My mother excelled at doing Christmas stockings. She would find us each
a big woolly sock the night before, and mine lay expectantly at the end
of the bed until I sat up in the morning and pulled its lumpy shape
towards me. There were presents under the tree too, but for us children,
delving into our stockings for little treasures was the greatest fun of
Then one Christmas, out came not treasures, but an old train ticket,
discarded spectacles, things from a drawer here or a shelf there.
It will have been in the 1940s, living in the village where I am now;
friends from London welcome to stay for quieter safer nights from
bombing, shortages of everything, and our mother with too much to do.
She must have looked around close at hand, and found enough to fill the
strangest Christmas stocking ever.
How odd to still use this defunct language! Are we, after the digital ‘cloud’ collapse, the only ones with access to manuscript records? Remember our conversation about those unsubstantiated rumours of a protein plague that forced the evacuation of Earth? I’ve found new evidence. The diary is badly damaged. Here are some patchy fragments. Can you make sense of them?
“(………) last Dec(…)ber’s Christm(…) tree. Sev(…) months since I brought it home; six since (………) expected to chuck (……….) branches (…)ttle uneven, some thin (………), but I shaped them; it was a (…)ice little (…)ee. Kep(…) me (…)mpany during (…)vid-19 (………) flat alone. (………) Norw(…) Fir. No way (………) fire or (…)mpost heap! (………) lost lustre (…)ut needl(…) still sharp! If no one’d do it to old me, why should I to my old tree?”
Remember: destroy after reading!
Surrounded by packing cases, sitting on the floor in a room with no furniture, I reassured my best friend who had phoned on Christmas day.
‘Don’t worry, I’m fine.’
I’d just moved into my first house – a Victorian terrace in Birmingham. Amongst the chaos, I noticed the wreath that I’d bought last minute and forgotten about.
After the call, I opened the door to hang the wreath. Outside, a few people were standing on their doorsteps, clutching various musical instruments. Glancing opposite, a silver-haired Elvis look-a-like held a guitar.
‘Hello,’ I called. ‘I’ve just moved in. Merry Christmas.’
‘And to you bab.’
‘What on earth’s going on?’
‘We do this every year,’ he said. ‘Just afore the Queen’s speech. Here….’
He handed me a tambourine then struck a loud chord. In unity and harmony, the entire street burst into ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ with me wide-eyed, shaking that tambourine.
When I was three years old Santa went away.
I would always remember the creak of his boots, and the sweet smell of cinnamon buns tinged with bourbon.
I’d pretended to be asleep, but my eyes flicked open and I saw him.
Instead of being cross he just smiled.
And at that magical moment I knew my dad was Santa.
A special dad who every Christmas brought joy to children all over the world.
By morning Dad had gone, leaving behind our secret, and a well of tears that would never run dry.
To have him all to myself would have been selfish.
Or to get bigger and better presents than the other children, unfair.
Even when I asked for a bike and got a scooter, and other children got bikes, I understood.
So, every year I opened my presents, smiled at Mum, and told her not cry.
Rudolph mugged grannie Christmas eve
Aiming for her carrots I believe
Never any doubt,
He didn’t want a sprout
Dreadful injuries were received
Oh Rudolph mugged grannie Christmas eve
Now in Santa Claus we do not believe
That fat old man was drunk
And Rudolph did a bunk
Stuck antlers and goodwill up his sleeve
Yes Rudolph mugged grannie Christmas Eve
A reindeer fuelled with sherry can achieve
Nose shining so bright
Could be used as light
And a sled that don’t fly straight, but does a weave
Oh Rudolph mugged grannie Christmas eve
We thought that she would never leave
He left her there quite dead
With a hoof print on her head
We guzzle plum pudding as we grieve
Rudolph mugged grannie Christmas Eve
Problem with presents she’ll receive
Answer we don’t lack, keep ‘em‘not send ‘em back
As we are not stupid or naive.