Markets are calling me away. Chapter 5 Holidays

January always leads you into thinking about holidays but it’s the advertising that calls me to action and is the real deal breaker for me. Adverts on TV, FB or email seem to flood you with ideas and tempt you to book a wee break. I don’t need much encouragement to be fair. January is a time when I would start to look at booking something. But we are still meeting family needs at the moment so immediate holidays are not on the cards, for obvious reasons.

When British Airways sent me an email about their January sale ( it’s still on btw) I always want to browse the delights on there as soon as possible. So I did, and within a reasonable amount of time I have identified a holiday to Mexico. We have already been to Mexico, it was one of the few places that we did not have any dramas, so you will appreciate the appeal of it. We looked at various options, but by far the best resort was Moon Palace. We enjoyed our visit there previously because there were about 20 restaurants to chose from and you can golf. The lion was sorted then! We organised the flights, our travel arrangements and our hotel, all inclusive for 6k. I have paid more for a holiday there with Thomas Cook so if you think BA are expensive, think again. That price included business class flights.

A dialogue with my lion throughout this dithering decision, meant I hovered over the ‘continue to payment’ button for about half an hour. We debated back and forth about this holiday, but in the end a quick shift onto the Jet 2 site revealed a two week stint, albeit with only bed and breakfast included, to Spain was £1200. Now when you are retired on limited income, and with a big holiday to Australia already planned, my sensible head did come into action. We had been to Spain last year but it has everything we need; heat, food, wine. What was not to like with that deal? So there I was , flicking between the two pages before making the big but sensible decision to take the Jet 2 trip, and that is it booked, decision made.

I flicked onto the BA site again still tempted by their wares, wishing we could go stateside or take the trip to Mexico but remembering there is plenty time. We can always go another time, maybe next year. That is the problem with this kind of marketing, good customer service and enticing you in with a range of deliverable delights. You get seduced into random action. I know I like my brands, but we have had tip top service from BA so my loyalty is guaranteed to an extent, because I know if things go wrong they fix it.

And another reminder of just how powerful these marketing strategies are. The next morning, because it was clear big brother was watching me, I received a letter from BA. It was notification that we had not maintained our tier points (we should have booked Mexico) and were being down graded from silver to bronze status. Shock and horror.

Now it is the maintenance of this silver status that takes me right to the BA site to buy my holiday, so this subtle marketing strategy works for them, on me anyway. I don’t want to lose it, but in all honestly all it does is give you permission to choose your seat ahead of everyone else. Not that much when it comes down to it. When you are that loyal and there are incentives like tier points, it doesn’t take much to tempt you back, or hook you into other purchases. But you never forget you have a choice, so on this occasion BA lost out, mainly because we had already booked a big holiday for next year and finances are not limitless.

If you are thinking of booking a holiday try BA or Jet2 both very good quality for the prices they set. Jet 2 have not yet been tested with any of our dramas yet, but I’m sure there’s time…………………

Getting away from it all. Chapter 4 book of the family

It’s been a while, and I am making a poor excuse, but Christmas is always so busy. Haven’t you been busy?? And now here we are mid January and not a jot has been written, it’s frankly a disgrace! Just when I might have reached the dizzy heights of 3k views I go and get lost in a virtual outer space, flitting between family dramas and falling out of favour with my followers for failing to report on them. I have committed the most incredible sin; I have omitted to provide insight, social commentary and details of the ongoing, albeit somewhat dreary, dramas that drift in and out of my life.

January is always such an awful month; moneyless, dark, wintery, dark, everyone on a diet and off the drink, oh and dark. Of course we are now 26 weeks into my injury and I am making considerable progress so I suddenly want to do things, be places, see people, have fun and party. Problem is no-one else does. A bargain weekend was available and no-one wanted to go. I was cheesed off. I was hoping that would help ease my humongous gas bill, since it’s been on full blast all the while I have been house bound, but nope no-one wanted to go out or away. So there was only one thing for it, let’s go away ourselves for the weekend to………………our own house!

Turns out this was actually a fab idea and I seriously urge you to try it. We do have a lovely home, it is our pride and joy. It was built in 1750 and was previously 5 farm cottages knocked into one. We have put our heart and soul into this house, on every level we have invested love, care and attention to very corner, every room. So often when we go away I will catch myself remarking that we have just as good at home. Hence the mad idea of spicing up our January by pretending we were visitors in our own home.

Off I went on the Friday morning for a meeting with the feeling that today was going to be different. It was the excitement and anticipation combined that you get when you have a planned weekend away, albeit this was not away, but it was creating the feeling of being away, if you follow my drift. The lion was tasked with changing the bed and cleaning the house ready for the arrival of the guests, us. He even mentioned later he tipped them for a job well done. We laughed at that.

We were not allowed access until three so when I returned from work at 1pm, we went off shopping to buy what we needed for the weekend and of course that included shopping at a different supermarket and trying different brands. Then, as it was still a tad early to get the keys, we went to the cinema to watch Stan and Ollie. It was now nearly four so we made our way to our home for the weekend, pretending we had never been there, making hilarious comments like ” wonder what it is like inside” the pretence just added reality to the event.

When we opened the door, although it was with a sense of deja vu, we nevertheless continued with the drama, gasping at the size of the kitchen and delighted there was a wood burning stove, cleaned and set ready for ignition. We couldn’t wait to check out our bedroom for the weekend and later, after our first night we were so happy the bed was just as comfy as our own. Every action was designed to value what we had here, to look at it through a different lens. We took it all in, surveying what had become routine and making it mean so much more. I even posted pictures on FB # weekend away LOL.

On Saturday morning I set the table for breakfast using every piece of Denby I owned, including the toast holder that I bought three years ago but had never used. It gave me a simple but satisfying pleasure, I cannot explain, but the thrill of feeling that it was all new. I was making the most of what we had been taking so much for granted. The lion went off to play golf ( he had been taxiing me about all week to hospital appointments) while I stayed in our “holiday home” and made a goulash with yoghurt dumplings and even baked bread. I felt so invigorated.

We went to church to try out the local religious arrangements, then came back, lit the fire had a glass of wine before we enjoyed a romantic winter supper surrounded by candles and music. I cannot tell you how satisfying this weekend away in our own abode was. We made the most of what we had, and I’ve rarely been more satisfied.

Over the past 26 weeks I’ve come to realise how precious my health is. It made me want to live my life again as soon as I could. A simple slip took so much away from me, standing up, walking, dancing, cycling, catching up with friends, shopping, eating, visiting family, it had all been affected by my inability to move.

We also look after our parents and over the same period a lot was happening for them both and we lost some of our closest family members. All of that provided us with a mirror on our own mortality. I don’t know when I might get any clearer an insight to my future than I have these last few months, but I do know that what I have decided to do is make the most of it, however big or small that most is.

Marvel in the minutest things, love, laugh, dance, smile and be thankful for everything you have because you have no idea how long it will last or how important it has become.

Looking for Christmas (part 2) Chapter 4 Christmas

My mother was clearly distraught, at 7 I wasn’t all that adept at knowing how to respond it these situations but her distress seemed to search inside me for the best response I could find. I gave her a hug, tapping her shoulder repeatedly and slowly to affirm my concern and telling her it would be ok. I had no idea if it would be ok, but it appeared to be the right thing to say. She released me from my hug, indicating for me to sit before her and drew in a deep breath.

“I’ve lost some money,” she said, and continued, “this money was for Santa to pay for the presents he was bringing”. There was a lot of information in this statement, I took time to digest it. I wasn’t aware you had to pay Santa for presents, I was trying to work out how payments might be made or where the conversation took place to barter between humans and Santa? I knew we had sent letters, perhaps Santa sent a receipt in the post, and you arranged to leave the money beside the mince pies and carrots for collection on Christmas Eve?

Usually there was a limit on spending, we knew about it, not always sure what it was but knew it existed because if we asked for too much the retort would let us know it was too expensive. ” That’s just not possible, move on” my mother would say and we knew we had to forget about it. There didn’t seem to be the same regulation with things we asked for in our letters to Santa.

Then the realisation began to dawn that if she couldn’t pay what would Santa do? Did he take tick? Tick was the colloquial term for Credit in Shotts, I had no idea what credit was either but I knew, or rather had pieced together meaning from adult conversations, that sometimes things could be bought now and paid for later. A man in a smart suit and hat would come to the house weekly and write things in a book and mum would give him money. I understood him to be the ‘tick-man’. Did he know Santa? I was perplexed by these revelations and worried about the consequences.

My mother wept into her handkerchief and I asked how much she had lost. She looked straight at me for some level of insight or understanding about how much a 7 year old could appreciate the loss of £300. In today’s terms that is about the equivalent of a purchasing power of £6, 700. I recall thinking we must have been getting a lot of presents! Dad was due home on Christmas Eve so we had to bear this knowledge alone. Mum had done what she had to do and finally called the police. It was unthinkable for her that someone had stolen it, but as it had been lost for so long and every corner searched, every piece of furniture overturned, every nook and cranny examined and still no trace, it was all we had left.

Two days til Christmas and there was a gloom around the house; the sparkle of the Christmas lights had dimmed and, as a 7 year old facing her first major crisis, I experienced a deep sadness and insecurity. The order of my world had been turned upside down by this loss; it had affected my mother so much there was an incredible change in her personality, she seemed to switch between hopelessness and anger. We kept out of her way. And we kids started to accept that Santa might not come and there would be no presents, or at least not what we had asked for.

On Christmas Eve, eve we went to bed and mum was settling all three of us down for the night. The wardrobe door was lying open and as she chatted to us she walked over to close it. In mid sentence, she stopped in her tracks. My bed was at right angles to the wardrobe, I could see her face, it contorted from realisation to horror, a memory flashed before her eyes, which diverted to look at me. And suddenly she was in the wardrobe pulling out a fur hat. This was my grandmother’s hat, it was real fur (a thing back in the day) with satin brown lining. Part of the stitching holding this lining in place had parted the satin from the fur and offered you a fabulous hiding place. She put her hand into the lining and pulled out the missing cash.

I leapt out of my bed, jumping up and down on the mattress nearly banging my head on the ceiling. My sisters knew something amazing had just happened but not what. My mother threw the cash in the air and it fell like feathers floating to the floor, just missing the roaring fire in our bedroom. Santa would be coming after all………………..

Looking for Christmas. Chapter 3 Christmas

There is one Christmas that always stands out, it is quite a memory, but it’s not because of the joy and laughter I remember it, no it was because there was almost no Christmas that year.

We were living in Shotts with my Grandad at the time, both parents were working. Dad was driving long distance and often away for long periods and Mum part-time, as most of the time she was looking after us and my Grandad too. We three girls shared a room, so I must have been about 7 or 8 at the time. It was a big room for the 3 of us, there was a single bed, a double bed, a wardrobe, dressing table and fireplace. The wardrobe was about 5 feet tall, walnut with a pewter handle. It had a single door, with clothes hung to the left and right and shelving at the top on either side. It wasn’t for our clothes, they were stored in drawers, but my mother stored all of her glamorous gear in this wardrobe so we often sneaked in here to look at her clothes and dress up in her shoes.

The three windows in the bedroom overlooked the front of the street and our garden. The hall, accessed by the front door in the middle of the front elevation, gave access to this bedroom on the left and the living room on the right. I don’t recall if the front door was ever locked, when Grandad lived in the house he was never really out and we had a dog, which was the fashionable and affordable security back in the day. Anyone could have come in, I guess, but everyone had an open door back then and if we heard the door we would rush to see who had come to visit and what delights they had with them.

At the rear of our house we had about 6 steps leading to the back door, into what we called the back kitchen and a door out into the T-shaped hall. Within the T part were the other 2 bedrooms and bang in the middle was our bathroom. It would have been easy to access our bedroom but hardly unnoticed.

As Christmas approached we had already put up our tree, but something was not quite right. By the age of 7 I could tell when things were far from harmonious in the house, call it intuition or just being alert to the dynamics but I could tell my mother appeared distracted. We girls were all at school by now, apart from the youngest sister who was only just 4. Being out of the house at school meant we missed a large part of family life and by the time we returned home the usual rush to have dinner before brownies or the salvation army meetings meant you were pretty much oblivious to what everyone else was doing.

There was a sense of panic one night just two weeks before Christmas. Dad was off ‘down the road’ as we used to say, and mum had been searching for something for days. While this began with periodic glances behind cushions, or digging out old handbags, it built slowly toward a crescendo becoming more frantic as days went on. Grandad, who never did anything around the house, had even joined in taking to turning cushions over and even tipping the sofa upside down.

Looking on I was trying to make sense of the emerging chaos, but in all honesty had no idea what was happening. I knew however what ever it was it was bad; the adults were distraught. Our dog just looked on bemused while this tornado of torment continued. She was trained to recover things, but I’m guessing they thought her skills were just for the dog shows as no-one thought for a moment she could assist. I pushed this childish idea out of my head. While I guessed they were looking for something I was clever enough to know I was not able to help because my requests fell on deaf ears. What ever had been lost was significant. At one point my mother was in tears.

These were the days long before telephones and with dad away she had to bear it herself. She was 25 years old when I was 7 so her youth combined with her isolation seemed to add considerable weight to what ever it was she was seeking. Finally three days before Christmas she clearly had no options left but to take me into her confidence.

By 7 I guess you are mature enough to hear bad news, I mean, I might not have been prepared for it, but she must have had no choice but to tell me as my father was still not back from his travels. I sat down, and looked at her, my steady little childlike world about to be rocked by the news she had to share. I was a little nervous and could feel my heart start to pick up the pace as she looked me in the eye and began to tell me her story. It must have been a dilemma for her, knowing what I would make of this loss, knowing too it meant the end of my childhood. She clearly had no other option but divulge what was ailing her and end my fantasy right there and then………

Lapland. Chapter 4 Book of holidays

So while we were completely overjoyed at the early and safe arrival of our new grandson we were about to top this with the trip of a lifetime (for me at least) and taking the mermaid with us. I’m not sure whether this one was more for me than her but it was an incredible deal so I booked a trip to Lapland. I do love Christmas and have never lost the magic of the season, even into adulthood Christmas remains such a special time, evoking memories of long ago. I don’t often broadcast it but I am still a believer, ignoring the inevitability of reality, and clinging onto my desire for magic for as long as possible.

It was only a day trip so we had an early start, therefore the mermaid spent the night with us. This was not the best idea as I tend not to sleep when she’s here just because of the overwhelming responsibility that comes with keeping someone else’s child overnight. We had read that we needed to have plenty lairs on so we had prepared double of everything to pull on once we were up. I was wide awake with excitement at 4 am, then woke up the mermaid at 5, who was distinctly unfazed, to get dressed then head to the airport.

There was a jingling, jangling atmosphere in the airport where several day trips to Lapland were scheduled and little children, dragging their reluctant parents behind them, amassed in unprecedented numbers in the departure lounge. Gabbling with excitement, gleeful in anticipation their cheer was infectious. They raised the roof in the security hall with their chatter and staff had to work hard to focus on the more important task of making them all safe. Staff too had joined in the festive frolics, adorned in festive garb, tinsel tied in their hair and baubles replacing their earrings.

Before long we were all aboard and ready for take off. Flight attendants wearing elfin chic served mulled wine and mince pies, but the mermaid was busy colouring in, now feeling the early rise, she was looking for a more substantial breakfast. Santa (posing as the captain) was flying the plane, without Rudolph! But fear not for he was still there, colourfully shining brightly on the overhead lockers with each of his fellow reindeers painted along side him. Bells jingled, children were laughing, adults were singing and suddenly (but really after about 3 hours) we landed in Lapland.

It was 1pm and we had only 1 hour of daylight left. There was a lot of snow at the airport and it was hard to distinguish the roads from the pavements, shiny, slidey snow that was hard to walk on or find well trodden pathways. Once we had disembarked we had to locate our bus to transport us to be fitted for the required Lapland attire. It was -28 degrees and even double lairs weren’t enough to cope with this cold. After a few seconds outside, taking in the wonderful sights, it was onto the bus desperate for the heating. But you could not fail to feel Christmas had arrived.

At the changing station we were provided with onesies, in navy or red, hats, snow boots and gloves, especially essential as fingers and toes felt the bitter cold first. Once suitably kitted out the mermaid wanted to make snow angels so we ventured outside hoping our new winter attire would keep us cosy. She had the gloves off instantly making snowballs, falling down and loving it all laughing. At one point papa fell into the snow completely disappearing engulfed by a 10 foot drift. We pulled him to safety, covered in snow just in time to get back on the bus to head to Santa’s pad.

It was now about 3 pm and pitch black, our little village lay in a valley and was flickering with fairy lights welcoming our coach, it was so magical just as you would imagine. A white reindeer with bells along the red straps that attached him to a sleigh where animal furs were piled on for warmth, pulled us around the village, the wind factor reducing the cold to -36 below. After this we found the kitchen and had a warm meal served by elves; traditional in its offering, just what the people of Lapland would live on, chips with meatballs and spaghetti. Back outside, once we had managed to climb back into the onesies we took a husky ride. Our snot forming frozen laces stretched across our cheeks. The mermaid stood watching the dogs and was mesmerised, worrying where they might be sleeping tonight and how they were going to get warm.

Finally after several sleigh rides, snowman building, tobogganing and sleds we joined the queue to be transported to see Santa. In no time our sled loaded with blankets and fur skins arrived. Jingling with excitement as we climbed in and our safety helmets suitably secured against the elements. The snow was thick, laden on the fir trees feathery branches and frozen solid, the additional weight pulling them to the ground. The full moon shone creating an eerie runway amid the trees and as the huskies dragged us closer to Santa’s house there was an ethereal glow and calmness provided by nature in all its glory in this winter wonderland.

The sled flew along the hard packed snow and we could see smoke, still and steady, in the distance. An elf, scantly clad for this weather, waited excitedly while we climbed out, our faces red raw, our fingers and toes toastie from the extra clothing and the blankets. The gingerbread house door opened into a sea of warm, red felt and velvet curtains, a little log burner glowing in the corner gave warmth to the room and illuminated a massive gold throne. As we ventured inside following the scantly clad elf, the mermaid hesitated a little; fear rather than fascination the feelings at that time. Then I caught my breath, my stomach flipped and there was Santa, he emerged cloaked in glorious deep red velvet, lined with ermine and the white flowing, curly beard. Be still my beating heart….

Flying the Flag for British Airways. Chapter 30

Never forget that you have a choice, when you travel. We have flown with a range of air carriers on international, European and internal flights. For our holidays to the USA, I will now only fly British Airways. The reason for this will become clear as this blog is all about the quality of customer experience on offer.

We have flown Continental from Edinburgh on several occasions, twice when we went to Nashville and twice when we went to Vegas. We travelled on a basic economy ticket on these flights and they enabled connecting flights to our destinations in the USA from New York, Newark airport. The main benefits were that they left from Edinburgh only 15 minutes from our home and we were able to book our luggage all the way through to our final destination. Although you did have to collect it at Newark and pass it to staff at a central point to redirect as appropriate.

On the Continental flights we had around a 3 hour layover in Newark, which is actually quite a nice airport with a sufficiently interesting and varied range of quality dining and drinking experiences to make it pleasurable. However, on the down side, on each occasion that we used Continental there were delays. In fairness we acknowledge that delays do happen and there are often a variety of legitimate reasons for it, as seasoned travellers we accept this inconvenience as long as it’s not too frequent. Travelling outward Continental delays were not so common, however on all our return journeys that connected in Newark, the flight was overbooked and delays as a result of this caustic organisation were common. Passengers played cat and mouse with the carrier awaiting increased amounts of cash to travel the next day, and all the while the inevitable delays associated with this game were lengthening.

This was not uncommon practice with most airlines, we have learned. However the frequency and overt nature of their malpractice created dysfunctional customer relationships based on greed for the few rather than satisfaction for the many. It put me off using them for future flights and we have found a much more customer focused experience with British Airways. Now I accept that it won’t always be this way for every customer, but for me I’m flying the flag for BA and there are important reasons for that.

Our first long haul flight with British Airways was indirectly booked through a tour company taking us on a trip of the Music Cities of the Deep South (if that sounds good it will be covered in a later blog). My husband became ill on the internal flight and the service we received as a result was first class. I was so impressed with the attention and care we received I felt compelled to write and express my gratitude. In addition, for the remainder of that journey, they upgraded us to business class and once you’ve had a taste for that, well there was no going back really.

This necessitated an exploration of their website and, in an unusual but not regrettable step, I joined them as a member. This was, in the beginning, just to be advised of offers via email. This was reasonably effective and how I first became aware of their world sales. I also realised that we could fly business class at a much reduced cost, particularly if we were able to travel at non-peak times. We have worked and saved our money to enable us to travel quite a bit when we retired so this was something we felt we wanted to experience again especially on long haul. Buying our flights this way increased our membership ranking and this provided additional customer loyalty benefits that among other things include free flights. What was not to like about this??

We have travelled to the USA with British Airways on several occasions now. We have not experienced any major delays, barring a recent experience when our connecting flight to Edinburgh on our return from the Caribbean was delayed. I’ve already stated how helpful, compassionate and supportive the BA staff were when we needed to get home in a hurry. What I did not mention however was that the hotel we had been staying in, Coconut Bay Resort and Spa, was part of a British Airways package we had booked. Other than gaining their assistance in contacting BA to arrange our flight home, we had made no representation to them about our stay having been cut short. We only had time to check out after 4 days, leaving 10 days of unused all inclusive holiday costs behind us.

So it was an incredible surprise, and one that actually had me in tears, when BA called me this week. They wanted to speak to me about having had to cut my recent holiday short, “what a nice gesture” I was thinking. Then she went on to advise me that the resort wanted to refund the part of my holiday that I was unable to have. I had not expected nor requested this I reported through my uncontrollable emotional response. I had thought we would need to seek compensation from my travel insurance claim. But not on this occasion, not when you book with BA.

Within 3 days, a substantial and unexpected refund went back into my account. Apart from the obvious good fortune creating more than a glimmer of warmth and fuzzy feelings amongst the recent darkness that had befallen my family. And it was further reinforcement, if any was needed, that you can’t go wrong with BA. I for one will always, always fly their flag. When I have needed them, they have been right where I needed them to be, with minimum fuss and maximum effort. From the bottom of my heart thank you, so much British Airways……………

A little bit of Christmas Fun. Chapter 1 Christmas

Here we are in December; I love Christmas and all that it promises, family, faith and fairy lights. I’m usually quite religious about putting my tree up 12 days before the 24th and taking it down on the 12th day too, but when I was working in the early days, driving about our home town in Livingston in 1979, it was my guiltiest pleasure to play spot the Christmas tree.

In those days it was exceptional for trees to be put up early so spotting one was rare and spotting one in November was extremely rare. You were guaranteed to see them in December of course and I always found it strangely marvellous that people chose to put them up as soon as December burst onto the scene. I loved to search for the sparkling lights; the multi-colour ones were best, so pretty fanning out in the window like a preening peacock staring out into the wet bleak nights of winter. It wasn’t such a bad way to spend our time, as the roving car all we had to do was drive around, being available or looking for fairy lights while waiting on someone to call for our help.

As a woman (it was the 70’s) I was rarely in the driving seat so I used this prevailing order to give me a massive advantage over my colleagues in this game. As the passenger it left me free to scan the houses and flats that lined our route and spontaneously shout out “Xmas tree!” while they were consigned (in this job) by gender to concentrate on the road. I know for the most part they were humouring me; I was a young naive girl trying to find my way into a man’s world. So my fascination in all things Christmas was almost stereotypical and provided a form of light entertainment for them.

Of course there were the hard nosed individuals, who were not enamoured by my game, but my naive persistence bit into their stoic repudiation to humour me (or ignore my ravings). This was actually a test of their tolerance and acceptance of me and let me know where I stood. By the end of the shift, it was not unusual that they too would be sucked into the search by my girlish enthusiasm for something as simple as looking for Christmas trees in what could often be an otherwise difficult day.

My most guilty pleasure at this time of year in my working life, was the opportunity we had to creep on other people’s Christmas. No matter where we were in the town when you went into a home, there was the chance to glimpse Christmas and all its splendour. Everyone had their own traditions and take on the celebration; sparkling lights, wrapped presents, chocolate advent calendars, bright baubles and flickering candles that added to my catalogue of ideas and developing my own style.

It wasn’t until the late 90’s outside lights began to appear, by which time I was working in Edinburgh. It was a real treat to explore the various parts of the city, to see whether tat or taste was on show. I loved the bright, staccato pulsing colours that lined the roofs, inflatable Santas chained to chimney’s, trains and reindeers pulling present laden sleighs that were most frequently on show in the council estates. While among the bourgeoisie there were single colour white or blue lights gracefully adorning trees, or reindeers and snowmen standing tall, burning brightly and fashionably alone in and among the shrubs and conifers of stately addresses in Edinburgh.

If I was working on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve the sheer excitement of both days was some times tempered with the reasons for us being called to homes during the holidays. On those occasions, the lights were dulled by parents fuelled by drink or children for whom the promise of Christmas had not yet been delivered. Bright lights often belied what lay behind closed doors, all too often we were called in when the lights went out. The thrill of Christmas lights helped to mask the realities of life and everything we had to deal with in our working days………………..