15 Dec 2013

Famous Names: the trickle and dribble of memory

Famous Names: boundary chocolates 
Remember these? Christmas chocolates for grown-ups. At least they only ever made an appearance in our house at the end of the year and they belonged strictly in adult territory. Only the Harvey's Bristol Cream one blurred the boundary line. Perhaps because, at the end of the 1960s, I was allowed half a glass of sherry at Christmas then that little barrel of chocolate filled with the sweet, dark syrup was also viewed as an acceptable trespass. 

I do not know, yet, whether there is a little barrel of chocolate inside this box a friend gave me a couple of days ago. I am reluctant to open it and discover plain and uninspiring chocolate blocks, design beaten into submission by the passing years. I am also keeping possible disappointment at arm's length because the memory is a sweet one too: biting off the top, drinking the contents then allowing the remainder of the sherry infused barrel to melt on my tongue. There was risk involved in that approach though: a less than clean bite resulted in a full chin dribble.

I had no idea these liqueur chocolates were still being manufactured. They're made by Elizabeth Shaw, a brand named for the woman who developed the much appreciated mint crisp in her kitchen in the 1930s. And I am sure we used to have a box filled with just the Harvey's Bristol Cream variety although only this Signature Collection and a Whiskey Collection are currently available.

Harvey's was THE sherry of taste in the 1960s. And even my youthful palate could tell the difference between a sip of the good stuff and the decidedly inferior British Sherry or Emva Cream Cyprus Sherry my Aunty Beryl used to pull out of the sideboard during the compulsory Christmas-time family visit.

Christmas 1961
That was forty to forty five years ago. And this photograph, fifty-two years ago. Santa looks a little thin in the face. And I do not remember what the small wrapped present contained. A snow-globe would have been good. And it's the right shape. 

Perhaps I am hesitant about opening the box of Famous Names because I do not want to disturb the memory with a different reaction. It's not that I want to enshrine the past as a place that's better than the present. But there's no harm in framing it with a certain amount of tenderness. 

One Christmas morning my sister, Shan, and I crept downstairs while it was still dark and opened the living room door on absence. Not a single present. This couldn't be right. Had Mam and Dad forgotten? The shivers that ran through us, only dressed in our nighties, were not from the winter temperature in a house before the days of central heating. My big sister took the initiative. Our presents had to be somewhere else. And they were. In the front room where Mam and Dad had thoughtfully left the gas fire on low so we wouldn't be cold. Although we still carried everything into the living room, one by one, including the big hand-made dolls' house Daddy had been papering the roof of the night before. Because the living room was where they belonged. 

I might open the box tonight. Try that Harvey's Bristol Cream chocolate. Now that I've captured that memory, preserved it in words, I think I'll cope with the outcome. 

Hungry Writing Prompt 
Write about waking up on Christmas morning.