Twelfth Night Tales, 12: plus or minus a few

Anyone who’s followed these posts will have probably assumed there were to be twelve Twelfth Night Tales; although some included more than one item I only posted 11. There were a few more tales queuing up that I’d planned to tell, however, a few stories just didn’t make it for a variety of reasons. Here are some that got away or never quite arrived.

Some of the objects, though evoking fond memories over the years, such as the Christmas stockings made by Mum for her grandchildren – our two sons – just didn’t have enough threads of history to make them anything more than nostalgic mementos for our family.

There were also two stories about my Mum that haven’t appeared; the first was about my discovery that she’d thrown away a small artificial Christmas tree just a couple of years before she’d died in 2015. It’s a dull and trivial-sounding event but it revealed an uncharacteristic depression of which I was insufficiently aware, and marked a significant change and decline in her. But for this episode to become a story, lots of context was required to convey the contrasts and impact so it would have become too long. And it still holds much personal sadness; maybe it’ll emerge in another format someday.

The other absent-Mum story was a happier one from when I was about 10 that relates to her making dozens of costumes at home over Christmas for the chorus of Aladdin, the pantomime our local AmDram company were producing. This theatre company played such an important part in our family life, and for me personally from that point until my late teens, that I realised it’s probably a whole project in its own right so I’ve put that on hold for the future.

A fragment of what had been yards of sequin trimming for pantomime costumes made by my Mum.

There was almost a story about objects I still have that I associate with my Christmas teen-years too; but, perhaps that’s for the memoirs!

And then there is this collection of characters; they’ve not been out of the loft for some time so didn’t quite qualify for the annual Christmas re-emergence criteria I’d set myself. But, I’m rather fond of them so they’ve spirited their way in here anyway, and I spent an enjoyable evening photographing them.

The Fellowship of the Forest

I can’t remember when we made them but it was for a Christmas at the time we were reading Lord of the Rings to the boys (a book I loved as a 17 year old but hard work to read aloud, though they loved it too), so I’m guessing it’s when they were about 8 and 4, late 1980s. The figures may also have been a kind of substitute for a nativity set, something owned by a number of families we knew, and I think we might even have made a cardboard crib scene in playgroup days, but this bunch represented something else, perhaps an alternative, or more ancient narrative, I don’t quite remember, though they were intended for fun rather than deliberate subversion. They were ‘dolls for boys’ that weren’t plastic Action Men or A Team figures! And they did get used in games our boys would play with some of the small tribe of neighbouring kids.

There’s a Wizard, obviously, an Elf (rather aged for an ageless being), a Fairy – who did do a turn on top of the Christmas tree for a few years – and a Green Man. I made the figures and the Elf’s and Wizard’s faces were painted by my partner. Their outfits were sewn from remnants of favourite material I’d kept since the 60s and 70s when I used to make many of my own clothes (fabric design was more interesting then than it became subsequently in my view!), so these two characters also became carriers of my memories of that previous era. The fairy may have been influenced by both Tinkerbell and Galadriel, perhaps with a sprinkling of Flower Fairy pollen; she might be small but hopefully brought some female balance!

The Green Man is a being, concept, myth – call him what you will – I’ve been mesmerised by for decades, the story of Gawain and the Green Knight, along with other Arthurian legends, were also favourite bedtime stories for our children.

So, we’ve reached the end, but the process of doing this has made me reflect on what Christmas means to me and there may be one further post, and who knows, perhaps some epiphanies!

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