Little Donkey before...
...and after


In this blogposting...
*Christmas with the Robinsons: Little Donkey
*Maureen’s Internet Links
Now, read on, Macduff...

My family probably won’t thank me for telling you this but...

Many of the sacred and hallowed traditions of Christmas Day which my family, along with countless others, steadfastly and proudly strive to maintain, have fallen by the wayside over the decades. We no longer, for example, ‘pipe the pudding’, a ceremony inherited from my Aunty Mill and which I can just about remember. The pudding, drenched in copious quantities of sherry, was ignited and carried, with great pomp and quite a lot of circumstance, into every room in the house before finally being laid to rest on the dining room table, there to fulfill the ultimate destiny of a Christmas pudding.

I recall being told that this was to ensure good luck and continuing prosperity to the household there mustered. Looking back, I find the use of ‘continuing’ to be questionable under the circumstances. As for good luck...well, I’m not surprised that the pudding is no longer piped, for all the good luck it brought to us.

For good or ill, though, other traditions survive intact. On Christmas morning, for example, presents are opened in strict age order - oldest first. What this meant in practise for many years was that we youngsters had to wait our turn while, firstly, my Nana dug deep into her Christmas stocking and opened her gifts of 4711 eau-de-cologne, three lacey handkerchiefs, a scarf and some woolly bedsocks. To this day, I cannot fathom what took her so long to complete the task.

As each gift was opened, all eyes were on the recipient and plenty of time had to be allowed for oooohs and aaaahs and expressions of gratitude and appreciation.

This all meant, of course, that - being the ‘baby of the family’ - I always had to wait until last. And sometimes it seemed to me that the process would take until New Year’s Eve to complete.

The effect was exactly as I suspect was intended. My sense of anticipation and excitement built up to a level of mental frenzy so that, when my time came, whatever it was that lay well-hidden in my Christmas stocking was invariably the most wonderful present a lad could possible ever receive for Christmas.

Ever since - and to this day - whenever I’ve been in a gift-opening environment where everyone tears at the paper and sellotape all at once, I quickly begin to feel uneasy and even short-changed. The principal enjoyment in giving someone a present is, surely, the pleasure you get from the pleasure they get - a factor which gets ditched if the occasion is a Christmas morning orgy of unordered ripping giftwrap and the sound of screeching tape.

A Robinson Christmas tradition of more recent - though still venerable - vintage is illustrated above.

This year, it was my turn to unwrap -

I’m not sure how or when this regrettable custom started, or who started it (although I have my suspicions). Many years ago, someone amongst the twisted members of my family brought back the item you see pictured above from a holiday as a gift for another member of the Robinson clan. Perhaps fortunately, I cannot remember the identities of either of the two people involved.

Cigarettes are placed in The Donkey’s pannier and, when you pull the ears forward, it - er.... - ‘produces’ a cigarette from its rear end. It’s a truly execrable item, of which every member of my family - including those who have married into it - should be thoroughly ashamed.

The Donkey is so unspeakably awful that, one Christmas many years ago, its owner decided to give it away as a Christmas present. And every year since, it has been passed, covertly and under some deplorable guise or other, from one random Robinson to another.

This year, it was my turn.

Which is why, occupying pride of place on my best bookshelf, is the most deplorable knick-knack anyone could ever possibly dread owning.

That reminds me. It was given to me by my nephew Peter and his partner Vicky and I haven’t thanked them in the appropriate way yet.

As I said before, I wouldn’t have been surprised if no-one had turned up at all last Wednesday. It’s not, after all, the quietest and most relaxed time of the year. I reckoned, however, without the redoubtable Hildie, who did arrive, accompanied by her daughter Kelly - a chip off the old block if ever there was one. She’s a smashing lass and the three of us enjoyed freezing half to death outside Pret drinking a barely-warming cup of coffee or two.

After that, and a wander through the Christmas throngs, we sensibly retreated to the Tyneside Cinema coffee lounge.

It was by no means a typical AGM, but it was as enjoyable and as full of surprises as an AGM always is.

So there!

Big Christmas hugs to Maureen, who has sent these two internet video links. One of them is ‘seasonal’, the other is a video produced in New Zealand to promote book-reading. Both of them are superb examples of the video-maker’s art. Thanks Maureen.

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Sid said...

I just loved the donkey story, what a great family tradition. Guess what.....there are two very similar donkeys on e-bay.

Ian Robinson said...

One is quite enough.

Hildie said...

Ahh, it's lovely, so funny, it's a hoot that donkey! He looks serene and innocent, doesn't he? Nobody would ever guess his party trick!!
Are you treating yourself on ebay then, Sid?!
The AGM last week, as Ian said, was as enjoyable and as full of surprises as an AGM usually is ....
for instance, we had Lucy there, a five year old from South Shields,(neice of Kelly's friend, Emma) who was not at all keen on Ian's beard but .... you know him .... he soon talked her round, and had her ballet dancing in the Tyneside Coffee Lounge!!
It's probably not generally recommended!

Thought you might like to know -
Michael Poulter is doing The Evening Show tonight 7:30 on Radio Newcastle ....... and
Lawrence is on the show with Alfie and Charlie 8:30 till 10 on
Wednesday morning.

Maureen said...

Hi all, just signing back in after my little Christmas trip. I hope that you all had a nice Christmas and aren't suffering from sprout overdose. Hildie, a Sprout Draw... marvellous! Can we borrow that one for my family please? as you illustrated, it can be globalized these days! I am imagining emails flying between Canada, New Zealand, Holland, absolutely brilliant. Ian, that donkey, I'm surprised at you, well, no I'm not really! another fun tradition.
I wish I could have got the pre-Xmas agm, can we have one in January please?

Maureen said...

It's very quiet out there...can I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy and peaceful New Year?

Vivienne said...

Happy New Year to all my Truckshunter friends !!!

Lots of love,

Vivienne xxx

Sid said...

And it's a happy New Year from me as well. So where's the first agm of 2010 being held...

Hildie said...

Happy New year from me too .... in fact Happy New Decade!!
I've got Michael playing me some Van Morrison on Radio Newcastle (any moment now!)
See you all soon I hope.

Anonymous said...

It is nearly one year since my favourite radio programme ended and Ian said goodbye I still miss it.
To Ian, Lawrence and all truckshunters, I wish you a happy new year. Take care and keep well.
I suggest for the next AGM Times Square skating rink, you will of course need leg warmers, thermals, padding and a hard hat (optional). for the faint hearted there is the centre for life coffee shop for the bold, brave and daring there is a drop in medical centre near by. I look forward to seeing you all there. On second thoughts count me out i dont suit leg warmers. However i have learned lots of new moves and that is just on the footpath.

Sid said...

I hope all you good folks are able to keep warm and dry during all this snow. Does it remind you of when you were younger and we had proper winters. Snow up to the tops of your wellies, and how quickly it turned black with soot.
Having said that I remember the snow being shovelled into wagons and then tipped into the Tyne. One driver once forgot to remove the tailgate on his wagon....he tipped the snow in the usual way but it didn't slide off. The vehicle overbalanced and ended up in the river. Oops.

Maureen said...

Would you class that as a snowdrop Sid? Sorry! Have you noticed a slight case of blogitis? I wonder where everyone is...I hope that an agm is arranged as soon as the snow clears, I'm missing you lot.It'll have to be somewhere central as people like Hildie will still need her sledge.
Best wishes everyone.

Sid said...

I bet it made a canny splash Maureen. They stopped tipping the snow into the river after that incident.
Isn't it strange that one of the things that hasn't been improved on over the years is how we stop vehicles and pedestrians slip sliding on the snow and ice.
We were chucking sand and salt on roads and footpaths more than 50 years ago. Is this one of those "the old ways are the best" answers.

Hildie said...

I enjoyed the SNOWDROP tale, you two! But .... you know ....
years ago they used the blades on the front of the snow plough and actually moved the snow to the side of the road. I wonder why they don't do it nowadays. They just go gayly along sprinkling the grit these days, I've watched them from my front window. You should see the view I've got at the moment .... we've got heaps of snow,
it's very pretty but it takes a bit of effort to plodge through it!
You were mentioning an AGM for January .... please could you have a look at this list of when poor Hildie has to go to work (at her new place of work) before you settle on a date? Here goes ....
Mon 4th Jan 1pm - 9pm
Thurs 7th Jan 11am - 3pm
Sun 10th Jan 9am - 4pm
Sat 16th Jan 9am - 6pm
Tues 19th Jan 9am - 2pm
Weds 20th Jan 3pm - 9pm
Weds 27th Jan 10am - 8pm
Thurs 28th Jan 11am - 2pm
Sun 7th Feb 9am - 7pm

Now there's a puzzle for someone ...... any suggestions?
Then we can run them past Ian.
I'd be very pleased, no ... delighted if you could fit me in to the plan ... and very appreciative!!!

Maureen said...

Hildie, how about midnight on Sunday at the Mucky Angel? You seem to be busy otherwise! I'm sure that we can fit in around you, it wouldn't be an agm without you.

Sid said...

We are going to need a wall chart Hildie, but Ian will sort it I'm sure. You haven't mentioned Fridays, I'm sure they are taboo, and Tuesdays are out for Vivienne.
Those hours of yours will mean you'll not know if you are coming or going, or would that be just me...

Maureen said...

Dare I say Thursdays are awkward for me? I don't know about Fridays...anyone?

Maureen said...

While we are all here, anyone fancy a quick quiz?
The following names are cryptic clues for chocolate:
1. Leo not allowed in
2. Star system
3. Island race
4. Clothe tom
5. Eastern pleasure
6. Grind ecstacy
7. Quietly spoken
8. Wood lash
9. Slight wave
10. 24 carat DJ
Go on, get those grey cells back into shape...

Hildie said...

I didn't like to mention it earlier but yes, Sid, all the Fridays are school days.
And, yeah, you're right about the wall -chart!!
These are possibilities I can spot-
Weds 6th
Weds 13th
Mon 18th
Sat 9th
Sat 23rd
Sun 17th
Sun 24th
Sun 31st
Sat 30th
.... this takes into account that Maureen can't do Thursdays and Vivienne can't do Tuesdays.
What about you, Sid?
Any preferences?!
This is a rare moment of truth ..
would someone mind reminding me next year not to look forward to Christmas? I've just been taking down the tree and the cards and the decorations ... and thinking
it wasn't good, Christmas wasn't good, I was mostly sad, and mostly lonely, and fairly tearful ....
HOWEVER ... I shouldn't grumble, should I? I WAS lucky enough to be here to see it.
Oh, I must try and cheer up!!
I'll have a think about your quiz. Maureen ... I can see 'Galaxy' and 'Whisper' up there somewhere.

Hildie said...

Number 1 could be Lion bar!
Number 5 could be Turkish Delight!

Maureen said...

You were quick there Hildie. Sorry, I'd forgotten about your Fridays.
I'm afraid that you are not alone with the Christmas anti-climax Hildie. I've spoken to a few people lately who've admitted to the same thing. Maybe we are still secretly hoping for Santa to appear and making everything right? I tried ignoring Christmas this year as much as possible and that didn't feel right either...

Hildie said...

Is number 4 Kit Kat?
Maureen, I'm sorry about all that
.... I didn't really know how I was feeling, until I took down the decorations and found out I wasn't too bright!!
You know you went to Holland? Do they have turkey with all the trimmings, and Christmas Pudding, and do they pull crackers, and have Christmas Cakes? And snow?

Maureen said...

3 out of 10 so far Hildie, well done, I thought that Sid was the chocolate expert where's he tonight? They had snow Hildie and decorations in the shops, maybe some families celebrate it but not where I was.

Sid said...

Sorry Maureen,I'd lost about 2hrs work on my pc, still can't find where it's gone. Starting afresh now...after breakfast...still smiling, just.

Maureen said...

Hope that you've recovered Sid. Hildie, looks like Mondays are clear from now on... anyone have any objections?

Sid said...

No objections from me Maureen. As always I'll do my best to be there.

Sid said...

You know when you hear a news item on the radio and it isn't funny....BUT it makes you smile, well.
Just before Christmas a woman left her hubby at home while she went into town to collect a turkey for the festive dinner. It started to snow, but the woman thought nothing of it.
Soon the road home became blocked with snow.
As of today the woman STILL can't get home. I hope the husband has something stored away in the cupboard for times like this.

Sid said...

PS. It happening in Scotland.