Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Christmas 2017 # 1

ARE YOU WEARING CHRISTMAS SPATS?

Are you wearing Christmas spats?
Well I don’t like them much
But I have to admit that the motif
Of holly is a very nice touch

CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”
That’s Christmas day with Stephen
But I only have myself to blame
For marrying a sodding vegan

RISQUÉ OR RUDE

If you do something at Christmas
That’s either risqué or rude
Then don’t be at all surprised
If it ends up on Yule Tube

INSULTED SANTA

The local shopping Mall Santa
Turned out to be a very grumpy chap
When a little girl put a bin bag down
Just before she sat on his lap

MY WORST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER # 3

My worst Christmas present ever
Without a doubt, I have concluded
Was when I received a box of batteries
Labelled “toys not included”

THREE MEN DIED ON CHRISTMAS EVE

Three men died on Christmas Eve
And were stood before St Peter
“You must all pass a simple test
Before you are allowed to enter”

“So produce a symbol of the season
Either on or about your person”

The first man retrieved a bauble
From his overcoat pocket
And St Peter turned to the gate
And proceeded to unlock it

St Peter said “You are blessed
Because you have passed the test”

The next man took a red bow
From his overcoat pocket
And St Peter turned to the gate
And proceeded to unlock it

St Peter said “You are blessed
Because you have passed the test”

The last man took a pair of panties
From his overcoat pocket
St Peter stood fast before the gate
And made no effort to unlock it

St Peter said “You are not blessed
Because you have failed the test”

“In what way do a pair of knickers
Symbolized the Christmas season
I fail to see how they are appropriate
So enlighten me as to the reason”

So the man proceeded to explain
“A young woman’s intimate apparels
Are without a doubt appropriate
When they happen to be carols”

IT WAS ANOTHER SUV CHRISTMAS

It was another SUV Christmas
Thanks to my significant other
No not that kind of SUV, I got
Socks, Underwear and Viagra

THERE IS A SINGING ELF

There is a singing Elf
Up at the North Pole
With a powerful voice
For one so small and dapper

The singing Elf croons
All day in the workshop
So the other Elf’s call him
The Christmas Wrapper

SANTA IS SUCH A JOLLY CHAP

Have you ever wondered
Why Santa is such a jolly chap?
Well it’s because he knows
Where all the naughty girls are at

WHY DOESN'T SANTA HAVE ANY KIDS?

Why doesn't Santa have any kids?
Well it’s impossible for him see
As he only comes once a year
And he’s normally up a chimney

Monday, 11 December 2017

Loving Christmas Linda – The Final Embrace

It was Christmas Eve and the Hartley household in the village of Clerembeax St Giles was decorated for the season.
A large fresh cut tree stood in the corner, perfuming the room and was festooned by a myriad of assorted baubles, ornaments, tinsel and lights.
Christmas cards of all shapes and sizes adorned every surface and more hung on bright red and green ribbons suspended from the picture rails and bright colored Christmas garlands hung gaily, crisscrossing the ceiling.
Outside, through a break in the dark clouds, a shaft of week winter sunlight shone through the window reflecting off the garlands and painted random patterns on the walls and ceiling.
76-year-old Paul Hartley sat watching TV in his favorite armchair in the front room of the house he shared with his wife and soul mate Linda, the woman he loved more than life itself.
Both of them had been married before, but Linda was the love of his life and they had spent 30 years apart before they found each other again, when their own Christmas miracle happened 25 years before.
And as a result of that Christmas miracle they had had 25 years of incredible happiness.
Paul and Linda had made good use of the years they had together to make up for the lost time when they were apart and as a couple they had had the fullest of lives.
Christmas had always held particular significance for them, it was their favorite time of year and had always been so, because their most meaningful moments together happened at Christmas time, finding love together, losing each other, finding each other again, and marrying each other, that’s why Paul called her Christmas Linda.
And because Christmas was so significant to them they did Christmas big and they relished every moment, they would pack away all the ornaments and pictures, and replace them with the festive decorations they had collected over the years, then there would be a houseful on Christmas day and Boxing Day where they shared the celebration with family and friends, and when the festivities were over they would fly off to the sun for a few weeks, just the two of them.
Neither of them could abide the New Year’s holiday so they took themselves away to enjoy each other’s company.
But alas on their 26th Christmas together the season held no joy for Paul, even James Stewart in “It’s a wonderful life” could not lift his spirits and the reason for his gloomy disposition lay in the next room, where the dining table used to stand.
Where they had so many wonderful Christmas dinners, the room full of the happy chatter of good company, the table heaving under the weight of Christmas fare.
But in its place now stood a stark and clinical hospital bed and laying upon it the most precious thing in his life, Linda, surrounded by all the paraphernalia of terminal illness.
Her once vibrant body riddled with inoperable tumors, their evil spread consuming her from within and as the cancer was so far advanced, when it was discovered she refused what little treatment there was on offer and she also stubbornly refused to die in hospital or a hospice.
Linda said she wished to die in the home where she had known such great happiness, so how could he refuse her such a simple wish?
He employed a private nurse who sat with her at night and Paul tended her himself by day and he watched her dying by inches every single day, it seemed to him to be the cruelest of punishments for being so happy.
Paul’s first wife was taken by cancer and that was hard enough to bare.
It was always so hard when someone you love suffers before your eyes, but as much as he loved his first wife and as hard as it was to watch her die, it was nothing compared to the intolerable despair that he felt losing Linda.
She was not only his wife she was his love, his life, his soul mate, she was the one, the love of his life, his Christmas Linda.
He would sit with her and read to her, sometimes Dickens, Stephen King or Tom Sharpe, depending on her frame of mind.
On her brighter days she would have him tell her jokes, she always said he was the only one who could make her laugh.
Her brown hair with its soft curls had long since turned silver and the sparkle was only rarely present in her eyes and the laughter that used to play around them replaced by pain and it was on the morning of that Christmas Eve when Linda told him what she wanted for Christmas.

She was always at her best in the morning but on that morning, she was having a good day so after she had eaten breakfast she asked Paul to pass her the Mahogany filigree jewelry box.
It was a very precious object to her, not valuable in monetary terms, but precious nonetheless, it was the very first Christmas gift he gave her, and she treasured it, and she often told Paul it was her most prized possession, after him.
As he handed it to her she smiled and just for a second there was a glimpse of her loveliness shining through the pain and she patted the bed and bad him sit next to her and as he sat on the bed next to her she took his hand and said quietly.
“I have to say this to you today because I’m having a good day and I don’t know how many good days I’ve got left”
“Don’t be silly” he protested, and she squeezed his hand and then gave him a look which said that he knew very well that she wasn’t.
Linda carefully opened her jewelry box and from a draw within it she took out a neatly folded embroidered handkerchief which she placed on her lap and carefully unfolded it to reveal that inside were a dozen capsules containing her medication.
Linda looked at him with her soulful eyes pleading with him and as the realization of what she was asking sank in Paul violently shook his head.
On her good days she had salted away some of her medication until she now had enough to hasten the end and she squeezed his hand again and said
“Please do this for me”
She explained that she didn’t want him to do it right there and then she just wanted him to agree to do it when the time came, but that that time would be very soon.
“It’s the only gift you can give me this Christmas” Linda asked looking in to his eyes and then he added
“I love you more than anything in the world and I know with all my heart that you love me”
Paul could say nothing as the tears welled up in his eyes.
“Please do this thing for me” she pleaded, and his heart was breaking at the choice he had to make, let her suffer an agonizing conclusion to her life or end her suffering and kill her.
“I just can’t do it” he said through the tears and got up and left the room, she didn’t call after him because she knew he would be back, so with tears streaming down his face he grabbed his coat and went out the front door and went for a walk.
The day was cold, grey and damp and clouds scudded across the December sky and any hint of the promised sunny intervals in the forecast were not in evidence, it was the kind of day that chilled you to the bone, but he didn’t feel the cold at all, he just felt numb.
You had to be alive to feel the cold and he was dying inside, and he walked for miles under the grey skies along the woodland paths they used to walk together, his mind in turmoil his eyes red with tears.
If he did what she wanted he would lose her forever, the loss of her would be devastating, but not to let her go would just be selfish.
Paul’s head was spinning, and he didn’t know which way to turn, images of their happy moments together swam in and out of focus, then as he walked into a clearing in the woods where they once made love on a sultry afternoon, there was a sudden break in the clouds and the woods were bathed in winter sunshine and all at once he knew what he must do and hurried homeward.
When he returned to the house Paul went straight to her bedside where she was sleeping, so he sat in the chair at her bedside and rested his head on the bed beside her then he felt her hand gently stroking his hair.
Paul sat up and her hand moved to his cheek, so he took it in his own paw and kissed it softly and then said
“I’ll do whatever you want me to do”

A week later Christmas had past and he was glad of it, it was without doubt the worst Christmas of his life, full of tears and sadness instead of happiness and laughter
There was no wondrous Christmas feast, no table laden with Christmas delights, no hearty laughter or light-hearted banter, just an endless stream of visitors, friends and family, as cheery as was possible, putting on a brave face as they all came with forced smiles to bring the season’s greetings, but all leaving with tears, knowing that Linda would not see the spring.
Paul tried not to be ungrateful, but every visit ate into the precious time Linda and he had left but he knew how important it was to Linda to see everyone and say goodbye.
Even the doctor called in to make sure she was comfortable and in between visits Paul would sit watching the needles dropping from the tree as if each dropping needle symbolized Linda’s plight.
And as he sat alone in his favorite armchair on New Year’s Eve staring at the pine needles scattered beneath the tree he tried to come to terms with the fact that Linda would die with the old year.
Since Christmas Eve when she made her request of him, Linda had been in good spirits, she had seen everyone in the world that mattered to her and said all the things she needed to say so Linda had decided that morning, that enough was enough.
Paul tried to remain cheerful for her, but she could see through it
“I know you’re hurting too” she said, the pain etched in her face and with that they made their plans for their last day together.

Firstly, Paul phoned the nurse and told her she should have the night off to enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebrations with her family and she was very grateful and accepted his explanation without question.
After that he filled the room with lighted candles and in the flickering light Linda and he spent the evening together looking at photographs and reliving the great times of their life together and played the music that formed the soundtrack of their shared life then an hour before midnight she handed him the folded handkerchief.
He opened it and inside were now close to twenty capsules, and one by one he broke them open and emptied the contents into a wine glass and when he was finished he filled the glass with Port and gave it a stir and put the glass on the bedside table before sitting on the bed.
Paul took her hand and kissed it and leant forward and kissed her mouth and started to say good bye, but she put her hand to his mouth, so he reached over and picked up the glass and held it up to her lips and she took a drink, then a little more and a little more until the glass was empty and he wiped her mouth with the hanky and she burped and then she laughed that wonderful laugh that he loved so much.
The candles sputtered, and the flames flickered and then squeezing his hand she said
“I love you so very much”
“I love you too” Paul said as he sat holding her hand in his and then they just sat in silence looking at each other in the candle light until her eyes closed.
The Village clock began chiming the hour and her hand went limp and her breathing became shallow and then all the pain in her face was suddenly gone as the clock chimed twelve, marking the passing of the old year and unknowingly marked Linda’s passing.
He couldn’t have said how long he sat there holding her dead hand with the tears streaming down his face, but as he sat there he knew what had to be done.
Paul poured himself a large whisky and sat in his favorite armchair where he wrote a long letter explaining what he had done, and what he was about to do.
With the letter written he put it into an envelope and placed it on the mantelpiece where it would be easily found, then he drank his whisky and reached into his pocket and removed the contents, placing them on his lap.
He filled the syringe with the insulin he had stolen from the doctor’s bag the day before and injected himself with the full syringe and as his eyes grew heavy he could feel Linda’s hand on his shoulder and felt her fingers in his hair and as he drifted into a coma she whispered
“I love you” in his ear as his eyes closed.
When they opened again he couldn’t believe what he saw, it was a place that was familiar to him, it was Millmoor as it was more than 50 years earlier and it was snowing, and the street was full of happy smiling people and there among them was Linda, larger than life, vivacious and self-assured covered with snowflakes and laughing.
It was his snow angel, his Christmas Linda with snow covering her like sugar on a doughnut, a delicious confection he would have gladly consumed, wrapped up against the cold in a red woolen hat and coat and a long-knitted scarf draped about her neck.
Still laughing, she shook her head and the light brown hair that hung beneath her hat danced about her shoulders and the snowflakes fell away from her soft curls only to be replaced by fresh ones.
There was a rosy redness on her cheeks almost matching the hue of her coat and she was young again, they were both young again and they had gone back 55 years to the scene of their first embrace.
Linda threw herself at him and she hugged him so tightly and he smelled her hair as he held onto her and was intoxicated by her scent which over whelmed him.
They were stood at the taxi rank and snow fell onto Linda’s soft curls as they took their place in the queue and they kissed.
All too soon a taxi arrived, as it had done 55 years earlier, but this time they both got in and through the winter wonderland they departed, this time never to be parted again.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Loving Christmas Linda – The Special Embrace

51-year-old Paul Hartley found himself stranded in a strange town with less than a week to go before Christmas.
Although to be fair an unfamiliar town would have been a more accurate description, but nonetheless he was stranded almost a hundred miles from home in Abbeyvale, with a seriously sick car in the garage and a distinct lack of will to contemplate traveling home to the north by train.
In truth he was in no hurry to return home to the empty soulless house that he was once happy to call home, which now held no comfort for him.
Paul’s wife of twenty-five years, Elaine, had died earlier that year, finally losing her battle with cancer.
Their three children were all grown up now with homes and families of their own so there was only him in a house full of reminders.
The house would be full at Christmas, full of noise and hustle and bustle, and the usual mix of love, laughter and tears, but for now it was cold and empty.
So he booked himself into the Abbeyvale Court Hotel for the weekend and he would drive home on Monday once the car had been resurrected.
Finding himself in a strange (unfamiliar) town just a handful of days before Christmas and with more than a little time to kill he decided he could fill part of his day by doing some last-minute Christmas shopping.
So after breakfast on Saturday morning he left the Hotel and as Paul stepped outside he shivered, the day was cold, grey and damp and clouds scudded across the December sky, it was the kind of day that chilled you to the bone.
He made his way towards the high street, which was only a five-minute walk, the receptionist had assured him with a smile, as she jotted down some brief directions.
In an effort to warm himself up he walked briskly following her directions down the narrow almost Dickensian lanes and alleyways, passing picturesque Victorian and Tudor buildings, well mock Tudor at least, as he went.
It was indeed five minutes when he emerged onto the busy cobbled pedestrianized high street which was a curious mixture of the ancient and the modern.
At one end of the street a Norman Church was visible and at the other was what appeared to be a municipal building with rather pretentious Georgian columns.
There was still evidence of a row of Edwardian shop fronts but much of the street was modern with a little too much sixties influence to be easy on the eye in Paul’s opinion.
The street was crisscrossed along its full length with festive lights and decorations which did their best to brighten the scene.
Paul decided to familiarize himself with what the town had to offer in the way of shops, so he turned left and joined the throng of shoppers, with gloomy faces to match the weather, and headed towards the Georgian pillared building which turned out to be the public library.
As he dodged between the Christmas Lemmings Paul made a mental note of the shops that interested him, which he would return to.
His progress was hampered by erratic shoppers who appeared to move independently to any logic.
Some seemed to zigzag everywhere and very few possessed the ability to walk in a straight line for more than a few paces and others would take a few steps and then stop for no apparent reason, then after a few moments pause carry on, normally in the same direction.
The sound of cheery Christmas songs and carols could be heard from every shop he passed though the cheeriness of the music was clearly not reflected on the faces of the shoppers going in and out of them.
As he passed one shop Noddy Holder screamed “it’s Christmas” to the outside world, just in case any of the reluctant shoppers were in any doubt.
When Paul reached the other end of the high street where the Norman Church stood there was a little square, which he wasn’t able to see before, in the center of which was the war memorial, and to its left was a magnificent Christmas tree, festooned with a myriad of assorted baubles, ornaments, tinsel, lights and surmounted by a beautiful angel.
Assembled around the tree was the Salvation Army band and Paul took a few moments to admire the tree and listen to the band and while he listened he was taken back to a distant time and place where he and the love of his life had held hands as they sang along.
The clock chimed, and he was brought back to the present and he took a few more moments while he decided on his first port of call, not realizing at the time just how important a decision it would prove to be.
Paul decided on Woolworths, always a favorite of his at Christmas, but on this occasion, it also happened to be the closest, so he walked briskly towards the store and pushed open the door.
As he prepared to enter he paused to hold the door open for a woman coming the other way and he waited patiently as she put her purse away into a huge handbag and he wondered what response he would get for his trouble.
Paul had found that the older he got the less women appreciated courtesy, the simple act of holding open a door could provoke a wide range of responses, a smile, a thank you, a nod, a sneer, a tut, an accusation of male chauvinism or a colorful mouth full of abuse, and he couldn’t always tell who was going to do what.
When the woman had finished fiddling and securing her bag she moved to step through the open door and as she passed Paul she looked up and said
“Thank you” followed by a broad smile, and then she stopped in her tracks as Paul returned her smile and then he too just stood there.
Both of them stood motionless on the threshold as slowly the recognition set in and they were both dumbstruck, not believing their eyes.
Neither of them were sure how long they stood looking at one another for, but long enough for a queue to form behind each of them.
When they realized what they had done they both blushed and excused themselves and stepped out onto the street away from the door apologizing profusely.
When they were clear of the crowd neither of them knew what to say, and still couldn’t believe their eyes, but Paul knew in his heart without a doubt that he was looking at Linda Parsons, who he had last seen 30 years before being driven off in a taxi, disappearing off through the snow, with her palm pressed against the glass as she craned her neck to keep sight of him through the snow spattered window until the very last moment, until the cab had gone from his sight.
But here she stood before him as beautiful as ever she was in his eyes, the soft curls of her light brown hair, which hung beneath her hat, still danced about her shoulders, it just had fine strands of silver threaded through it.
Her smile was still able to melt his heart, even after all those years and her smiling eyes still had the same sparkle and he thought the years had been kind to her and less so to him.
As he studied her he was fumbling for the right words to express his joy at seeing her when she reached up and hugged his neck, kissing his cheek at the same time, and spoke softly in his ear.
“Paul, is it really you?”
He simply said “yes” and they stood in a long comfortable embrace, and he didn’t know how long they stood there, not wanting to let go before she relaxed her grip and he kissed her forehead
“It’s so good to see you” he said feebly, and she put her head on his chest, squeezed him and sighed.
Linda released her grip and pulled away slightly and put her hand up to his cheek and caressed his grey beard.
“Do you have time for coffee?” She asked almost pleadingly
“Of course,” Paul said, and she put her arm through his and led him across the high street, asking quick fire questions as they went.
Paul explained about his car breaking down and that he was staying at the Abbeyvale Court Hotel as he was in no rush to return home
She responded with “oh really” and “oh dear” internally delighting in his misfortune as they walked into the nearest coffee shop, Café Société, and sat on a large comfortable sofa and over coffee they told the tales of their lives spent apart.
And throughout Paul looked at her with adoring eyes, periodically pinching himself, expecting to awake from a dream, as he had done so very many times before.
He told her about his wife and children and she told him of her marriage to Daniel and the subsequent divorce.
The good man that Paul gave Linda up for turned out to have feet of clay and degenerated into a violent drunk, they had no children, which although unsaid was clearly a regret for her.
With the aid of several cups of coffee they managed to talk away the entire morning and Paul suggested they might spend the rest of the day together and have dinner together at the hotel.
Linda readily accepted the invitation to dinner with a delightful smile but then she looked at her watch and suddenly jumped up in alarm
“Look at the time, I have to go” she flustered then she said she had a prior commitment
“Lunch with mum” she added rather unconvincingly, saying it was something she couldn’t get out of as he helped her back into her coat, the smell of her hair evoking memories of their past embraces.
She fished out her mobile phone as they left the coffee shop, from her huge handbag and they exchanged phone numbers, and firmed up the details for the evening, then with a hug and a kiss she was off.
Paul stood and watched her walk away, her coat tails swishing behind her, she stopped briefly and turned to give him a smile and a wave, then with the phone to her ear she hurried off again talking animatedly and he stood watching until she disappeared from sight before he went back to his Christmas shopping and treated himself to a new shirt for the evening.
Paul bought all the gifts he was looking for, plus paper, tags, cards etc. and with all his shopping complete he returned to the hotel for a late lunch.
After that the rest of the day seemed intolerably long, and in an effort to kill some time he went for a swim, used the gym, and then went for a walk.
He got a haircut, even though he didn’t need one, he even wrapped the Christmas presents he had bought that morning, but the time passed so interminably slowly.

Paul walked into the hotel bar at 7 o’clock, an hour early, partly for some Dutch courage and in part because he had run out of things to do so he ordered a drink and then sat at the bar.
Even though he wasn’t expecting her until eight, every time the door opened he turned to look for her and when it wasn’t her his self-doubt crept in, and with every false alarm the doubts got worse, what if she doesn’t come? What if she changed her mind? What if she never intended to come? What if? What if? What if?
Then at a quarter to the hour the door opened and there she was, the love of his life, and every bit as beautiful to him as ever, in spite of the passing years.
Linda was wearing a simple black knee length dress, black tights or stockings and four-inch stiletto shoes, and he thought her legs were as shapely as he remembered them.
In fact he thought that everything about her was as wonderful as he remembered, even though she was thirty years older.
She held a black leather clutch bag in her hand and her face looked a little anxious until Paul stood up and then it lit up with the most radiant smile.
Relieved to find him there, she walked towards him almost tottering on her heels and that made her laugh.
“Hello” She said, and he responded “Hi” and took her hand as she climbed onto a stool.
Paul kissed her cheek and the fragrance of her perfume was quite intoxicating, going straight to his head like a strong spirit and the combination of her scent and his desire for her almost made him swoon.
He ordered her a drink and they nervously made small talk, like two strangers on a blind date, until the waitress led them through to the restaurant.
“How did your lunch with your mum go?” Paul asked once they were seated at their table and she blushed the deepest red in response
“The lunch date was a little white lie” she admitted
“Oh?”
“Because I needed the afternoon to get ready” she said, “for this”
“And the animated phone call you were having when you left?”
“Was to my sister, to rally the troops and get me presentable” she confided and they both laughed and any awkwardness between them was gone.
“Well, all I can say is that it was time well spent” he said, and she blushed again at the compliment.
Over dinner they talked with such an easy familiarity as if her departing taxi had only been a week earlier rather than 30 years.
By the time they had finished their coffee the restaurant was empty except for Paul and Linda and a very weary waitress waiting to clear their table.
The evening seemed to have passed by in the blink of an eye and had all too soon come to an end.
They got up and made their apologies and Linda went through the door to the ladies while Paul signed the bill.
“Good night” he said, “and I must apologize again for keeping you so late”
After leaving a large tip on the table he went in search of Linda through the same door she had used, and he found her standing by the Christmas tree.
She had retrieved her coat and scarf from the cloakroom, which were draped over one arm, and her bag was in her hand.
Linda stood with her back to him gazing out of the window, but she could see his reflection in the glass and smiled at him and he gasped at the beauty of her and pinched himself again.
He wanted to kiss her so much, but he was afraid, afraid to break the magic of that special kiss, that perfect moment when they kissed in the snow all those years earlier when he let her slip from his grasp.
For 30 years he had revered that moment, reliving it whenever on a winter’s night he heard the Salvation Army play, or when the snow fell during Christmas time, or when he felt a snowflake on his skin, or stood in a taxi queue on a winter’s night.
For 30 years he had wanted to be back there in that moment holding her in the snow, and there she stood a few steps away from him, yet he was hesitant.
But as if sensing his turmoil, she turned away from the window and he took those few steps to face her.
They stood beside the Christmas tree for a few moments just looking at each other, then she smiled her most heart melting smile as she caressed his cheek before she pulled him to her and kissed him gently on the lips, a warm sensitive and tender kiss.
When their lips touched electricity ran down his spine and it was as if they were young again.
When their lips parted she smiled at him coyly and flushed a deep shade of pink and a second later they met again, and her kiss became more intense, more passionate.
Her coat, scarf and bag fell to the floor as their arms enveloped each other and they stood locked in passionate embrace as the tree lights twinkled beside them.
Linda pulled away for a moment before burying her face in his neck and then softly spoke in his ear.
“You see, that was as good as the first time”
“How could I have doubted it would be perfect?” he responded and cupping her flushed cheek in his palm before he slid his fingers beneath her soft brown curls and caressed the soft downy hair on her nape as he pulled her head toward him, so he could kiss her sweet lips again.
The next time they paused she put her head on his chest, still holding on to him so tightly as Paul kissed the top of her head and smelled her hair.
He held her and didn’t want to let her go, and then he said
“Please stay, I can’t watch you disappear from my life again in another taxi”
In response she lifted her head from his chest and looked at him and said
“I’m not letting you go again, not now, not ever”
Then she smiled at him coyly and blushed like a virgin before she buried her face in his chest again.
A moment later she scooped up her coat, scarf and bag from the floor and took his hand and they walked in silence to his room.
Outside in the corridor she looked deeply into his eyes and kissed his mouth before Paul opened the door and let her walk inside.
She immediately dropped her coat and bag onto a chair and turned to face him as he followed her and she reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered in his ear
“I never stopped loving you”
Paul’s arms enveloped her and pulled her close to him and then they kissed, at first soft and tender but then more urgently and he began to un-wrap his most special Christmas gift, wrapped in lace and silk instead of paper and ribbon.
Caressing her body from neck to lacy stocking top and their love was at last made absolute.
When their act of love was complete, and their dreams realized they lay holding each other in the afterglow, silently content until they drifted off to sleep.

Paul awoke to find Linda stood silhouetted against the window, gazing out into the night, wearing his shirt to cover her nakedness and she turned her head to look at him and said
“It’s snowing”
Paul slipped out of bed and joined her at the window, and standing behind her encompassing her in his arms they watched as the snow settled on the courtyard and she hugged his arms and said
“How perfect is that?”
They stood for a few minutes taking in the snowy scene, both thinking back to the last time they enjoyed the snowfall together then she inclined her head, so he could kiss her and when his hands moved from her soft belly and cupped her breasts she led him back to the bed and they made love again.

He woke early the next morning and lay in the half light and held Linda’s sleeping form in his arms and as he lay there he thought how good the fates had been to them that weekend.
If his car hadn’t broken down, and had he not rejected the idea of taking the train, he would not have been shopping on that cold grey morning.
He thought about the moments he spent admiring that tree in the square and listening to the Salvation Army band, and what thought processes made him do what he did.
Was it destiny that he chose to start his shopping at Woolworths, and at the very that moment Linda was preparing to leave, or just blind luck?
They could have chosen any one of the five doors along Woolworths frontage but they both chose the same one, surely that had to be fate.
Although it didn’t really matter to him, all he knew for sure was that 24 hours before that day his life had been so sad and empty and now it was full to overflowing and he was finally with his soul mate.
Linda was in Paul’s life at last and he wanted her never to leave it again, but if fate decreed that the special embrace on one special night of that special weekend was all they could have then he would have been content, but he didn’t have to.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Loving Christmas Linda – The First Embrace

Outside in the winter night, snow spattered, unseen, against the other side of the steamy glass, glass which reflected back images like mirrors against the dark beyond.
It was a fairly crowded Friday evening train, but not full, there were still a number of empty seats, one of which was next to 21-year-old Paul Hartley.
The carriage was occupied by a mixture of weary shoppers, shopping bags bursting at the seams and commuting workers content that the weeks work was done, all journeying homeward at the dark days end.
A cheerful crowd though, Paul thought, pleased with themselves for a variety of reasons, bright faced and hearty and full of seasonal cheer and anticipating the Christmas holiday and seemingly oblivious to the drafty carriage, and the winter weather beyond it.
Paul sat alone as the train rattled out of Nettlefield Station and felt lifted by the quiet jolliness as he contemplated the collective countenance of his self-satisfied travelling companions and then she appeared, and Paul was all at once lifted higher.
Because there she was, larger than life, vivacious and self-assured, covered with snowflakes and laughing to herself.
It was his snow angel, Linda Parsons, with snow covering her like sugar on a doughnut, a delicious confection he would have gladly consumed.
Linda was wrapped up against the cold in a red woolen hat and coat and a long-knitted scarf draped about her neck.
Still laughing, she shook her head and the light brown hair that hung beneath her hat, danced about her shoulders and the snowflakes settled on them melted away from her soft curls.
There was a rosy redness on her cheeks, almost matching the hue of her coat, either from the cold winter evening or a liberal taste of Christmas spirit, a little of both Paul assumed.
Linda made her way unsteadily down the train between the seats leaving wet snowflakes in her wake with her full-length coat swishing from side to side.
She moved almost gracelessly, which Paul thought suited her well, as she tottered a little in her high heeled boots, perhaps due to the lurching motion of the train or the Christmas punch and eggnog at the office party.
As Paul studied her she was still laughing softly to herself, which he thought also suited so well, and then she saw him, and her eyes lit up like beacons, and he sighed as he looked into those wonderful, sparking, laughing eyes as she stopped and stood momentarily open mouthed, and then her smile illuminated the carriage and his heart soared at the sight of her and as Paul returned her smile she flushed a little deeper red.
It had been almost a year since he had last seen her, and she was his lovely lost love, Linda, and it had been a hard year for him, in which he had locked all his feelings for her away, but the instant he saw her they were back with a vengeance.
It was like a door had opened in his heart and they all rushed out, he had missed her so much in that time, but he didn’t know just how much until that moment.
They were never lovers, only ever friends, but very special friends, very close friends, though nothing more.
They liked each other’s company, they would have lunch together, journey to and from work on the same bus, shared a cab when the need arose and laughed a lot together, shared confidences, and talked incessantly, because they were best friends but that was as far as it ever went, though he wanted more, he wanted so much more but Paul didn’t want to lose what they had together, so he said nothing.
He loved her so much that it hurt, but she was not free for him to love and Linda was not free to love him even if she had wanted to, so Paul contented himself with their special friendship and his unrequited love remained just that.
If that was all he could have then better that than nothing, so he was happy to love her unconditionally.
They had plenty of opportunities to see each other as they both lived in the same road in Millmoor, he with his cousin and she with her parents, and they both worked at St Augusta’s Hospital in Nettlefield, where Linda was a clerical assistant and Paul was a porter.
And that unrequited love affair could have gone on indefinitely had circumstances not changed for him when his father died.
As a result, he had to move away to look after his mother and he didn’t see Linda again, not until that moment.
When she was standing in front of him, his angel, larger than life, smiling, blushing, laughing and oh so lovely.
Paul stood up and smiled at her again and she threw herself at him and Linda hugged him so tightly and as she did so, he smelled her hair as he held onto her and was intoxicated by her scent and all the old feelings flooded back, over whelming him.
Paul had often dreamt of being reunited with her, but never in his wildest dreams had he expected such a reaction from her.
“Could it be my love is not unrequited?” he wondered
They sat down heavily on the lumpy seats in the rattling carriage and to all intents and purposes were completely alone.
They sat looking at each other in silence not wanting to lose sight of one another just in case the spell was broken.
Linda removed a glove and put her hand on his as if testing it was not a dream and he was really there, in substance.
“It really is you” she said and then she slipped her hand into his, her delicate fingers lacing between his, her hand so small in his grasp.
For the remainder of the journey they reveled in each other’s company as they caught up with the lost months, filling in the gaps of their time apart, and as they did so they remained oblivious to their traveling companions, it was as if they had never been apart.
But apart they most certainly had been, she still worked at the hospital in Nettlefield and lived at home in Millmoor while he now lived in Nettlefield and worked for Stephenson’s Supermarket’s as a Warehouse manager.
Linda playfully chastised him for disappearing so completely from her life.
“I thought it was the only way” he said, intimating the disposition of his feelings to her for the first time.
“I’ve missed you so much” she said and squeezed his hand and then the train shook to a halt as all too soon they had arrived at Millmoor Station and their fellow travelers all rushed off into the winter air heading towards their Christmases.
Reluctantly Paul and Linda left their seats and disembarked from the carriage arm in arm, then hand in hand as they walked slowly along the platform, still talking and laughing, until they handed over their tickets and then stepped out of the Station and onto the street, where the shops were now closing and the town had settled down to a relative quiet, although from one pub Noddy Holder screamed “it’s Christmas” to the outside world and only the pubs and restaurants seemed to hold any attraction to the remaining Millmoorian’s.
Paul and Linda however were not interested in noisy hostelries, so they joined a small group gathered round the Salvation Army band and joined in with the carol singing in the town square before reluctantly strolling towards the taxi rank as the snow again fell onto Linda’s soft curls.
They were both bound for different parts of town, Linda, had to get home to babysit her sister and Paul was bound for The Downshire Grey where he was meeting up for a Christmas drink with friends.
They took their place in the queue of travelers eager to be home, Paul was eager to be nowhere else but with Linda and he shuffled along for the last few steps like a sulky schoolboy.
Linda was smiling as she turned to face him and kissed him gently on the lips, such a warm sensitive and tender kiss, their first ever kiss, and when their lips parted she smiled at him coyly and flushed a deep shade of pink.
“I’ve wanted to do that for so long” she said, and Paul kissed a snowflake off her nose and cupping her flushed cheek in his palm he slid his fingers beneath her soft brown curls and caressed the soft downy hair on her nape as he pulled her sweet lips to his and returned her kiss.
Linda’s arms enveloped him, holding him so close, and so tightly, not wanting to let go, not wanting to lose what they had found and not wanting to lose him again.
They stood locked in their first passionate embrace as the snow fell softly on the scene until Linda pulled away for a moment before burying her face in his neck and saying softly.
“I’ve missed you so much, I’ve missed your love for me”
Paul had waited so long for that moment, waited so long to hear those words, to hear his love returned and then they kissed again.
Taxi’s arrived and departed through the slush and the queue around them just kept moving as if unaware of the depth of their love.
After an indeterminate period, they moved from the queue and found a bench in the town square, in a quiet spot with a view of the Christmas Tree and talked.
The substance of that talk was of love, a shared love, an unquenchable love.
Not an unrequited one as Paul had supposed because Linda had the same profound feelings for him, she had always done so she said, but she had not been free to pursue her love for Paul a year earlier and she was still not free.
So, Linda was torn between the two loves in her life, torn between the comfortable familiarities for a good man, a loyal and dependable man, for safety if you like, and the passion she felt for a soul mate.
Paul was similarly conflicted, Linda was the love of his life and he would never, could never love another in the same way, but it wasn’t fair on Daniel, her other love, her childhood sweetheart, he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Paul had been on the receiving end of that kind of pain and he found himself unable to inflict it onto another, even if he were a rival, so the conclusion to their converse as they cuddled on the quiet bench was that their love was a forbidden one, and had to be set aside.
They could be best friends no more, not now the genie was out of the bottle, though they both wanted more, so much more.
Paul could not content himself with the special friendship that they had once treasured, not now that he knew his love was not unrequited.
There was no going back, now Pandora’s Box had been opened, but at least now he knew she loved him with the same depth of feeling as he loved her.
After they had reached the conclusion of their frank exchange they slowly walked hand in hand back to the taxi rank and kissed again in the falling snow.
They joined the queue and all too soon it was her turn and after a final kiss she got into a taxi and through the winter wonderland Linda departed taking Paul’s love with her.
As the Taxi drove away with Linda in the back, with her palm pressed against the glass, she craned her neck to keep sight of him through the snow spattered window until the very last moment, until the cab had gone from his sight.
Linda was gone from his arms, gone from his view, gone from his life but a Christmas happening had changed his life forever, after a brief encounter, fleeting, here and then gone.
Her scent was still in his nostrils, the taste of joy on his lips, and his soulmate was gone forever, yet she remained forever in his memory, forever in his heart.
He resolved that he would never see her again and moved away in the New Year to avoid another chance encounter and make a life elsewhere, but Paul never forgot Linda.
And when on a winter’s night he heard the Salvation Army play, or when the snow falls during Christmas time, or when he felt a snowflake on his skin, he feels her small hand in his and all at once she is in his arms once again, and he can smell her soft brown hair and the taste of her is on his lips and he hears her say “I love you” and Linda is his forever.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Mornington-By-Mere – (87) Sleeping Arrangements

The Armstrong’s lived at West Side Farm on the other side of the village where there were a number of cottages and small houses on the Purplemere road and Dulcets Lane which formed the part of Mornington Village known as Manorside
While their kin, the Appleby’s and the Hancock’s had farms at the other end of the vale and they had all worked the land for many generations.
But they were very close knit families and every year they had a family holidays together similarly they often got together oh high days and holidays

So on Boxing Day of 2017 it was the turn of the Armstrong’s to host the Hancock’s and Appleby’s who journeyed to Mornington for a celebration meal.
All three had large families and when the children grew up and had girlfriends and boyfriends no one knew until everyone arrived exactly how many people they had to accommodate for food and sleeping births.
Given the distances involved and the fact that drink was normally taken in liberal quantities there was always a lot of people who stayed overnight which often caused a bit of a reshuffle on the accommodation front.
In the case of West Gate Farm it was further complicated by the fact that the lady of the house, Beth Armstrong, insisted that the unmarried couples sleep in separate rooms.
Mainly because she was a good Christian woman and didn’t want anything unsavory going on under her roof.

So the result of the segregation meant Peter Armstrong’s girlfriend Glenda had to share one of the spare rooms with his cousin Alana Hancock he was forced to endure their enforced separation on the lounge sofa as he had had to give up his own room for his aunt and uncle.

He found it difficult to drop off, partly because it wasn’t very comfortable but mainly because his head was rerunning the conversation he had an hour before with his girlfriend Glenda, in which she had told him she was breaking up with him.
But it wasn’t that so much that was troubling him because he had come to the conclusion that he didn’t actually mind.

After tossing and turning for about an hour and then just when his eyes were beginning to get heavy he suddenly had an acute need to pee so Peter tiptoed his way upstairs to the loo and relieved himself.
He was yawning as he stepped back onto the landing and was not really paying attention and so he bumped into Alana Hancock coming the other way.
There was an instance of recognition and then she pushed him back into the bathroom and planted a wet sensual kiss on his lips.
He had always had a soft spot for Alana but he thought she was out of his league, but that aside she was kissing him, however he immediately disengaged and said
“We can’t be doing that”
“Why not?” she asked
“My girlfriend is in the room you just came out of” he pointed out
“Not according to her” Alana said
“What?”
“Glenda told me she’d broken up with you” she said
“Oh yes” he said and kissed her

When they returned to their own beds Peter still couldn’t sleep but instead of his head being full of thoughts about his ex-girlfriend Glenda, it was now full to overflowing with images and thoughts about his new girlfriend Alana.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Downshire Diary – (99) The Tomboy Chorister

Danny was going to a Christmas Concert at Abbottsford Cathedral which was well attended as usual and when he when inside he saw the wonder of a manger scene, it looked so very life like and real, and there was a good reason for that, because it was.
In fact it was a wonderful scene and captured the mood perfectly as “Ave Maria” played softly in the background.
Part of the wonder of the stable of Bethlehem were the live animals, who seemed perfectly at peace away from his Uncle Jacks farm
Then he saw his younger brother dressed as Joseph, and his sister as the Virgin Mary, not exactly type casting he thought to himself rather uncharitably.
There were also three of his cousins playing shepherds, two Uncles and a maiden Aunt representing the Magi and his father was the angel Gabriel.
In fact the only one of the tableaux that was not a living member of the family was the Christ child which was actually one of those robotic dolls that pregnant women, with more money than sense get to practice motherhood on, supplied by one such woman, Aunty Evelyn.
His mother would also have been in it but for the fact that she was the Vicar and was part of the clergy taking the service.
Whereas his contribution to proceedings was as soloist in the choir in which he was performing “o holy night”.
He waved to his many kith and kin as he walked towards the vestry and as he did so his mind was preoccupied with two things, the first was a wish, to give a faultless performance in front of such a large congregation and the second was his hope of getting Heather Jones under the mistletoe at the party afterwards.

Tales from the Finchbottom Vale – (99) Christmas in Sharpington – Jenny’s Tale

(Part 01)

The traditional seaside resort of Sharpington-by-Sea with its Victorian Pier, seafront hotels, crazy golf, The Palladium ballroom, well maintained gardens, promenade, theatre and illuminations, has all the usual things to have a great time by the seaside, as well as amusement arcades and of course the Sharpington Fun Park and 55 year old triplets, Alex, James and Jenny Wardle live together in the huge house they grew up in, in the grand neighbourhood of Granite Hill, which in a nod to San Francisco, the locals had nicknamed Nob Hill.
“So it’s Christmas time again” Alex said as he looked out the window.
“As if anyone could fail to notice” James added as he and Jenny joined him at the drawing room window.
Even without leaving the house they could see more than half a dozen houses decorated to the hilt.
Every coloured light imaginable, Santa's on the roof or climbing a ladder, sleighs, elves, snowmen, bells, stars, baubles and last but by no means least standing almost four feet high that perennial favourite Winnie the Pooh.
Alex was taken aback, what the hell did Pooh have to do with Christmas? And later as he and his siblings walked down to the seafront he noticed that every other house seemed to have one, there was even one on the pier so he guessed there must be something in it.
He didn't recall mention of him in the bible and in all of the many nativity plays he had seen over the years Winnie the Pooh was conspicuous by his absence and although there is a donkey in the story it wasn’t Eeyore.
The stable did not house Piglet and the wise men did not travel from the east with Tigger bearing gifts of Huney.
Nor in any of the Christmas traditions around the world is there a single reference to Pooh as one of Santa's helpers, there was Black Peter, and the Jolly Elf, there was even the devil figure Krampus, but no Pooh, but it appeared to him, that the people of Sharpington were giving him pride of place on their lawns that Christmas.
As they turned left onto the promenade the early winter sun broke through the mackerel skies exposing patches of the bluest sky and if he had had any remaining doubts that Christmas was coming to Sharpington they were soon dispelled as the promenade was decked in its Christmas garb.
Inflatable Santa’s climb the walls of the Fun Park and the pier was draped in LED icicles.
Then when they passed the Seaview Hotel they saw what looked like a cheery red-suited burglar hanging from one of the balconies and they all laughed before they went their separate ways.

Jenny had never married and had spent all her adult life in the halls of academe at the University of Downshire teaching medieval history, but when she turned 55 the academic fire went out in her so she retired.
She also decided it was time for her to try different things, things she had never done before or indeed had never had any regret at not having done it, so it wasn’t a bucket list.
Nor was it really a list, she didn’t write down what she might try and then tick it off afterwards, it was more a case of stumbling across something she had never done before and diving right in.
The new experience that week was ice skating, which she had never done, nor roller skating for that matter, she had a terrible sense of balance so the thought never entered her head at any time in her life that she should give it ago until she moved back to Sharpington.

(Part 02)

The new experience that week for Jenny was ice skating, which she had never done, nor roller skating for that matter, she had a terrible sense of balance so the thought never entered her head at any time in her life that she should give it ago until she moved back to Sharpington.

In the 18th and early 19th Century the pond up in Jubilee Park regularly froze in winter and the well healed of the town would don their skates and take to the ice, but it rarely froze after that, the hard winter of 1962 was the last occasion.
During the industrial revolution the enterprising folk of commerce used ice from the fish processing factory to make an artificial rink and charged people to skate on it but that ceased when the fish factory closed.
But in the 21st century the technology existed to produce and maintain an artificial outdoor rink at a relatively low cost, so Sharpington had one on the promenade by the pier every December and it proved very popular.
And that was where Jenny was headed after she separated from her brothers.
On that bright sunny morning the flashing skates of hundreds of brightly clad figures made zigzag patterns on the frozen blueish white surface of the ice.
She actually felt quite excited as she approached but as she got nearer and it appeared that all the other skaters on the ice were clearly not novices she started to have doubts.
But then she caught sight of a tall angular man of similar maturity to herself who was struggling with grace, style and gravity and she felt heartened so she went and hired some skates.
Once she had donned her skates she made her first tentative steps on the ice and her courage began to desert her again so she stuck close to the rail and inched her way forward.
Before she got going she looked across the ice and admired the skill and confidence of the other skaters but when she joined them she had to focus all her attention on what she was doing, which was why she didn’t see the tall angular man until he bowled noisily past her and ended up in a crumpled heap on the ice in front of her.
“My goodness, you’re worse than me” she said laughingly “and I’m rubbish”
“Then you are a good judge” he said and laughed
“Let me help you up” she suggested after getting a firm grip of the rail, and after few comic near misses, that almost had them both on the ice, they managed to get him upright again where he too grasped the comforting rail.
“Thank you” he said “I’m Paul”
“Jenny” she responded
“Is this your first time?”
“The first time for many years” he replied “What about you?”
“No this is my first time ever” she retorted and laughed
“Then you’re doing extremely well” he said and then he nearly fell again.
“How about we do it together” she suggested and offered her arm and they moved off rather ungracefully together.
As they circumnavigated the rink they chatted almost oblivious to their surroundings and they found they had a shared love of history.

(Part 03)

Paul Morfett was not a native of the town but had lived in Sharpington for ten years since the death of his wife, they had lived in Abbottsford all their lives up until her passing, and after it everything in the place was a hurtful memory of her so he moved somewhere neither of them had been and so held no such memories.
As he was a writer by profession his location did not hamper his career and it had actually aided it, and he had written an additional four novels in his “Cross of Kings” series while he was there.
His historic books used material from a number of text books which gave his stories an authentic feel and he considered the academic authors as allies and although he didn’t know it at the moment she helped him to his feet she had been an ally in his writing because he had referenced the books of Professor J W Wardle on many occasions but by the time they stepped off the ice he hadn’t made the connection that his Professor and his companion were one and the same person.

They curtailed their ice skating duet about half an hour after the clouds began to gather and when they finally relented it was only because the expected rain arrived.
But by the time they had reclaimed their footwear the rain had turned to snow and the snow fell thick and fast as smoke from the red-hot coals of the barbeque filled the air with mouthwatering smells as fat dripped onto the charcoal.
“That smells good” she said
“Are you hungry?” he asked
“Starving” Jenny replied
“Well allow me to treat you to lunch” he offered “do you like Italian? I know a great restaurant called the L'uccello canto?”
“That’s my favourite” she said “So yes I’d love to”

As they walked briskly to the restaurant through the snow they passed Doily’s bookshop when Jenny stopped in her tracks.
Because in the shop window was a pile of books in front of a cardboard cutout of her lunch date.
“You’re Paul Morfett” she said “I know you told me you were a writer but you didn’t tell me you were a good one”
“Well I do ok” he said “have you read me?”
“Occasionally, I like that you do your research” she replied
“I like to get it right” he said
“Come on” she said and pushed open the door “I want to show you something”
They went to the back of the shop to the reference section and after perusing the history shelf she withdrew a tome and handed it to him, with the back cover on display.
“Do you recognize anyone?” she asked referring to the author’s photo

“I can’t believe that I’ve actually spent the afternoon with my favourite history academic and it turns out she’s not a crusty old professor” he said with the candle light dancing in his dark gipsy eyes as they peered at her from behind the flame.
“Well I’m releived to know that you don’t think I’m crusty” she said

They spent all afternoon in the restaurant as the snow continued falling outside and along with their favourite Italian food, a liberal amount of wine and a number of liqueurs were consumed and when they left they were merrier than the season.
They stepped outside and their shoes crunched on the snow covered pathways and they braced themselves against the cold and tried to draw themselves deeper into their coats as a promenade tram went by with its windows steamed up.
“Where to now?” she asked when they reached the corner
“I think I should get you home” he said
“But I don’t want to go home” Jenny retorted
“Well my apartment is just along the promenade” he suggested
“Will there be wine?” she asked
“There can be” he replied
“What about kissing? Will there be any kissing at your apartment?” she asked brazenly
“There could be kissing now” he pointed out
“Yes there could” she agreed and they passionately kissed as the snowflakes fell around them.

Those Memories Made on Teardrop Lake – (99) Clandestine Christmas

Daryl Bodle had a mission to fulfill but it was a clandestine affair that could only be undertaken in the early hours of the morning.
This in itself was not an issue for him as he was a nurse so he was used to late night activity.
He arrived home from work just after 9 o’clock, showered and changed and then ate supper of cheese and biscuits following which he fell asleep during Match of the Day.
The alarm on his phone woke him up at 2.45am, so he stretched and got up from his chair, went for a pee and set off.

His destination was the Funny Bones comedy club in Childean and his target was Sarah Hanratty, who was also a night owl as she was the owner and manager.
Sarah was a very stern looking young woman with short brown hair with gold framed spectacle’s which she liked to peer over the top of and because she rarely smiled she was considered to be a joyless person, and as her habit was to dress in black she was known as the
“The Wicked Witch of the West”.
Some people considered it a little ironic that a sour faced old spinster should own and manage a comedy club.
But it was only the people who didn’t really know her who called her derogatory names and thought her sour faced and joyless.

He drove into the car park and walked round the back of the building to Ms. Hanratty’s office and he looked through the barred window and saw her sitting at her desk with her back to the glass.
She was counting the night’s takings and he smiled to himself as he thought how much she looked like Scrooge in his counting house.
It would have been a good night, being Saturday night and Christmas Eve.

On previous visits he had let himself in the staff entrance however since they had a break in at Halloween they had tightened up on security and now employed a biometric system requiring the staff member’s thumbprint so on that occasion as he was expected he just tapped on her barred office window.
Despite the fact that his visit was not a surprise he nonetheless startled her because she almost jumped out of her chair, which she then swung around so she could check out the source of the tapping.
When she saw it was him her stern face relaxed into a smile and she began to fuss with her hair.
Daryl pointed in the direction of the staff entrance and she nodded her understanding.
As he stood outside the door he looked through the small glass panel as Sarah appeared in the corridor and she clearly wasn’t aware he could see her, because she began straightening her clothes and when she was about ten yards from the door she hitched up her skirt and adjusted her stocking tops.
He stepped away from the door as she opened it and once inside he said
“Happy Christmas Miss Hanratty, how are you?”
“All the better now that you’re here” she said and stood on tiptoe to kiss him
“Are you done?” he asked
“I am, I just need to put the cash in the safe” she replied “and then we can go home”
“I like the sound of that” he said and kissed her
Ten minutes later after locking the takings in the safe and setting the alarm they drove to Shallowfield and spent their first Christmas together.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Downshire Diary – (98) Snowstorm in Springwater

(Part 01)

Downshire is a relatively small English county but like a pocket battleship it packs a lot in, a short but beautiful coastline, a channel port, the Ancient forests of Dancingdean and Pepperstock, the craggy ridges and manmade lakes of the Pepperstock Hills National Park, the rolling hills of the Downshire Downs, the beautiful Finchbottom Vale and farm land as far as the eye can see from the Trotwood’s and the Grace’s in the south to the home of the Downshire Light infantry, Nettlefield, and their affluent neighbour’s, Roespring and Tipton in the north but our story begins further south at the most southerly fringe of the Pepperstock Hills National Park.
The Park stretched from the bare, and often barren crags of Oxley Ridge in the North to the dense wooded southern slopes on the fringe of the Finchbottom Vale and from Quarry Hill, and the Pits in the West to Pepperstock Bay in the East.
It is an area of stark contrasts and attracted a variety of visitors.
The quarry hill side of the park to the west, as the name suggests, was heavily Quarried over several hundred years, though more extensively during the industrial revolution, the Quarries had been un-worked for over fifty years and nature had reclaimed them and former pits had become lakes and were very popular with anglers and the sparse shrubbery and woodland made it popular spot with courting couples whereas the northern crags and fells were popular with climbers and more hardy folk.
To the south and east was an extensive tract of magnificent mixed forestry and was rivalled only by the ancient woodland of the Dancingdean Forest.

Cheryl Vermeulen lived in the village of Springwater in the home she had once shared with her ex-husband Bijs and at the age of 29 she was facing her first Christmas on her own for 8 years and she wasn’t looking forward to it.
She wasn’t lonely per se, she had friends aplenty, and she even had a romantic interest or at least she had someone she was interested in romantically she just needed to close the deal, which was proving to be more difficult than she had hoped.

Cheryl woke early in the depths of winters to find it was snowing lightly but it was 4am, so she went to the bathroom and then went back to bed.
She awoke for the second time at six o’clock but after looking at the clock she went back to sleep again.
The next time she woke to the sound of machinery, a repetitive whining sound, and when she realized it was not part of her dream, she jumped from her bed and rushed to the window.
Across the cul-de-sac and through the naked black branches of the trees, she could see one of her neighbour's driveways and his son's car stuck in the snow.
Then she glanced to the bedside table and the clock radio which screamed in her face its “eight o'clock!!!”
“You’re kidding me” she snapped “Where did the time go?”
Well, what happened was she kept going back to sleep and at some point she had even switched the alarm off and then made the fatal error of wanting to stay cosy for a few more minutes, but those few more minutes turned into an hour.
As a result she was in a panic, so she threw on anything that would keep her warm and ran wild-eyed down the stairs.
Her first stop was to the coat cupboard where she searched out her wellington boot's, then she turned them upside down and banged them against each other to wake up any sleeping insects and encourage them to vacate the premises, as their cosy abode was about to be invaded by wool clad size three feet.
Once she had her boots on, her coat was next followed by a hat and scarf and finally she put on her thickest gloves.
It took her several attempts to open the door with her thick gloves on and she had to take one off to open the garage door and it seemed that everything was conspiring to frustrate her just when she was in such a hurry.

She wriggled her way to the back of the garage in search of the snow shovel, she knew they had one, her ex-husband Bijs had bought one when they first moved to the village but they had never used it, he drove a 4x4 and he drove her to work when there was snow on the ground, and it never lay for long anyway so there was never any need for it.
Once she had the shovel she wriggled back to the door again this time with the shovel above her head.
Shovel in hand she stood on the threshold and looked down the drive at the task ahead.
The small granular flakes were falling fast, and the wind was blowing it in drifts across her drive.
After a few moments she looked beyond her drive and wondered why she was the only one outside when the men of the neighbourhood were normally out flexing their muscles but then she remembered, it was still only 8.15 on Sunday morning, and they were not expected at the church by 9:30 for a preservice choir practise ahead of a full program of church events on the third Sunday of advent.

(Part 02)

As she looked from the garage door out to the street, along the 40 foot length drive covered by a foot of virgin snow, Cheryl sighed and asked herself
“Where on earth do I begin?”
In the end she went straight to the middle and began to shovel a narrow path to the street and she initially moved along at a fairly steady pace, but when she had reached the road she stopped and looked at her watch and felt deflated.
She realised she had a choice to make she could either shovel like a mad woman and go to church unkempt and un-showered and dressed like a bag lady or she could make a phone call.
Cheryl went back to the house and picked up her phone and dialled a number
“Hello?” a voice said
“Hello Kay, sorry for calling so early, is Owen there? I can’t get the car out” Cheryl said “I’m never going to make it to church on time”
Owen and Kay were in the choir as well and also lived in Springwater and before she could continue Kay interrupted her and said
“Don't worry Cheryl we’ll pick you up on the way”
“Oh bless you Kay” she said “I’ll be ready”

Owen and Kay came along right on cue and Cheryl made her way through the snow to the car.
It was still snowing as they approached St Bartholomew’s Church when Owen said
“I hope the rest of the choir can make it”
“I just hope there will be someone there to listen” Kay added
“Even if it’s just the three of us and no congregation we can still sing for God” Cheryl said
“Yes we can” they agreed

Only three choir members failed to make the rehearsal but they all arrived in time for the performances and despite the weather there were plenty of congregants there to listen.
Once they finished the rehearsal Cheryl used the time before the first service to enjoy a cup of coffee at the church Café, Bart’s, where she spent 20 minutes laughing and chatting with fellow choristers, and among them was Dave Torrison, who was on her romantic radar.

The church was full by 10.30 and the choir was well warmed up for their rendition of “Carol of the Bells” and Cheryl was in particularly good voice and nailed all of solos.
The second service was equally well received judging by the emotion filled faces of those who had just been blessed by the music.

After the service was complete, they shared the peace and the congregation had dispersed, some of the choristers went for a late lunch.
One of them was Dave Torrison and after Owen and Kay related the tale about her not being able to get her car out of the garage Dave said
“Well I don’t mind coming round to help”
“Really?” she asked
“Absolutely” Dave said
“Well in that case I’ll make us dinner” Cheryl said
“Great” he said “But I’ll need to go home first and change”

Owen and Kay dropped her off in front of her house.
“Have fun” Kay said and winked
As she walked up the little path she’d cleared earlier that morning it already had two inches of fresh snow on it and she looked across at her neighbour’s drives in the failing light and could see that all the men had been out and cleared their driveways and were safely tucked up warm inside.
Cheryl’s first act was to rush inside and change into something that would make the best of what she had and then when she was perfumed and made up she put on her snow shovelling gear on top of her outfit and waited for him.

When he arrived, Dave thought she looked rather cute in her wellies, puffer jacket, woolly hat, scarf and gloves, but as the snow shovel stood two foot taller than she did, he suggested she leave the drive to him.
Cheryl didn’t argue because it meant she could make a start on dinner and perfect her appearance.
“I hope this is ok” she said as she looked at her reflection in the mirror.
She needn’t have worried, after all he thought she was cute in a puffer jacket and wellies he would be putty in her hands when he saw her in a figure hugging wool dress.
Suffice is to say she did make an impression and they both had a great Christmas.

Mornington-By-Mere – (98) Christmas Cards

Mornington-By-Mere is a small country village lying in the Finchbottom Vale nestled between the Ancient Dancingdean Forest and the rolling Pepperstock Hills.
It is a quaint picturesque village, a proper chocolate box picturesque idyll, with a Manor House, 12th Century Church, a Coaching Inn, Windmills, an Old Forge, a Schoolhouse, a River and a Mere.
But Mornington-By-Mere is not just a quaint chocolate box English Village it is the beating heart of the Finchbottom Vale and there were a number of cottages and small houses on the Purplemere road and Dulcets Lane which formed the part of Mornington Village known as Manorside and Mariana Harding was staying at number 1 Dulcet Mill Lane in the house she was raised in, along with her brother George, by their Aunt Julia.

She was a well-travelled woman in her mid-thirties who hadn’t put down roots anywhere but she had made lots of friends which became problematic at Christmas time when it came to sending Christmas cards because a considerable amount of strategic planning was required to ensure that maximum effect was gained from sending Christmas cards, because, design, timing, size and quality are of paramount importance.
There are all kinds of do’s and don’ts, one of them is sending Christmas cards too early, which is not only ineffective but can be humiliating for the sender because it is very revealing, by disclosing the size and quality of card, it exposes the sender to the possibility of a devastating counter-attack.
On the other hand, a very late Christmas card runs the risk of negating the recipient's ability to respond, and reduces one's total card count, and it can look like an afterthought.
Mariana thought it was better to be on the early, rather than late side, because the pre-emptive Christmas card sets the pace and compels the opposition to reply.
And it is a brave opponent who will respond with either a lesser card or better than card.
The second thing she considered was the value and size of cards. Important people, certainly people who think they are important, send big and important looking Christmas cards which was designed to make the recipient feel small.
It was a costly option but she thought it was worth it.
She didn’t consider herself a snob though and she thought there was definitely a place for cheap and nasty Christmas cards.
They could be used for a variety of reasons they didn’t just imply bad taste or poverty, they could be used to disrespect the recipient, and possibly lead to deletion from their Christmas card list.
She found cheap cards were particularly useful for terminating pointless Christmas card exchanges with people she met on holiday or business trips when she foolishly exchanged addresses on drunken night’s outs.
She tried to avoid First-time Christmas cards sent on impulse to recent acquaintances because they can have devastating consequences or disappointments.
But she didn’t follow her own protocols so when she was in Denver for a conference at the end of November and she met a man called Seelie Dawson, with whom she let her guard down, and one night after dinner, when alcohol had been taken, she gave him her address and phone number.
Following that breach she was overcome with regrets, firstly for the breach, second for not getting his details, thirdly for not giving him her email and finally for losing her phone on the journey home.
And ever since she got back to Mornington she had thought of nothing else but him and had abandoned her long standing and well-honed system and sent no cards at all and occupied her time examining the abundance of cards that arrived through her door every day hoping there would be one from him and each day she was disappointed.
But she never gave up hope and then on Christmas Eve she perused the pile of mail on the door mat once again and on that day with wonder in her eyes she received a Christmas card and the postmark was from Colorado, and she only knew one person there.
Her hand was shaking while she opened the envelope and withdrew the card, but before reading it she looked inside the envelope and saw a photo and it was a picture of her and Seelie, together and smiling, which recalled the evening to her mind with perfect clarity.
She turned her attention to the card, but she closed her eyes and took a breath before opening it, but when she did she read.

Mariana

I hope you liked the photo, it was a very memorable evening.
I have tried several times to phone you on the mobile number you gave me.
I am going to be in England for the New Year, I would very much like to see you while I’m there, perhaps we could have dinner.
I’ve written my contact details on the back of the photo.
I look forward to hearing from you, and I hope very much that we can get together in the New Year.

Have a Happy Christmas
Seelie x

She flipped the photo over and saw the full gamut of details and her joy could not be contained so it was twenty minutes before she had calmed down enough for her start using them.

Despite the fact she didn’t send a single Christmas card that year she had her best Christmas in a decade and a very Happy New Year.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Tales from the Finchbottom Vale – (98) Christmas in Sharpington – James’s Tale

(Part 01)

The traditional seaside resort of Sharpington-by-Sea with its Victorian Pier, seafront hotels, crazy golf, The Palladium ballroom, well maintained gardens, promenade, theatre and illuminations, has all the usual things to have a great time by the seaside, as well as amusement arcades and of course the Sharpington Fun Park and 55 year old triplets, Alex, James and Jenny Wardle live together in the huge house they grew up in, in the grand neighbourhood of Granite Hill, which in a nod to San Francisco, the locals had nicknamed Nob Hill.
“So it’s Christmas time again” Alex said as he looked out the window.
“As if anyone could fail to notice” James added as he and Jenny joined him at the drawing room window.
Even without leaving the house they could see more than half a dozen houses decorated to the hilt.
Every coloured light imaginable, Santa's on the roof or climbing a ladder, sleighs, elves, snowmen, bells, stars, baubles and last but by no means least standing almost four feet high that perennial favourite Winnie the Pooh.
Alex was taken aback, what the hell did Pooh have to do with Christmas? And later as he and his siblings walked down to the seafront he noticed that every other house seemed to have one, there was even one on the pier so he guessed there must be something in it.
He didn't recall mention of him in the bible and in all of the many nativity plays he had seen over the years Winnie the Pooh was conspicuous by his absence and although there is a donkey in the story it wasn’t Eeyore.
The stable did not house Piglet and the wise men did not travel from the east with Tigger bearing gifts of Huney.
Nor in any of the Christmas traditions around the world is there a single reference to Pooh as one of Santa's helpers, there was Black Peter, and the Jolly Elf, there was even the devil figure Krampus, but no Pooh, but it appeared to him, that the people of Sharpington were giving him pride of place on their lawns that Christmas.
As they turned left onto the promenade the early winter sun broke through the mackerel skies exposing patches of the bluest sky and if he had had any remaining doubts that Christmas was coming to Sharpington they were soon dispelled as the promenade was decked in its Christmas garb.
Inflatable Santa’s climb the walls of the Fun Park and the pier was draped in LED icicles.
Then when they passed the Seaview Hotel they saw what looked like a cheery red-suited burglar hanging from one of the balconies and they all laughed before they went their separate ways.

James returned to Sharpington for the first time in twenty years after his brother Alex lost his wife and he found it very welcoming so as he was divorced and his son was living in America he decided to move back to the old family home and as he had independent wealth and plenty of time on his hands he took to doing voluntary work.

After he parted company from his siblings he made his way to Jubilee Park which was playing host to Santa’s grotto in the pavilion.
When he first walked in a week before, he found the place in disarray as a group of volunteers were putting the grotto together and his eyes were drawn to the throne in one corner where jolly Santa Claus would be sat next to his sack of gifts.
James had always been fascinated by the genesis of Santa Claus.
St. Nicholas was a Bishop in 4th century Turkey and became a giver of gifts to orphaned and poor children and James liked that such a wonderful tradition had begun as acts of kindness.
The second thing he noticed in the “work in progress” grotto, was the diminutive figure of a pretty middle-aged brunette called Charlotte Morley who was to be his Elf in chief, and when she turned and smiled at him he was hooked, and he wanted to get to know her better.
And he got to know her very easily because when she turned and smiled at him she liked what she saw and set her little pixie cap at him.

(Part 02)

Because she was to be Elf to his Santa they worked closely together and apart from their mutual attraction they bonded over their dislike of the “Overlord” of the Grotto operation, Sharpington Council employee Amanda Rawlings, who was an officiously obnoxious control freak, which would have been ok, had she been any good at it.
During their first week they were beset with problems while they were getting ready for the big event there were problems everywhere.
Some of the other expected volunteers were no shows due to illness, the donated gifts were late, and were unwrapped and they were all feeling the pressure of being massively behind schedule.
Then, a day before his debut as Santa they discovered a problem with the throne which necessitated getting in a carpenter at great expense which was the last straw for James, so when Amanda walked in moments later dressed as an Angel and holding a Christmas Tree he snapped.
So when she said cheerfully,
“Isn't this a lovely tree? Where would you like me to stick it?”
James looked first at Charlotte then turned to Amanda and said
“Up your arse”
Charlotte laughed as Amanda stood open mouthed and added
“Well that is the tradition isn’t it? To have an angel on top of the Christmas Tree”
They didn’t see much of her after that which suited them down to the ground because with her absence everything began to run like clockwork.

But on the day he walked in to Sharpington with his brother and sister things took an interesting turn.
The grotto opened to the first child at 11 o’clock and there was a pretty constant stream, almost non-stop until 3 o’clock and then the visits became more sporadic as the weather had deteriorated and heavy snow was falling.
With James wearing his red suit sitting on his throne, Charlotte was dressed as an Elf and escorted the excited or apprehensive child in from the ante chamber.
The child would then climb up on to Santa’s lap and while Santa had a quick chat with them and gave them their gift, and a man called Owen would take a photo.
Charlotte then escorted the happy child back out to their parents and this well-oiled machine kept operating like that for the duration of the day and when Charlotte escorted the final child back to their waiting parents, Owen followed them out.

James sat on the throne and gathered his thoughts before he got up and changed and just at the moment he prepared to move the lights went out.
“Oh bugger” he exclaimed and then the door opened, spilling light into the room and a figure appeared but disappeared again when the door closed.
But he heard footsteps in the darkness which grew louder with every step and when they stopped the owner of those steps sat on his lap and kissed him.
It was a long and lingering kiss and when it was over he said
“And what would you like for Christmas little girl?”
“Some more of that would be nice” Charlotte replied

After an unhurried passionate embrace they left his chair with the intention of going for dinner with the prospect of more kissing to follow.
But when they left the darkness of the grotto they found the rest of the building was also in darkness.
Whereas Charlotte had plunged the grotto into darkness for her own ends, the other volunteers had assumed it to be empty when they left, which they did promptly because of the snow.
Charlotte turned on the lights and they soon realized they were locked in, all the windows had bars on them and the doors were padlocked and chained from the outside
“Well it looks like we’re here for the night” she said and James thought about being stuck in the grotto with an Elf ten years younger than him and he said
“Happy Christmas”

Those Memories Made on Teardrop Lake – (98) Christmas Memories Evoked

When Keith Fulbrook was growing up Christmas was a very special time for him and every year the season evoked so many memories and many of those memories were of the times he spent at his grandparent’s farm in Shallowfield.
A row of wellington boots standing on the flagstones, fresh from hours of play in the snow and dripping wet mittens drying on a string behind the tortoise stove in the kitchen, the smell of burning logs and damp wool invading the nostrils, soon to be replaced by the scent of a fresh cut fir tree in the living room filling the air with the aroma of Christmas joining the smells of nutmeg and ginger coming from the pantry.
He just had to smell pipe smoke and he was back with his grandpa with his twinkling blue eyes and wry smile as he puffed out a dense cloud of aromatic smoke from his meerschaum pipe.
But it wasn’t just smells, the house was always alive with the ringing sounds of boisterous laughter of ten grandchildren of varying ages filling the house.
And when the house wasn’t resounding with laughter it was music as the family gatherings always prompted renditions of the carols and songs of Christmas played on guitar and fiddle and sung with gusto.
But that wasn’t the only Christmas music he remembered there was also the sweet sounds of a choir at the candlelit midnight mass.
But candlelight was eclipsed by the sparkle and twinkle of the fairy lights reflected on the fragile glass ornaments and heirloom decorations that magically transformed his grandparent’s living room into his childish vision of a magic wonderland.
And then there were the tastes candy canes and chocolates from the tree, satsumas and nuts in their stockings, sugar almonds, jellied fruits, dates, liquorice, and mints.
Turkey and all the trimmings, Gammon, Christmas pudding, brandy butter, mince pies, shortbread, pies, tarts, fruit cakes, sausage rolls.
But all the bounty of the table was far outweighed by the abundance of love which was linked to every single memory.
But his favourite Christmas memory came when the winter delivered up the perfect Christmas gift, snow.

When Keith went to bed the wind howling through the trees gave no clue that it was carrying Jack Frost to the Vale but the next morning when he woke up to the sound of excited squeals and when he looked outside he gazed out at the whitened landscape and ten minutes later all the grandchildren dashed out into the white magical world, screaming and shouting like released convicts rejoicing in a new-found freedom.
The warm knitted gloves were soon abandoned as snowballs were hurled in all directions.
Shrieks filled the winter air as aims improved and increasing numbers found their mark.
As the battle ground expanded they joined forces with a group of village children and that was the moment he first saw Yvonne Sage and he discovered there was something even more exciting than a white Christmas.
Yvonne was the same age as him, give or take, and she was tall for a fourteen year old girl, lean and wiry with braided brown hair and a bit of a tomboy but he was smitten.
But he had never noticed a girl before so he didn’t really know what to do about his infatuation.
But because she chose to join a group building a snowman so did he.

Rudolf, their giant snowman, gradually took shape on the village green.
A red tartan scarf was draped around his broad shoulders and a boy produced an old battered black hat, which was accidently set at a jaunty angle on his huge head which gave him a rakish look.
Two un-sucked gobstoppers provided him with staring blue eyes.
Keith and Yvonne held the ends of a length of old rope which they tied around Rudolph’s substantial waist, some pebbles substituted for buttons, a carrot nose and a stick mouth completed the magnificent figure.
And then they stood back to admire their handiwork.
Despite being pleased with the finished article Keith panicked because he didn’t know what to do next if Yvonne suddenly went off with her friends.
But then Tom and Lindsay Collingwood suggested going up to Coopers Hill for a bit of sledding.
“Yeh count me in” Yvonne said “What about you Keith?”
Keith was so releived that he didn’t know what to say so he just nodded his agreement and she smiled because she really liked him and she wanted him to go with her.
And so they walked up to Coopers Hill together and the fact that they didn’t have a sled or a toboggan didn’t seem to faze them at all, so on the way there they collected some cardboard boxes from outside Stephenson Supermarket and shared a sheet of cardboard and used it to ride down the hill, screaming at every bump, and when they got to the bottom Tomboy Yvonne had a boyfriend.
Although they didn’t realise it at the time they were victims of love at first sight and it was a love that lasted a life time.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Mornington-By-Mere – (97) A West Bank Cottage Christmas

The James family lives in the village of Mornington-By-Mere, which is a small country village lying in the Finchbottom Vale nestled between the Ancient Dancingdean Forest and the rolling Pepperstock Hills.
It is a quaint picturesque village, a proper chocolate box picturesque idyll, with a Manor House, 12th Century Church, a Coaching Inn, Windmills, an Old Forge, a Schoolhouse, a River and a Mere.
But Mornington-By-Mere is not just a quaint chocolate box English Village it is the beating heart of the Finchbottom Vale and there were a number of cottages and small houses on the Purplemere road and Dulcets Lane which form the part of Mornington Village known as Manorside where the James’s lived in a small two bedroom cottage in the row of West Gate Cottages on the banks of the River Brooke.

Wilson James was 18 years old when he fell in love for first time and it happened at Christmas at the next door neighbour’s house while he was home from University.
He hadn’t intended to, he wasn’t even looking for a girlfriend, he was far too busy and struggled to fit in all the student socializing as it was.
In fact he didn’t even want to go to the Craven’s house that night and he had never even given Deirdre a second look.
Mainly because she was just a kid, after all she was also only 15 when he went away, but also she wasn’t his type, although he had only met her a couple of time as the family only moved in at Easter.
But he did at least remember that she had a crush on him but he shrugged that off, because a lot of girls that he met seemed to feel that way about him.
So under sufferance he went next door with his parents a week before Christmas and when he went in the house and the pleasantries were exchanged he realized that the immature 15 year old who had a crush on him had turned into a dazzling young woman and all at once she had his full attention and he thought that if he couldn’t find a way to fit Deirdre into his life, there was something wrong with him.
They only had eyes for each other from the first moment and over the next week they were inseparable but on Christmas Eve she and her family were driving to Nettlefield to spend Christmas with the Grandparents.
So on that morning shortly before the Craven’s set off the love struck couple exchanged presents, he gave her a locket with his photograph in it, which she loved and then she gave him a beautifully wrapped gift box and said,
“This is for you”
“Wow” he said and was a bit embarrassed and felt a bit guilty because it looked so much more than what he’d got for her.
But he opened the box anyway and found it was empty.
“Is there supposed to be something inside the package?” he asked and she smiled
“It's not empty” she said “I blew kisses into it until it was full”
“That’s really sweet” he said and kissed her
“I got you a proper present as well” she said and handed him what appeared to be a CD “That was just a bit of fun”
He loved the CD because she had chosen it for him, and even though she said it was only a bit of fun he kept that gold box by his bed while she was away and whenever he missed her he would
open the box and take out an imaginary kiss.

Tales from the Finchbottom Vale – (97) Christmas in Sharpington – Alex’s Tale

The traditional seaside resort of Sharpington-by-Sea with its Victorian Pier, seafront hotels, crazy golf, The Palladium ballroom, well maintained gardens, promenade, theatre and illuminations, has all the usual things to have a great time by the seaside, as well as amusement arcades and of course the Sharpington Fun Park and 55 year old triplets, Alex, James and Jenny Wardle live together in the huge house they grew up in, in the grand neighbourhood of Granite Hill, which in a nod to San Francisco, the locals had nicknamed Nob Hill.
“So it’s Christmas time again” Alex said as he looked out the window.
“As if anyone could fail to notice” James added as he and Jenny joined him at the drawing room window.
Even without leaving the house they could see more than half a dozen houses decorated to the hilt.
Every coloured light imaginable, Santa's on the roof or climbing a ladder, sleighs, elves, snowmen, bells, stars, baubles and last but by no means least standing almost four feet high that perennial favourite Winnie the Pooh.
Alex was taken aback, what the hell did Pooh have to do with Christmas? And later as he and his siblings walked down to the seafront he noticed that every other house seemed to have one, there was even one on the pier so he guessed there must be something in it.
He didn't recall mention of him in the bible and in all of the many nativity plays he had seen over the years Winnie the Pooh was conspicuous by his absence and although there is a donkey in the story it wasn’t Eeyore.
The stable did not house Piglet and the wise men did not travel from the east with Tigger bearing gifts of Huney.
Nor in any of the Christmas traditions around the world is there a single reference to Pooh as one of Santa's helpers, there was Black Peter, and the Jolly Elf, there was even the devil figure Krampus, but no Pooh, but it appeared to him, that the people of Sharpington were giving him pride of place on their lawns that Christmas.
As they turned left onto the promenade the early winter sun broke through the mackerel skies exposing patches of the bluest sky and if he had had any remaining doubts that Christmas was coming to Sharpington they were soon dispelled as the promenade was decked in its Christmas garb.
Inflatable Santa’s climb the walls of the Fun Park and the pier was draped in LED icicles.
Then when they passed the Seaview Hotel they saw what looked like a cheery red-suited burglar hanging from one of the balconies and they all laughed before they went their separate ways.

Alex was the only one of the three who had lived his whole life in Sharpington, having married a local girl with whom he Managed the Palladium Ballroom and raised two children and with both children married and settled he and Natalie looked forward to their retirement together but it wasn’t to be, as she had a massive heart attack only two months before their leisurely life was to begin.
He considered himself very lucky that he had his siblings to support him in his hour of need and they had helped him when he didn’t want to leave the house, when he couldn’t see a future, when he couldn’t function.
But two years later he went out, in fact he went out often and he began to enjoy life again and part of that enjoyment was being with James and Jenny and another part was Tracy Whitehouse.
He had known Tracy since he was at school but she was Tracy Gurney back then and he had reconnected with her at a bereavement group at the Jubilee Community Centre.

When he parted company with the others he didn’t have any definite plans he just set out to enjoy the respite in the weather.
That was until he caught sight of Tracy going into the café and he decided there was something better to do than enjoy the weather so he went to the café to join her, even if it meant he would have to have breakfast number two of the day.
It was busy in the café with lots of chatter and he hears Tracy order a bacon sandwich and a coffee above the hubbub, so he ordered the same and walked over to her table and said
“Do you mind if I join you”
“Oh yes that would be lovely” she said when she turned around for the first time.
“So what are you up to today?” he asked
“Nothing much” she replied “I’m just enjoying the winter sunshine before the rain rolls in again this afternoon”
“So what about when the rain does come back?” Alex asked
“Back home I suppose” she said “What about you?”
“Well there showing “Shop Around The Corner” at the Tivoli” he said
“Oooh I love James Stewart” Tracy said
“Why don’t you join me then” he suggested
“I’d love to” she replied and smiled
So they finished their breakfast and then they stepped outside and went for a walk in the sunshine, firstly on the beach and then as the clouds began to gather they walked along the pier because there were plenty of places to shelter should the rain arrive early.
As it turned out the rain held off but the temperature dipped so they spent a lot of time out of the wind keeping warm and they lost track of time and had to forgo lunch or miss the start of the film so they pigged out on popcorn instead while they watched the classic film.

By the time they left the theatre the expected rain had turned to snow and there was quite a lot of it.
“Oh dear I wasn’t expecting this” she said
“It’s just like the film” Alex said
“It is rather” she agreed
“Although Sharpington isn’t quite historic Budapest”
“No that’s true but it has its pluses” he said looking at her, and made her blush
“And in the film the girl got her man” she said coyly
“Well I’m game if you are” he said and took hold of her hand
“Life imitating art”
“I think that would be rather nice” she replied blissfully unaware of the bustle of film goers around them.
But she was very aware of Alex kissing her gently on the lips.