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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 9 (December 1, 1938)


What is Christmas Day to you? A holy day of the church? A holiday from toil? A time of present-giving and receiving? A children's day? A feast day?

Whatever your answer, you will agree that Christmas Day is accepted as a happy day, a day of kindliness and thought for friends and relatives. Happiness, say the philosophers, is a state difficult of attainment and not to be reached at will. But a “happy day” can be assured by family forethought. Plan your day, taking into account the desires of the various members. Each will be willing to concede something in response to equal consideration from others. Then, when Christmas Day comes, there will be no sudden conflict of desires and consequent disappointments.

In a household with young children, there is less chance for adjustment. The day will be planned for the children, who will be happy with new toys and scope for activity. Father will enjoy the children's morning excitement and a special mid-day meal, followed by his pipe and a book, and a little exercise later in the day. Unmarried sister and her boy friend may come for Christmas dinner, but will be glad to find their own amusement for the afternoon. Mother would appreciate the morning church service (which won't seem the same on the radio), a rest from the preparation of meals, a quiet half-hour after dinner and an interesting outing in the afternoon. But every one knows which member of the family will give up her idea of a happy day in order to ensure the contentment of the rest of the family. And she won't complain either, but will draw happiness from those about her.

I'm not going to advise families to make it “Mother's Christmas” this year. Most mothers wouldn't thank me for it, averring that a home dinner is more enjoyable and more wholesome than a restaurant meal; that a picnic Christmas meal is just as much trouble as one cooked at home; that John page 74 likes his own easy-chair; that the children have plenty of space in their own garden; and that she doesn't need a day off.

My suggestion is that mother should be allowed, if she wishes, to give the rest of the family their idea of a Christmas Day, but that mothers’ “happy days” should be the rest of Christmas week. For instance, on Boxing Day, when things go flat round the home, the energetic husband should take charge and lead his forces out to beach or country, leaving mother outside the arrangements unless she wishes to come “as a guest.”

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London, 20th, October, 1938. Dear Helen,

… . For your sake, and incidentally for my own enjoyment, I've been to several mannequin parades lately. The autumn styles are delightful, and the shows are so well organised that one hasn't time to relax interest.

To soft music, and the bright descriptive chat of the lady at the microphone, the girls (and “older women”) step neatly forward, twist and turn, and retire. The crowd gently applauds any particularly successful appearance. At one shop in Regent St., the mannequins moved among the tables for a few minutes after leaving the dais—an excellent idea, allowing an extra look at a frock or mannequin. To tell the truth, I'm as interested in the mannequins as in clothes.

Well, I enclose herewith a few notes which you won't need for three months yet—furs, and the new tawny-wine shade for outdoor wear, and sequins, ostrich feathers and hair ornaments for evening occasions.

I paid particular attention to hair and was a little disappointed—one sees more variety at the theatre. Most of the models had their hair dressed up in front and away from the ears, but it was still low on the nape, even when showing evening styles. Of course the ordinary woman has a struggle to get her short, long ends neatly up at the back, but one expects a mannequin to manage it successfully.

I'm still growing mine at the back, but I have rows of curls on top. Hair seems to me to be the most important aspect of fashionable appearance. I hope all you people in New Zealand are growing yours so that you can attempt something with it.

I tell myself it's stupid to worry about hair when, only the other day, we were trying on gas-masks. I was wondering all the time how people felt in New Zealand, and whether fatality seemed as imminent there as here. In London the crisis worked up steadily, inexorably. Newsboys were on the streets till all hours. One night I was awakened at four a.m. As usual I could not understand his call, but felt that an edition at that hour must mean war. I lay in the darkness and tried to realise it. It wasn't war, of course, but I hope never to be so near it again.

London activities seemed to reinforce newspaper news. Long queues stood for hours for gas-masks, on the Tuesday, in pouring rain. There was feverish activity in parks and squares where unemployed were called on to help build trenches—pitifully inadequate for those millions who would not be evacuated. Part of the central London underground system was suspended for “structural alterations.” Builders were working till late at night preparing gas-proof rooms in hospitals, hotels and office buildings.

Streams of taxis, some with perambulators on top, converged on Paddington and Victoria Stations, the outlets to the west. Most of the “refugees” seemed to be families with children.

In buses and tubes strangers spoke to strangers, exchanged opinions, offered words of hope which were accepted as sadly as they were given. It was a rare thing to see a smile on any face. London moved through its everyday life as in a nightmare.

I suppose in New Zealand, too, the main topics of discussion are war and peace and a suitable foreign policy. One encouraging factor in the crisis was that there was no “war-fever” among the people, either here or on the Continent.

A Merry Christmas to you.

I'm loving the prospect of coming home.


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