December, the month children dream about. It seemed hardly had the last firework gone off that we started practising carols for Christmas. Shopping began and with few pennies to spare many of our gifts were homemade. At school we made calendars and cards and looked forward to the school party, but the big event was the Church party. In the afternoon it was the Sunday School party with sandwiches buns and jelly followed by a conjurer or puppet show, but in the evening it was the adult party and if Mum and Dad went so did we. There were games like" Trip to Paris" dressing up in an assortment of clothes, Norwegian Bob and dancing included Roger de Coverley, Palais Glide and St. Bernard's Waltz, again there was supper. It was a night for sliding up and down the Village Hall floor, dancing with the boys and staying up late! My father always played the piano for these events and we always finished with carols and Auld Lang Syne and a prayer from the Rector.
We always looked forward to the Carol Service, decking the church with holly and other evergreens. On Christmas Day itself, as every child does, we woke early to "feel" our stockings and dig into pillow-cases. We usually expected to find a book and game or toy, a selection box in the pillow case and in the stocking an apple an orange and new pennies. At dinner we ate savoury pudding, chicken and trimmings and Christmas puddings and tea was ham and tongue, pork pie, trifle, mince pies and Christmas cake with cheese. Crystallised fruits and maybe a glass of ginger wine completed the fare of the day and we sang songs and carols in the firelight to father playing the piano and went to bed tired and grateful for our good fortune.
And so another year came to an end. Later when we grew older there was the New Year's Eve dance to look forward to, but for me the meadow over the road was still beckoning whether it was full of spring flowers, haycocks, blackberries or hedges covered with frost.
There were many January mornings when I pulled back the curtains to find Jack Frost had been with his icy fingers leaving a delicate tracery of fans and leaves all over the window panes to the extent I could not see my meadow across the road. Those were the days before central heating and double glazing when you shivered crossing the landing to the cold bathroom, where your toothbrush hung frozen and the face flannel was stiff with cold.
Sometimes the pipes were frozen up and this meant no fire in case of a burst, but most mornings when I arrived downstairs the fire in the living room was blazing, my clothes were warming on the fender and there was porridge in the pan on the stove thick and hot waiting to be consumed with a generous helping of golden syrup.
My walk to school took me a mile up the village and many a snowy morning I arrived at school with snow in my wellingtons and frozen fingers with snowballing. The slides in the school yard shone black with ice and when the school bell rang we hurried to secure a place on the radiators to dry our gloves and bonnets and warm our milk.
It was mornings like this that Tom the postman left his bike at home and Annie who delivered the milk strode through the drifts carrying the large milk cans and ladles instead of riding round the village in her pony drawn milk float. Indeed there was a time when she walked over our front hedge because the drifts were so high.
When school was over we hurried home to make snowmen and igloos and look for icicles on the shed and the drain pipes. January days are cold and raw but with the coming of February and the thaw we would watch expectantly for signs of snowdrops in the round bed in front of "The Grange" and hurry home to tell our mothers at the first sight of those delicate white hoods on their green stems, for truly Spring was on the way.
As Easter approached the green grass grew, the lambs arrived bleating in the fields and catkins and pussy willow joined the other flowers on the porch shelf. Good Friday and a special children's service in the church followed by mother's hot cross buns. Easter Saturday saw us decorating the church with lilies and daffodils and the next day, Easter Sunday, we sang "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" and tucked into chocolate eggs!
Spring was also the season for chicken pox, measles and whooping cough and when the tar machine came to mend the roads after the winter frost, those of us with malignant coughs were sent to stand over it and take deep breaths to clear our lungs. As the bluebells and the cowslips filled the meadow, these flowers even invaded the house. Cowslips being my grandfather's favourite flower were given a place of honour in mother's cut glass vase. The same vase stands in my dining room today. The meadow was a special place. Not only did we pick the water blobs and milkmaids that grew in great clusters by the stream which ran through the middle of the field, but it was a place to make dens, have picnics and fish for sticklebacks.
May seemed a month of celebrations. Usually Whit Sunday fell in this month and regaled in our new clothes, a dress and straw bonnet, which if not new, always had new flowers and ribbons on it, we went to church with empty pockets hoping to come home with them full of pennies for "looking so nice". May was also the month of Queen Victoria's birthday, long since dead may I add, but Empire Day still continued to be observed and all the children at the village school marched in a crocodile to the Village Hall where the Women's Conservative Association provided us with tea. Before we were fed we stood on our chairs and sang "Land of Hope and Glory" and were duly thanked by a large "busty" lady for singing so beautifully!
Another day was the 29th May, Royal Oak Day, which commemorated the day Charles II hid in an Oak tree to avoid capture by the Roundheads during the Civil War. We all wore an oak leaf pinned to our clothes. Anyone without would be nettled and we sang:
The 29th May is Royal Oak Day, if you don't give us holiday we'll all run away!
On our return from holiday the harvest fields were ready to be cut and as always we hung over the gateway to watch the reaper go up and down the field cutting and binding the sheaves of corn. The sheaves were stacked and the gleanings gathered from the edges of the fields and the farmers prayed for a few days of dry weather before the crops were taken to Joss Armitage's yard to be "threshed". Then it was blackberry time and there were scratched knees and arms from picking the fruit which sometimes grew in the most difficult places. How many berries arrived home and how many went into our mouths was another matter.
So Harvest Festival came and the church was decorated with flowers and fruit and vegetables and we sang "Come ye thankful people come". We took our used books and toys too which were later sent to the children's wards of the Leeds hospitals and the fruit and vegetables were given out to the sick and needy in the parish. Even the mice came to our Harvest Festival hidden in the sheaves of corn!
After the harvest the potato crop was lifted and the pickers came down the village street in the farm cart pulled by Cox and Box, two large cart horses. By the end of October all the potato haulms were piled in the middle of the field behind our house and this was the beginning of the bonfire! Chumping in earnest started and a guy was made by two boys who lived on the other side of the lane. When the fifth arrived we all gathered round the fire, letting off our fireworks and tucking into hot potatoes, parkin and treacle toffee. The fire was duly dampened down by our Dads and the farm workers and another highlight of the year's calendar had passed.