A Christmas Diary

Home economics lessons, Donny Osmond, maxi dresses and the boy next door… let’s all slip back to 1976

Wednesday, December 1, 1976

Dear Diary,

When Gran bought me this diary last Christmas (I’d rather have had Donny’s new single!) she said that when I was older, I’d look back and laugh at the things I thought were so important, and she’s right.

I mean I cannot believe that I ever fancied Martin Walsh!

The Christmas tree is up at school but Dad says it’s too early for ours.

Honestly, why are there so many rules about Christmas? And who writes them?

The Herald is running a Best Mince Pie competition and the prize is a Christmas cake from that posh bakers in town. I’ve decided to enter.

This is our first year without Gran (miss you loads Gran!) which means the first year without her cake. And Dad always says Christmas starts with the first bite of Christmas cake so it’ll be a nice surprise for him.

How hard can it be?

Linda bought that new tank top in C&A when I saw it first! What kind of best friend does that?

If only Dad would let me get a Saturday job, but he says I can’t till I’m fifteen at least! It’s so unfair.

The shops are looking really Christmassy. And there’s Christmas music on the radio. I will NEVER get tired of listening to Slade. Never.

Monday, December 6

Went to the library on Saturday and all the books with Christmas recipes are out! How is anyone supposed to make mince pies?

Linda said I should just buy some but knowing my luck I’ll get caught.

So, I asked Miss Tomlin, the new home economics teacher, if she had a recipe. She’s not old and stuffy like the other teachers.

She was surprised we didn’t have a cookery book at home so I reminded her about my ‘Poor Motherless State’ and she was so embarrassed to have forgotten that she’s not only agreed to get me a recipe, she says we can make mince pies at the last cookery class before we break up, instead of boring old tuna plait which is on the schedule.

The competition date is the twentieth so that’s perfect.

It’s really weird talking about Mum. I mean I was so young when she died, I hardly remember her but when I tell people they always get upset so that makes me upset which makes them worse.

All the mums at school feel sorry for Dad and me and they’re always trying to help.

Linda says that’s because Dad is a hunk. I told her she needs her eyes examined!

Martin Walsh walked behind me all the way home from school.

It felt like he wanted to say something but when I turned and demanded to know why he was following me he reminded me that he lived next door (as if I could ever forget!) and stomped off.

I cannot believe I ever thought he was cute. Dad says we used to play in the paddling pool together when we were little. All I can say is, there had better not be any photos!

Friday, December 10

I might be getting my ears pierced at last!

Linda came for tea and told Dad about a friend of a girl her cousin knows who pierced her own ears with a needle and a potato and her whole head got infected.

I gave Dad a meaningful look. I think he understands the real danger here.

She says Martin Walsh fancies me. This is the boy who, in June, shot me with a water pistol when I was sunbathing in the garden in a brand-new bikini.

Gran rushed out to see what all the noise was about and told me off for using ‘language’ but she was trying not to laugh.

Martin had already ducked back down behind the wall. Gran says – said – that boys think differently from girls and that sometimes their actions make no sense.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Thursday, December 16

The cookery class was cancelled! Unbelievable!

The boating pond froze over and some stupid fifth form boys went skating. The ice was barely an inch thick but the water is only two foot deep so it’s not as if they were in any danger.

But a Special Assembly was called and the whole school had to attend and listen to a lecture on tomfoolery (who even uses that word!?)

Miss T could see I was upset so I told her about Gran, and winning the Christmas cake. I didn’t mean to but somehow it just came out. Stupid tears.

Anyway, Miss T said she would have helped me make them after school but she can’t as she’s helping with the rehearsal for the carol concert.

So instead she offered to come round to mine on Saturday morning – but only if Dad agrees.

It’ll mean missing Multi Coloured Swap Shop but I said yes, quick as a flash.

Dad went mental. He remembers Miss T from parent’s night. He said I should have checked with him and what had I been saying about us anyway?

He said he would buy me mince pies. I couldn’t explain why I have to win the competition, could I?

Anyway, he calmed down but said I had to help tidy the house. Why??

He said we might have let standards slip a bit since Gran died.

So we tidied up and sang carols and danced. He can’t sing for toffee so at least I was able to tactfully remind him about the new cassette player I want for Christmas.

Saturday, December 18

What a brilliant day!!!

Only downside was Martin Walsh was out with his dog and he saw Miss T come up the path.

No doubt the whole school will think I’m in trouble on Monday morning.

But apart from that, brilliant!

Miss T said that I could call her Emily – though not at school, obviously.

Pastry is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Dad was working – he sometimes brings work home at the weekends because he has to leave early because of me. As if I need a babysitter!

But me and Miss T were laughing so much he came into the kitchen to see what was going on and he kind of stayed.

She’s OK for a teacher. I mean she didn’t pass the test – Osmonds or Jackson Five? (Osmonds.) Starsky or Hutch? (Hutch of course.) David Essex or David Cassidy? (David C all the way!) – but we didn’t fall out either.

Dad had combed his hair. And Miss T – sorry, Emily – was wearing lipstick! They were both super polite to each other and kept saying excuse me and can you pass this or that.

Then Miss T dropped the butter and, well, Gran would not have approved of the word she used!

Dad just burst out laughing and it was fine after that.

Her family are visiting her sister in Australia for Christmas so she’s on her own except for her dog.

Dad knows I’ve always wanted a dog. I came right out and asked if I could meet it and we’re all going for a walk tomorrow afternoon!! Dad too.

Linda and I went clothes shopping. My dress for the school disco is gorgeous. Royal blue maxi with gold piping around the neck and sleeves.

Linda says Miss T is after Dad. Or maybe he’s after her. I didn’t deign to reply.

After, we went to the caff for a hot chocolate. Martin and his friends were there.

Linda fancies his mate Robbie like mad and tossed her hair about like Miss Piggy, but they didn’t look our way.

Martin was hanging about by my gate when I walked home. I waited for him to tease me about being a teacher’s pet, but all he said was sorry about the water pistol and then he only went and gave me a bar of Dairy Milk!

Gran’s right. Boys are weird. Dad just kept asking why he had given me chocolate. I said I don’t know and honestly, I don’t.

Sunday, December 19


The walk was great. Miss T’s – sorry Emily’s – dog is called Toby and is full of energy.

Unfortunately, he’s also full of mince pies after she came back to our place for coffee. Miss T was mortified. She says she’ll make more, but she and I both know I can’t enter hers in the comp.

Never mind. They weren’t all that nice anyway so I probably wouldn’t have won.

To make up for it, she insisted on treating us to fish and chips for tea.

We sat at the table (like the Waltons!) instead of eating it on our knee in front of the telly. It felt a bit weird. Like a proper family. With a dog, even.

Monday, December 20

Martin Walsh invited me to the school disco! He was actually really sweet about it.

Linda was in the background making gagging noises but she soon changed her tune when Robbie asked her too! Thank goodness we’d bought such fab and funky dresses!

After tea, Dad and I put the tree up. He wasn’t too impressed that I had a date for the party but changed his mind when he heard it was Martin.

Then he got all serious and told me he had something to say.

I really, really hoped it wasn’t going to be a birds and bees talk because he was all red-faced and stumbly like Martin had been when he asked me out.

But no. He said he had somehow, accidentally, asked Miss T to spend Christmas with us since she’d be on her own and did I mind?

Mind? She teaches cooking so she must be a better cook than me or Dad. Of course I don’t mind!

Plus she’ll bring Toby.

Wednesday, December 22

Disco last night was great. We danced to Abba and Martin called me his Dancing Queen.

He really knows how to kiss! (Who has he been practising on???)

School holidays!!!

Sunday, December 26

Yesterday was perfect – well as perfect as it could be without Gran.

Emily had made a Christmas cake. Dad got all misty-eyed when she told him why.

I got a good haul of presents too – the new tank top from Linda! A cassette player from Dad and a fluffy jumper from Emily.

After lunch we all watched Top Of The Pops but I couldn’t record it on cassette as Toby kept barking.

Then I offered to take Toby for a walk while the grown-ups did the dishes. I’d arranged to meet Martin who’d sneaked out with his dog.

It was getting dark and all the windows were lit up and he’d brought some Black Magic and I’d brought some Roses.

We sat on a bench in the park and ate chocolate while the dogs played, and on the way home we held hands.

I couldn’t stop smiling. When I got home Dad and Emily were smiling too. Very suspicious.

We had some Christmas cake and watched The Generation Game and Morecambe And Wise, then Dad took Emily home.

So here I am, in my room, writing my diary.

Gran said I would enjoy looking back over the year. But even if I throw the diary away one day, I think I’ll tear out and keep Christmas 1976 so I never forget how brilliant it was.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Our My Weekly Favourites series of lovely festive fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.
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