26 Winters is Open

26WintersChocolatesI wrote a while ago about being asked to be part of the 26 Winters exhibition, which is being held this autumn and winter at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh.

The exhibition itself now open, with the online advent calendar revealing our objects from the collection from the 1 December onwards. My ‘object’ was in fact several – sugary, Christmassy treats from times past (indeed, some with white bloom, as my visit to the Museum over the summer to visit my objects revealed).

My blog about writing my sestude (a work of 62 words) is on the Museum’s website, and here:

I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth. So when I found about my objects – Christmas chocolates and other sugary treats – my first reaction was to laugh out loud.

I followed that first reaction in trying to come up with my idea. I thought of over-indulgence and consumption. Eating too much, expressing love and gratitude through sugar.

Bah humbug.

Then I started to think about where all the ingredients for Christmas treats travel from. The Three Kings, and their journey to Bethlehem, bearing rich gifts from the east. That line from T S Eliot’s ‘The Journey of the Magi’ about the ‘silken girls bringing sherbet’. The long and sometimes very unpleasant colonial history of sugar and cocoa, the pathways of the goods, and the slaves.

Again, not terribly cheery.

So one light summer evening, I put on some Christmas music, and remembered lines from a different poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’:

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads.

Straightaway, a different vision: a frothy, chocolatey Strictly Come Dancing. The sweets swirling merrily across the dance floor, light-hearted and fun.

But still, a little South American darkness crept in…