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WARD'S WORLD: Christmas for the fun of it




As I scribble away there is news or speculation on the radio regarding how this year’s Christmas event will happen based on assorted restrictions, ideas with metal scraping on barrel bottoms being included.

The good or reassuring (?) bit is, it’s still being held on December 25 and 26 until further notice. However, it might change, depending on where or what side of the chosen river, traffic roundabout or dyke you might be living at or on.

It’s also a safe bet that a sofa and furniture sale will begin on Boxing Day at 10am, thus keeping with traditional and now long established values we hold so dear as in years to come you perhaps won’t remember if your aunt or granny (if allowed) came to see you at this festive time but you will recall the sofa you bought.

Actress Jean Ferguson and Santa (AKA John Ward).
Actress Jean Ferguson and Santa (AKA John Ward).

However, you still only have another year or two before actually being asked or reminded it wants paying for, following modern purchasing trends based on having it now but thinking or bothering about the minor point of paying for it a few years after.

When Charles Dickens wrote in ‘David Copperfield’: “Annual income £20, annual expenditure £19 and six , result happiness but annual income £20, annual expenditure £20 nought and six, result misery,” he perhaps didn’t consider the price of a sofa.

Christmas has changed so much over the years both in values and the actual spirit – non bottled sort – as it has indeed really gone so commercial although that’s not just the constant advert breaks on the flat screen wonder called the telly.

I did mention recently that I had more enjoyment before the actual festive couple of days as there were so many events that I seemed to get involved with, along with others of the same mindset.

At the time I was a member of a carnival committee that was involved in other events and hence, along with other like-minded carnival organisers and helpers, we joined in assorted events from said light switch-ons to carol singing to visiting local care homes in our festive finery.

I was part of a smaller town’s festive-themed float as we were invited to take part in a larger town event along with many others, with me in my ‘Santa’ outfit.

I have lost count of the many Christmas parades we attended back then as part of assorted town festive light switch-on events – one involved Jean Ferguson (Marina n TV’s ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ sit-com) who was appearing in the town’s pantomime that year, who was great fun, no airs or graces as she considered herself to be just ‘one of the gang’ she told us.

It was quite an enjoyable time with everybody ‘chipping in’ and doing whatever was needed, even though we got rained on, snowed on and generally frozen with frost.

Another regular popular event was taking the carnival queen float, suitably covered in festive lights around various areas in the town, blaring out Christmas music that had quite a following, with many donations going in the collecting buckets.

In one area we always ended up after it was all ‘done and dusted’ at ‘Our Norma’s’ house for hot drinks, mince pies, sausage rolls etc, all served up by the lady herself and her hubby.

Norma was quite unique in many respects as she was one of those kind hearted, hard working people who rarely got ‘a mention in dispatches’ as they say, who did it for the satisfaction of just being able to do it, not for any back slapping or thanks.

The first time I met her was at some event or other where her niece introduced us and I can still recall it as it was perhaps one that does linger in the mind slightly as it went something like:

‘Hello, I’m Norma – not ‘Norm’ as that is what you call a man – so you call me Norma, alright?...’ to which I replied: ‘I’m John but you can call me wonderful...’ to which, and I can’t think why, her husband had a fit of the giggles.

She was such a hard working sort who gave so much to assorted causes in support and help that the list would perhaps be endless if totalled up.

Later when I got to know her better and realised that she did such a lot for various causes but basically unrecognized, I asked her the biggie, as in why she did it to, which the reply was simple: “Why not? – I enjoy what I do without a ridiculous fanfare of trumpets every time I breathe like some do.”

One laugh a minute time was she asked me to pop round to one of her ‘ladies afternoon’s’ she held in the local hall, which I pencilled in the diary to attend.

However, in between that and when jotted down, I was a guest on BBC’s ‘Pebble Mill at One’ (then a popular lunch time TV show) on the same day and being a live show I worked out I could do both but the car might well be ‘panting a bit’ getting to Norma’s bash afterwards.

With a bit of jiggling about in the show running order I followed Glen Campbell (for fans, he sung ‘Gentle on My Mind’ while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar) at the top (opening) of the show.

So I could scoot off soon after to get to Norma’s rave afternoon where bingo was on everybody’s mind.

On the way back I must have been gifted with no traffic hold-ups, straight through and arrived in good time. I was there to give a talk to her charges before the bingo started – a strange combination but it worked.

My ‘sudden’ appearance was not lost on one lady though, who said that just before she got ready to come out, she was watching the telly and “there was a bloke on it and he looked just like you but a bit smaller”. I said I do – or can – look smaller as it depends on what size screen the telly is.

Undaunted, she said she would get “her Reg to measure it when he gets home later” to check, as Norma gave me a certain old fashioned look.

The years have now gone since those happy times and sadly Norma has now passed away.

It’s a safe bet that when the time comes, should you come across anybody organising coach trips, bingo and anything relating to helping others out ‘up there’ it might possibly be Norma. Tip: don’t call her Norm...

Meanwhile still no word from Reg about their telly screen size.



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