About this time of year when I was a child we made a very important visit to my great uncle Charles. My grandparents all died before I was born so uncle Charles was a splendid surrogate grandfather. I was also convinced that he had direct access to Santa Claus, might even be him!

He certainly looked the part with his fresh complexion, white beard and white hair. He was a big gentle giant and an excellent carpenter. We would whisper our wish lists to him and sure enough, on Christmas morning whatever we had asked for appeared at the foot of the bed. Toys were in short supply in the shops, but I had a handcrafted, dolls bed, rocking cradle, dolls house with battery operated lights and dolls pushchair amongst the many presents made by this lovely man. He made us a sledge, spades for the seaside and cricket bat and stumps, nothing seemed to be too difficult for him.

As well as these presents our relatives were very generous with their sweet rations and older cousins donated the books they had grown out of. My mother was a very competent needlewoman, so we usually had new clothes too.

The Christmas tree was an artificial one which my mother had had since she was a girl, with many of the same decorations! We made paper chains from strips of coloured paper and made most of our own cards.

My mother made puddings using whatever fruit she had managed to hoard plus grated apples and carrots to bulk it out and her sister usually brought us a chicken from the country, so even in the dark days of war, they all contrived to give us a magical time.

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