January 2021


A ‘Happy New Year’ to you all!   This well-worn phrase has a special depth of sincerity and meaning this year, especially for our Memory Cafe members who are amongst many of us who will have found 2020 particularly worrying and challenging.  We all need to start looking forward now: New Year’s Eve always signifies new hope and beginnings and each year that comes gives us a chance to look forward and make new wishes for our loved ones, our friends, ourselves and our community.

Although we won’t have the chance to get together with friends and family in the usual way this year, there are many memories of New Year celebrations in times gone by to bring smiles to our faces.  Do you recall the excitement of being allowed to stay up until midnight when you were a child and linking arms and singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’? Perhaps you greeted the new year by watching television – ‘The White Heather club’ with Andy Stewart and Moira Anderson was always popular, especially the Scottish reels, and then the countdown to the chimes of Big Ben at midnight!

Or you may have had a tradition of ‘First Footing’ with someone bringing in coal for a warm home, bread for enough food and money for wealth through the coming year. Many communities had their own traditions and Newquay was renowned for the fancy dress costumes worn by party-goers as they paraded through the town on New Year’s Eve.  A more recent tradition is the ‘New Year’s Day Swim’ which is now held around the country and can attract hundreds of brave souls to take the plunge into the freezing sea, many in fancy dress, and often raising funds for charity.

New Year’s Day has always been the time for new resolutions – usually soon broken, but can you recall any you made and kept?

Another tradition, long past now, was the delights of the ‘January Sales’ when keen bargain hunters would queue up outside the stores to beat the crowds or even sleep on the pavement overnight! ‘Black Friday’, internet shopping and the sales held leading up to Christmas itself has completely decimated that annual rush.

Whatever your memories let’s hope that there will be chances to raise our glasses and celebrate this year too – even if in a different way!

At the Memory Cafe our hopes and wishes are that it won’t be too many months before we can be up and running again and we look forward to meeting up with friends, old and new, in 2021. My, won’t we have a lot to talk about!!

December 2020

‘Christmas is coming!’  Well, I suppose it always is, but this year preparations seem to have started earlier than ever. In the last week of October, St Ives switched on its Christmas lights and when Father Christmas made an appearance he socially distanced and stayed behind glass to wave at the children!

With many restrictions placed on us at the moment there will be no large Christmas gatherings this year, but our Memory Cafe members, like many of us, will have fond memories of happy and exciting seasonal parties in their younger days. Local organisations, churches, schools and employers would arrange Christmas events which were such a central part of our celebrations: trestle tables loaded with party food and crackers to pull, games such as musical chairs, postman’s knock and pass the parcel, perhaps a visiting magician or clown, and best of all a visit from Father Christmas who called everyone’s name in turn and gave wonderful presents – how did he know exactly what each of us really wanted?

For the girls best party dresses were the order of the day – if you were lucky with sparkly sandals and new white socks.  For the boys your best short trousers, shirt and tie and even a blazer – no jeans and tee shirts then!

Our photos capture one such happy event, held in Crantock in the 1950s – clutching their presents and balloons it looks as though this little crowd are preparing to go home and Father Christmas certainly looks as though he’ll be glad of a rest!

Perhaps you recognise some of these faces or better still are in one of the photos yourself. Maybe you can recall attending similar gatherings when you were a child.

Even before this year’s restrictions, events like these seemed to have faded into the past but the memories live on.  Let’s hope we can all adjust and have a very happy and healthy Christmas this year and we look forward to a time when we are all able to meet up again.

November 2020

Remember, remember the fifth of November ……. well, we always do, and nowadays many of us go to organised bonfires and firework displays, but it’s not like it was in the ‘old days’ is it!

Bonfire night in the 1950s and 1960s was much more of a ‘hands-on’ celebration: family and neighbourhood events were the order of the day, and the last weeks of October were the time for gathering wood and cardboard for the fire, making a good Guy Fawkes to put on the top of the bonfire, after he’d been taken around the streets in a wheelbarrow or go-kart to collect ‘a penny for the Guy’ of course!

There was great excitement in late October when fireworks were first seen in the shops – a selection box of Standard Fireworks was good but it was always a highlight to peruse the trays of individual items – rockets and Catherine Wheels were a must, but there had to be a few bangers of course, and don’t forget the fountains, Roman Candles and packets of sparklers too!

As the night finally arrived everyone hoped the weather would stay fine and all was set for an exciting evening – the fire was built, rockets set up in milk bottles and Catherine Wheels nailed to posts – dads were usually in charge of these!  Meanwhile mum had prepared a feast – in some households this would include ginger parkin and toffee apples, for others potatoes and sausages to bake in the fire, or perhaps mugs of hot soup to thaw us out as the night always seemed to be clear and frosty.  Children listened expectantly to hear the first fireworks go off and rushed outside to have a first look to see if any early fires had been lit. For the daring this was the time to set off bangers and Jumping Jacks and for boys to frighten unsuspecting girls!

As Guy Fawkes Night proper got underway the dark sky was full of colours, sounds and smells – small children waved sparklers whilst the older ones shrieked at the excitement of the sound of explosions with the air filled with ‘ooohs’ and ‘aahhs’.  

As the fire died down, everyone made their way back home taking with them a distinct smell of woodsmoke mingling with a whiff of gunpowder.

Do you remember the morning after? Ashes from the bonfire would still be smouldering and bleary-eyed children collected the remains of rockets and other fireworks as they made their way to school. Here comparisons would be made as to who had the biggest bonfire, the loudest banger, the highest rocket and who had set the hedge on fire!  Then to cap it all you had to write a poem about it!!

We all have our personal memories of Bonfire Night and it was certainly an occasion to remember. We look forward to a time once again when we can share such recollections when we meet up with our Memory Cafe friends.