You can read my sister’s letter at:
Here is my reply:
I miss you too at Christmas. I also can’t believe it has gone already, I love it, it makes me remember being little again.
When I was a little girl, I loved looking through people’s handbags – do you remember? If we had visitors, I would sometimes sneak out of the room with their bag, so I could search it in peace. It was possibly embarrassing for Mum, though I never took anything, I was just very curious (I refuse to use the ‘nosey’ word.) The bag I remember the most clearly was the midwife’s bag when she came after brother was born. It was black and VERY heavy and Mum shouted at me for hiding behind the sofa with it. I was misunderstood as a child.
Then we were given handbags by Great Aunt Nell one Christmas. Her presents were always slightly on the unexpected side weren’t they. I remember being given old Christmas cards one year. We loved her dearly (I’m sure not just because she gave us sixpences) but her gifts were somewhat random. So Mum (very naughtily) used to unwrap them before Christmas day, to check what was inside. I found this very exciting, especially as she always told me to not tell Dad (hence confirming it was completely against the rules. Mum has never really done rules.)
Anyway, that year it was handbags. Not sure if they had belonged to Aunty Nell or to one of her long deceased friends. I was very excited by the brown knobbly one with the snappy clip at the top but that was addressed to you (I did try to persuade Mum to switch the name labels but she didn’t break the rules that much.) I was given a basket. With no snappy top.
Mum has not, as far as I remember, ever used a handbag. Perhaps because I always searched it. Or maybe her lack of bag accounts for my fascination with them. Her pockets always have the same things in: a short pencil, an old shopping list, a tissue, some coins and now – which is my reason for writing this – those plastic coins from Waitrose.
Do you know what I mean? -Those plastic counter things that Waitrose have by the door, so you can vote for your favourite charity and then Waitrose will donate money to the one with the most votes? (Not sure if they have these the other side of the Atlantic but you may have noticed them when you were here.) I believe the aim is that every shopper has one vote, uses one counter with each load of shopping, dropped through the slot into the clear plastic container, watching the charity of their choice collect votes. I am sure the aim is NOT for old ladies, who happen to know that a charity of their choice is soon to be appearing, to hoard the plastic counters in their pockets. Nor to collect them from other stores and save them until they are next in their own one. I just hope she never finds a shop that sells the same kind of counter – even Waitrose staff might notice if two thousand extra counters suddenly appear. I have broached this subject with her but I feel it needs reinforcement – when are you next here?
Actually, Waitrose has been brilliant for Mum. She loves the free coffee that you get with their loyalty card and the free ‘samples’ of cakes that sometimes are left on the counter. (I wont mention the unfortunate incident when the baker left a tray of freshly baked muffins on the same counter and someone tucked in thinking they were free….)
I like our supermarkets. I like that they reduce food towards the end of the day. All the students learn what time this happens and loiter near the door waiting for the ‘Half Price Man’ to do his rounds so they can snaffle up the bargains. I like that they sell lots of ethnically diverse foods (the US supermarkets only really stocked US food) and that they donate left over food to charities for the homeless.
I am finding the 5p carrier bags bit of a challenge (they recently stopped providing free ones.) – I like the idea in principle but I do find it hard to remember to take a bag with me when I shop, too many years of being lazy/wasteful. My own bags are now stuffed with reuseable bags, just in case. Which with old receipts and pens that don’t work, just about fills my bag. Not very exciting should a child want to explore.
PS: I always show these to people who are mentioned before I post them, just in case they will be embarrassed/sue me. Mum assures me that it was Great Aunt Queenie, not Nell, who gave us the handbags. (I am not entirely sure if I have spelt Queenie correctly, or even if that was her real name or just what we called her. I have certainly never met another Queenie – have you? It wasn’t one of our name choices when we had daughter, though I quite like Nell as a name.)