Last night I dreamt of Christmas; it was a particularly vivid dream which woke me at the ridiculously early hour of 4.30. It was not just any old Christmas, or any specific Christmas, indeed it was a very muddled Christmas, a Christmas involving persons from a very brief but memorable part of my life in the mid to late 1970s. It was so realistic a dream that it has stayed with me all day so it was inevitable that this would be today’s subject for my musing!
By 1975 I had been working in the child care profession for seven years and although happy in my work felt a need for a new challenge, so applied for a position at a children’s home out in the countryside near Woking run by a London Borough. At interview I was told the post had already been filled but there was a position in another home available if I wanted it. This was on the edge of Wimbledon Common and in a very urban area; living in London is not what I had envisaged but I decided to give it a go anyway.
This was very different to my last post which was at a residential school and after a slow start acclimatising to life in London I soon began to really enjoy the company of the youngsters in my care. Weekdays during school terms we kept to a fairly strict routine, with the day starting at 6.00, some of the youngsters left for school before 7.00, others as late as 8.45, evening meals were at set times as were bedtimes. On the weekends though, that’s when we had fun! Just up the road was Wimbledon Common, a huge expanse of woodland, lakes, cycleways and muddy places where the boys and girls could play happily in the countryside. Some of the youngsters went home at the weekends leaving us with the opportunity for closer interaction with those remaining. It was during these periods, and during school holidays, that the greatest bond developed between the staff and those in our care, so much so that even now, nearly 35 years later, I still have dreams about, and remember with affection, the memorable times during that all too brief period in my history.
Christmas was a big event: it started to build up in November when the kids began to speculate about the presents they would like. They were under no illusions, they knew our budgets wouldn’t stretch to very much, but nevertheless we all tried to make the very best out of what was available. Consequently it was always a busy time acquiring everything we needed, occasionally we could shuffle budgets from one section to another to allow extra items to be purchased and maximise the spirit of Christmas and on the big day a grand time would be had by all. Christmas dinner would be a large affair with up to 40 persons attending, we had 20 residents but a few parents and most staff would also be there as well; preparing and cooking this was a event in itself!
Sadly, I don’t have any group photographs of Christmas at the home so instead I have chosen some others, the first taken on an adventure picnic in the countryside outside London. The second one is a rare photograph of myself during this period with some of the gang pictured at Walmer Castle in Kent during a damp camping weekend. The female member of staff with me took this photo on my camera! The third is a set-up fun picture taken on Wimbledon Common during my last few days in this particular job. You can see more photos from my London years on my flickr photostream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/opobs/sets/72157603782887177/
And so it was I was awoken with a start at 4.30 by a very vivid dream by the Ghost of Christmas Past; I was wide awake still at 5.00 and obviously intended getting up as I turned off the alarm clock. However I must have dozed off again as when I next looked at the clock it was 7.00 – Aargh, far too late to be getting up, been behind all day!