Another world I really thought I was in another world but in reality I was in Trewins’ basement, or sub-basement, but to me it was sheer fairyland.
I suppose I was about five years old at the time. Every Christmas Trewin Brothers (it really was Trewin Brothers then, not Selfridges or John Lewis Partnership), put on a children’s show.
I think one of the first I remember was Jack and the Beanstalk. Anyway, I didn’t really care very much what story it was because they never got them right in my opinion. Pantomimes never stuck to the real story either, much to my disapproval.
A sort of dreamland Downstairs, after we had gone through the shop, there was subdued greenish light and there Mother had to pay sixpence, you were then in a sort of dreamland.
There were big dark rocks with gaps between them, green lights which got brighter and groups of figures depicting the story. There was a funny smell too, I remember, a painty varnishy smell, very reminiscent of new toys on Christmas morning. All this made it another land.
Jack was a very large healthy looking boy. I felt sorry that his Mother was rather elderly; but then in those days mine was the only young and pretty Mother anyway.
The Beanstalk practically took over the basement. Mr Trewin evidently didn’t need to worry about sales density!
I wasn’t very keen on the Giant so I hurried passed him and went along the exciting but rather gloomy path between the rocks, and rejoiced with Jack’s Mother at his safe return with the lovely Princess and the bags of gold.
Just plain scared of Santa Claus
This was what children looked forward to most, Santa sitting at the end of the caves, with a huge sack of toys. All the children except me, I think, wanted a toy. Dare I admit it? I was just plain scared of Santa Claus. I preferred him to call and deliver my presents on Christmas night quietly and leave without me seeing him. What a horrid child I must have been. Trewins’ Santa wore a mask which was all red and shiny. I just knew he wasn’t real and when he shook my hand I felt at a disadvantage and was barely able to be civil and thank him properly.
My Mother always cleverly dismissed my pleading request to go back and see the caves again. I suspect she wanted to get home with her Christmas shopping, so I had to wait another year.
Eventually of course, I grew out of such things; but you can imagine how I felt, not so long ago, during our rebuilding when I saw the old Grotto downstairs, the remains of the rocks, looking dusty and aged and with no green lights or any mystery at all.