And we didn’t get a choice of what we wanted, our mother bought what she thought would last longer and filled us a jar each.  I never ate many because they were always lime, and my sister usually finished mine up. How I longed for a whole Mars bar, but I only ever had a tiny slice until the fifties when I could buy them off ration for myself.
 
However, even we post war babies never knew the hardships of the children of the thirties when the depression made it difficult for parents to provide a meal every day let alone Christmas presents.  So when you’re buying all those lovely treats for your lucky children, remember those who have nothing.  Even today, there are some who may never have had new clothes or a toy.
 
I think we all put our hands in our pockets at this time of year and give to one charity or another, but after that, we should remember that Christmas is a special time for Children.  It is the time Our Lord was sent to us and so we celebrate with those we love and particularly the children.
 
My book has two families at the centre of the story, but as was the case in those days, they looked after neighbours and friends.  If you had enough money to make a dozen mince pies and you knew the elderly couple next door had nothing then you put a little less filling in and made an extra half dozen to take for them.  Flo has a big heart and she helps out where she can, despite having enough to do with her sick father and the cake shop she runs – but it is the children who stand with their noses pressed against her window looking longingly at sugar mice that tug at her heart and stir her to make a special effort.
 
Flo is one of my favourite heroines ever, because she cares.  I hope you like her as much as I do.
 
Have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy your turkey and pud! And if my book about Christmas during the depression makes you feel like spoiling your kids because you can, that’s just how it should be, because it is all for them.

Rosie Clarke