Travelling hopefully towards Christmas as the third Sunday in Advent arrives I feel the memories of Christmas past rising up to greet me, and this rolling out of the carpet of seasonal memories is one of those things that makes Christmas special, a time to take stock and think back and forward in both joy and sadness, as I once more pause to ponder with Floss.
Some of the memories are of things long since gone, and some are of the comforting continuities in life. And one of the continuities in our house is carpet farming - just as I think that those days are past, I find that carpet farming is once more underway and the riding school in business again - Princess Bunchy tells me that the riding school is an essential part of the celebrations for her, and that the mere sight of it makes her think of Christmas.
And the sight of my old riding school, so old that I couldn't possibly tell you how many years ago it entered my life, transports me back to the Christmas way back in history when this riding school was my special present - the Christmas when I was about five years old, one that stands out amongst many because it was one of those small tragedies of childhood that are never forgotten. This was the year that I woke up so very early and made a most tragically fatal mistake which cast a shadow over the whole day.
I awoke so early that all the family were still fast asleep, so early that it was long before the agreed time for waking my parents, and as I lay in bed in the dark I could see the mysterious lumpiness of the pillowcase overflowing with presents at the end of my bed, and the enticingly large parcel sitting alongside.
No one was stirring, the clock seemed to have stopped in its tracks, and I was consumed with desire to know what all those packages contained. And I could not contain myself but got out of bed, sat on the floor in the dim light, and started opening my presents one by one, all alone and solitary. I remember the riding stable, and the horses and riders, and fences and animals, but I don't remember one of those other presents - I opened every single one, with no one around to share my joy and excitement, and then a couple of hours later I had to sit and watch my sister open her own overflowing pillowcase of presents, very slowly it seemed, in the painful knowledge that I had burned my boats and jumped the gun, and completely taken the shine off the day.
From that year on, every Christmas eve I put my pillowcase out downstairs, safely out of temptation's way, and I resolved to open my presents as slowly as possible, so that never again would I have to sit and watch others open theirs, but they could sit and wait for me to finish my careful unwrapping. And I have kept to that resolution ever since.
So Princess Bunchy's orderly arrangements of horses and sheep, and tractors and fences, all open up a box of memories of my childhood, my children's childhood, a long line of years marching back into the past, with faces long departed smiling out at me as my mind travels backward in time.
I hope that you have some happy memories of Christmas past, and more to be made and stored in Christmas present and Christmas yet to come.