A Perfect Christmas Eve

A Christmas card from Walton Hospital.

Paper snowflake

Paper snowflake

We made paper chains and snowflakes in the session at Walton Hospital this week, and I read extracts from Alison Uttley’s book The Country Child, about a little girl growing up on a remote farm in Derbyshire in Victorian times. The old farmhouse was decorated with sprigs of holly, ivy and mistletoe everywhere! I also read a description of a perfect childhood day spent sledging in the snow.

I finished off with the famous scene from Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy, when the Melstock Quire are carol singing on a snowy Christmas eve, and young Dick Dewey first sees the beautiful young school teacher, Fancy Day as she opens her window to greet the carol singers.
We were inspired to write our own Christmas scene:

A perfect Christmas Eve

The Christmas decorations were looking pretty, hanging from the ceiling. There were paper chains in different colours, and garlands that made beautiful patterns. The fairy lights were twinkling and we could hear the distant echo of carol singers.

We heard the sound of footsteps in the snow and the sound of carols grew louder.

‘O come all ye faithful,’ they sang, and we could see their rosy-cheeked faces, lit by their old fashioned candle lanterns. We could see their steaming breath as they sang.

We opened the door because they were singing so nicely, and when they had finished, we gave them mince pies and warm punch to heat them up.

As we waved them goodbye, the snowflakes started to flutter down, and the scene was set for a wonderful Christmas Eve.

The End!

Christmas in New Mills

In my final session of the year at Cavendish Hospital in Buxton, I prepared a special slideshow about New Mills, a town in the north of Derbyshire where many of the patients had lived. Last Friday, I was coming back from Manchester, so I explored New Mills as thoroughly as I could. It was very cold, and trying to snow, but I took pictures of the shops and landmarks, as well as some dramatic skies. On my drive home to Sheffield, I got caught in a blizzard, but I made it back safely. By the time I drove to Buxton on Tuesday, all the snow in the High Peak had disappeared.

Here’s a website with lots of pictures of New Mills through the years: http://www.peterthomp.co.uk/newmills.htm

Here’s our poem with memories of New Mills…

Love Hearts and Satanic Mills

“Hug me”, “Blue eyes”
Now it’s “text me”.
The Swizzels factory smells sweet
From a long way away.
It brought a lot of jobs to New Mills
Coachloads of workers from Buxton
Boiled sweets, Love Hearts, and Double Dips.

A town of two sides:
New Town and New Mills.
Separated by a deep gorge
And the county boundary.
The top of Derbyshire; the east of Cheshire.
Until the Union Bridge was built
A feat of engineering
Above the rushing water.

The dark satanic cotton mills
Brought death to a lot of people.
The buildings are ruins now,
Or used for something else.
Their walls like fortresses,
Chimneys stretching skywards.

In the War, we had evacuees from Manchester
Planes flew overhead to bomb the big city.
And landed on New Mills a few times.
We could see the glow in the distance
As Manchester burned at night.

There were two cinemas, and a theatre
Still going to this day.
Buying groceries at the old Co-op
Licking Dividend stamps.
We had everything we needed here –
Lots of shops, entertainment
Two railway stations
To see the bright lights of Stockport.

Christmas Poems by patients

Christmas poems written at Walton, Cavendish and Newholme Hospitals, December 2014

All of these poems were written together on the wards, after looking at some famous Christmas poems, such as ‘The Night Before Christmas’, also known as ‘A Visit from Saint Nicholas’ by Clark Clement Moore. We got a bit carried away by the rhyming couplets.

Apart from rhyming, all the poems are totally different. At Walton Hospital, we concentrated on Christmas traditions and feasting, while Cavendish Hospital in Buxton had its own visit from St Nick, and at Newholme Hospital, we went on the trail of a missing Christmas tree!

Christmas expectations
A Christmas poem written by the poets who didn’t know it at Walton Hospital, Chesterfield

A Christmas dinner with all the trimmings!

A Christmas dinner with all the trimmings!

Christmas cake with fruit, nuts and cherries
But do you use whisky, rum or sherry?
Hide it in a cupboard, but they soon find it!
They’re licking the bowl, but I don’t mind it.

A candle flickering on the window sill
Light one each Sunday night until…
The tree comes in on Christmas Eve
With the presents for all the kids to receive.

Look what a mess they’ve made with wrapping paper
Help to keep the children safer
Tearing off the bows and ribbons
To reveal what they’ve been given

Eating turkey at Christmas dinner
Will make sure you don’t get much thinner!
When all is done, it remains the winner
Make sure the carrots and the sprouts simmer.

Let’s open up the wine and beer
To celebrate the Christmas cheer
With plenty of chocolate, do not fear
It will last us until the New Year!

And then with relief and delight
The tree will come down on the Twelfth Night!

Santa visits Spencer Ward

A visit from Saint Nicholas

A visit from Saint Nicholas

On Spencer Ward on Christmas Eve
In Santa we all do believe
So we pour a glass and leave a pie
For the guy who flies high through the sky!

He lands his sleigh on our roof garden
Cleans the snow from his boots with a polite pardon
He puts his sack upon his back
He knocks on the door with a rat-a-tat-tat!

In he comes, let in by the porters
While all the patients are in their quarters
He fills each stocking on each bedroom door
Tip-toeing quietly across the floor.

On his way back, he drinks his tot
And back to his reindeer, waiting to trot
So off he flies, up to the sky,
With a “Merry Christmas! Ho Ho Ho and goodbye!”

On the ward, first thing in the morning,
Each finds a present, as day is dawning.
So happiness reigns throughout the ward
This is the day of the birth of our Lord!

Christmas is coming with a leap and a bound
By the staff, patients and volunteers at Stanton Day Hospital, Newholme Hospital Bakewell.

Christmas baubles

Christmas baubles

Christmas is coming with a leap and a bound
It won’t be long until Santa comes round
The snow is falling – there’s hardly a sound
Under the tree, the presents are found.

The birds are singing a Christmas tune
The dogs bark and the wife will be home soon
We will have fun under the moon
Carol singing, the songs of Pat Boon!

My credit card has come to an end
I’m glad – because I’ve got nothing to spend
But on Father Christmas I can depend
Having fun with family and friends.

I hope that Christmas will go on forever
It’s time to draw the curtains together.
Christmas is great whatever the weather
So let’s all go down to the Ring and Feathers!

Riverside’s Tree

Where's Riverside Ward's Christmas tree?

Where’s Riverside Ward’s Christmas tree?

Where’s Riverside Ward’s Christmas tree?
We can’t find it, it’s a mystery.
Have some Scrooges thrown it away?
What a shame – it might spoil our day!

Could it be in a dark old store room?
Phil made it his mission, and put down his broom.
He opened the door and searched high and low
And there in the corner was a twinkling glow.

From the dusty old store, he brought an old bag
Inside was the tree that made our hearts glad.
With a bit of tinsel and a shining star
The tree was admired from miles afar!

But we feared all hope was lost
All we thought was “what would it cost?”
Decorating the tree was a blast.
And thanks to Phil, he saved our Christmas!

Christmas Card Poetry

This week, my creative writing sessions in Derbyshire hospitals have started to take on the theme of Christmas. We pulled questions about Christmas traditions on Christmas cards out of a stocking with jingling bells, and I’ve compiled the discussions into the poem in this post!

Patients, staff and volunteers also tried their hand at making a simple but effective Christmas card, recalling crafty activities at school and home. Some people already made their own cards, whereas some people hadn’t made cards since they were children. All the cards were very effective. Here’s a gallery of some of them!

While I was writing the poem, I had my first Christmas card delivered, which is now sitting proudly on the mantlepiece, and I’m about to go and post my own cards, and then buy a few presents as part of my supermarket run! Christmas always seems to be a major feat of organisation as well as an enjoyable time of the year. As the host of Christmas dinner, I seem to spend most of Christmas Eve scrubbing potatoes, but it’s all worth it by the time I’m opening presents and enjoying a delicious meal with my family.

Christmas Traditions

A real Christmas tree
Kept in a pot and brought in each year
Thriving in the garden, growing bigger.
Don’t bring the tree inside
Until Christmas Eve, so the needles don’t drop!
Or decorate an artificial tree, the same one each year.

We put our decorations up on Christmas Eve
Or a few days before.
Family traditions:
Decorating the house to surprise my son
When he comes home from cubs.
Children searching for hidden presents.

Nativity plays – in church or school
One of the three wise men;
The hotly-contested role of Mary
Or consigned to the ranks
As a shepherd or angel.
The little ones lambs or donkeys;
The narrator, the best reader.
Watching your own child in a play –
A proud, emotional moment
Unless they fidget or pick their feet!

Singing carols and Christmas songs
Crooners in jumpers – Bing Crosby’s White Christmas
Good King Wenceslas, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

Open your presents as soon as you wake up,
Or straight after breakfast.
Pestered by the kids, shouting
‘Has he been?’
Trying to get to sleep on Christmas Eve,
Full to bursting with excitement.
Our stockings full of tangerines, nuts
Candy canes and small plastic toys.

Christmas smells of cinnamon, cloves
Mandarins, Frankincense.

Most people love mince pies
With brandy butter, rich and warm.
Home-made or shop bought?
A Methodist Christmas cake with no booze.
Eating anything and everything.

A turkey with gravy.
A big chicken called a capon.
Roast beef or a turkey crown.
Brussels sprouts – baby cabbages
It wouldn’t be Christmas without them!
Roast potatoes, cranberry sauce.

Christmas pudding, rich and dark
Trifle for the kids with custard and jelly.

Falling asleep in front of the Queen’s speech
Stuffed with food
Watching Top of the Pops first,
Santa visiting children in hospital on TV.
Snowy Christmas in the Peak District.

The twelve days of Christmas –
Start on Christmas Day.
Decorations must come down by 6th January!