Stuff I like about my parents’ house #6: seventy years’ worth of Christmas tree decorations

On Wednesday, as I mentioned, I was up in Edinburgh decorating Mum and Dad’s house for Christmas.  My favourite part of doing Christmas decorations is always the tree, and Mum and Dad’s tree is extra especially awesome because the decorations are so old.  I love old things!

Christmas tree 2018
Seventy years in the making.

It is beyond argument that I get my hoarding tendencies from Dad’s side of the family.  Mum actually chucks things out.  Thankfully for this post, Christmas tree decorations are an exception, and so we have an entire family collection going back to the 1940s.  This means that, barring unforeseen circumstances, when I’m in my sixties I will own an entire century’s worth of Christmas tree decorations!  I feel slightly giddy at the prospect.

Let’s go through some of the collection!


These pretty baubles with the indents were on Granny and Grandad MacLeod’s tree for Mum’s first Christmas in 1949.  We have three of them.  We did have four, but I ate one in 1986.  I will tell you the fantastic story of this tasty, tasty bauble another time!


Our tree topper is a bride doll called Myra, which Mum received as a fourth birthday present in 1953.  Her bouquet is a cake decoration, her veil is a handkerchief, and her hair is a bit of Granny MacLeod’s old hairnet!  She’s not looking too shabby considering her age.

Most of the decorated glass baubles on the tree date from Mum’s childhood in the 1950s.  The decoration on them is really gorgeous and intricate in a way that’s not really done anymore, and there are some really interesting shapes.


These two large baubles were bought by Granny MacLeod when Mum was a teenager.  I always hang them on the top branches ’cause they balance out the sparser bit of the tree nicely.


These silver and red glitterball baubles were a later addition to Granny MacLeod’s collection.

These cellophane baubles were bought by Dad when he moved into his first flat in Edinburgh in 1978.  Most of them are a bit worse for wear, because when we had our cat, José, I used to put them at the bottom of the tree so he’d have ornaments to rip down that weren’t the precious mid-century glass baubles.  Cats and Christmas trees aren’t the greatest of mixtures.


We’ve had these cloth octagons with angels on since probably the early ’80s, since I don’t remember a Christmas without them.  They’re not much to look at, but they’re perfumed, and the perfume is absolutely DIVINE – it’s the ultimate smell of Christmas for me, really primal, as it’s been a scent associated with our Christmas tree since I was born.  Dad doesn’t like them, so I always put them round the back of the tree where I know I can go have a sniff whenever I like!

This wooden teddy bear was a gift from Sheila and Jim next door for my first Christmas in 1985.

Every year in the late ’80s, my Cooke grandparents, Grandad and Anne, would bring a homemade decoration each for me and my brother Malcolm, either knitted or embroidered by Anne.  I always still put these on the ‘correct’ side of the tree – we each had a side of the tree that was our own when we were little!

Mum’s friend Judy sent this gorgeous metal decoration in 1989.


We’ve had a bit of a Canadian theme going with our tree decorations since long before we acquired my Canadian sister-in-law Steff.  This teddy bear decoration was one we bought on a trip to New Brunswick in 1994.  It was the first time any of us had ever seen an all-year-round Christmas shop, so we had to go in and buy a decoration!

My step-auntie Elaine gave us this pretty delicate gold ornament from Turkey some time in the ’90s.  There’s also a rectangular one in the same material with a heart pattern.

This globe bauble – another nice big bauble for near the top of the tree – was a gift from Grandad and Anne.  I can’t remember exactly where in the world it came from though!

I bought this glitterball bauble in Jenners in Princes Street in 1999 for the small artificial tree in my bedroom, which was all silver that year for the Y2K theme.  One of the many endearing things about the 20th century was that silver = the future.  When I think of 1999, I just remember all my makeup being silver and plum and ice blue, and every piece of clothing I bought that year being shiny and metallic and in similarly cool colours.


Our family friend Billy brought us this souvenir from the Empire State Building in the early ’00s.

We have oodles of these felt things – they were an advent calendar gift from Mum’s friend Elisabet in 2006.  There were so many that Mum gave some to me for my own tree and so I’ll be putting them up in Newcastle this weekend!

I bought this ‘gift’ for José in the late ’00s.  It didn’t have catnip in it, so he wasn’t that interested.  There’s also a ‘Special Dad’ one for Dad that matches it!

We have quite a lot of wooden ornaments from more recent times.  This one was bought by Mum and Dad in the Munich Christmas market in 2009.


Continuing with the Canadian theme, Geth brought this maple leaf back from Toronto in 2010.

Geth and I brought this Guinness bauble back from a trip to Dublin in 2012.  It has its own fancy box!  It’s another one that I hang at the top of the tree.

Mum and Dad bought this pretty wooden snowman ornament in Liverpool in 2014.

Also in 2014, Anne gave Steff this owl ornament (Steff likes owls).  Steff keeps it in Edinburgh as her ‘Edinburgh owl’.

In 2017, Dad, who has really got into Scandi stuff in the last few years, bought this ‘tomten’ in Sweden – apparently it’s a traditional Christmas decoration there.

Also in 2017, Steff’s parents Mike and Antoniette gave us a couple of silver decorations, including this pretty treble clef.

There are so many more, but this is a good selection of highlights!  If the family acquires any more during Christmas 2018, I’ll make sure to tell you about them.

Phone Box Thursday: Compton Terrace, London

Here’s the second of the numerous phone boxes along my pleasant walk from Highbury Fields parkrun to the Thistle City Barbican.

Red phone box
Red phone box, Compton Terrace, London, 18th November 2017.

(Coordinates 51°32’41.5″N, 0°6’11.9″W.)

This phone box is a K2 model (I’ve mentioned before that you can distinguish these by the slightly more bulbous top), which is quite a common sight in central London – less so elsewhere.

Vintage fair haul: Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair

Saturday was a hectic day, but I managed to squeeze in a quick trip to a vintage fair!  I brought Geth with me for the first time, having lured him in with the promise of cake, and so he was able to sit down with a big piece of cake and a cup of tea in a proper teacup while I had my quick nosey round the stalls.  I also had a taste of the cake, which was a nice chocolate orange flavour.  I’ve never sampled the cakes at vintage fairs before, ’cause I’m usually just in and out quickly with my clothes haul!

Vintage fair haul
Shiny, shiny blouse.

Just one piece bought this time – this lovely shiny blouse.  I wore it out the same night for the Culture Club gig we went to!

Lou Lou’s is one of my favourites, so I’ll be keeping an eye on when they’re back in Newcastle.

Phone Box Thursday: Highbury Place, London

Today is the first of a very long series of phone boxes that I photographed on the walk back from Highbury Fields parkrun to the Thistle City Barbican when Geth and I were in London for Beat:Cancer in November 2017.  There are a LOT of these, and we’ll probably be looking at them into 2019, but it’s quite appropriate that I’m starting this series in November seeing as I’m feeling a bit wistful about missing out on my annual November London trip (the Beat:Cancer dates were different this year and we couldn’t fit any of the gigs into our already packed schedule).

Red phone boxes
Red phone boxes, Highbury Place, London, 18th November 2017.

(Coordinates 51°54’64.8″N, 0°10’3.1″W.)

I had to photograph these two through some roadworks barriers.  Google Street View shows them unobstructed!

Phone Box Thursday: Duncombe Place, York

I love this York phone box.  I spotted it while we were running the Yorkshire 10 Mile in 2017 – the pretty bit when you’re running up towards York Minster – and went back to take a photo the next day.  I’d never have spotted it during the soaking wet Yorkshire 10 Mile 2018, but because I knew it was there, I gave it a wave.

Red phone box
Red phone box, Duncombe Place, York, 9th October 2017.

Great phone box – one of my favourites.

Phone Box Thursday: A685, Kirkby Stephen

Today’s phone box is one that I spotted while in Dad’s car en route from Wigan to Newcastle!  Dad kindly pulled over so I could take a picture.

Red phone box
Red phone box, A685, Kirkby Stephen, 24th September 2017.

(Coordinates 54°4’55.4″N, 2°36’95.9″W.)

The phone box was installed to serve the nearby Kirkby Stephen railway station, and is in lovely condition.  Nice to see these country phone boxes being so well kept.

Phone Box Thursday: Station Road, Whitley Bay

Today’s phone box is very special, and is my favourite ‘local’ phone box (i.e. one I can get to on the Tyne and Wear Metro).

Red phone box
Red phone box, Station Road, Whitley Bay, 22nd July 2017.

(Coordinates 55°2’25.5″N, 1°26’34.0″W.)

This phone box, which stands outside Whitley Bay Metro station, is a K4 model from the ’20s, which is very rare – it’s one of only ten still in existence and one of only four still in public use.  Its ‘Post Office’ sign is not an indication of a later change of use – the K4 was designed by the Post Office to incorporate a postbox and stamp dispenser.  Next time I’m in Whitley Bay, I’m going to investigate the box properly and see how much of the original infrastructure survives!

Vintage fair haul: Worth The Weight Kilo Sale and The Vintage Kilo Sale

Two vintage fairs on in Newcastle today, both kilo sales.  I have discovered that kilo sales are my new favourite thing.

Vintage fair haul
Lots of funky ’80s patterns! Top (L-R): blouse, jumper, blouse, dress. Bottom (L-R): dress, blouse, dress, dress. I’m looking forward to wearing all of these!

I managed to get eight items of clothing for the price I would usually pay for two or three at a vintage fair, so I feel like I got some great bargains today!

I went to Worth The Weight Kilo Sale at the Civic Centre first.  I’d managed to get a limited edition free entry ticket when they’d advertised them on Facebook, which meant more money for clothes!  I’d intended to stick to lightweight dresses and blouses to try and get my money’s worth, and for the large part I stuck to that plan, but I couldn’t resist one jumper.  I do love an ’80s jumper!  At £15 per kilo, my 1.4 kilos came in at £21, which is not bad for a jumper, two dresses, and two blouses.

I then headed over to The Vintage Kilo Sale at Northumbria Student Union, which turned out to be the right way round to do things – by the time I got there it was past noon, which meant both discounted entry (£1.50 rather than £3) and discounted stock (£10 per kilo rather than £15!).  This meant that I only had to pay £10 for my exactly-a-kilo haul of two dresses and a blouse.

Both fairs had a really good selection of late 20th century vintage (’70s to ’90s, mostly), which meant that my ’80s vintage wardrobe has grown significantly today.  I’m already looking forward to when the next kilo sale rolls into town, and will be keeping my eyes peeled on Facebook!