Long ago and far away, in a land called 1971, there lived a brother and sister. This is part one of a very story of what happened to them on Christmas Eve, as it was told to me.
‘The year that I was 6 and my brother 10 our parents decided that we were both old enough to be trusted with the welfare of both house and cat so they could go out for a Christmas eve drink with friends. At seven on the dot they set off into the night heading for a pub hidden somewhere in the countryside, leaving strict instructions with me and my brother to be in bed by 8 o’clock and No Fighting. Otherwise, Santa wouldn’t come.
In the living room the Christmas tree sparkled as its little lights flashed on and off illuminating the Very Old Glass Baubles that adorned the tree. A few presents sat temptingly beneath.
As did Mrs Tibbs, our tabby cat. Her eyes, also like glass baubles, reflected the flickering lights and she refused to come out from beneath the tinsel-laden boughs.
About ten seconds after our parents had left my brother was restless. I would have been happy to go to bed at 8 o’clock as instructed, but he being that bit older than me he found being alone in the house on Christmas eve a fascinating delight and an opportunity that may not come even once a year. His fidgety excitement soon had us heading for disaster.
Trying to coax Mrs Tibbs out from under the tree, she backed away, bumping the tree lightly as she went. It rocked gently. The Very Old Glass Baubles swayed ever so slightly and the tinsel glittered.
“C’mon. We’re going to play hide and seek,” announced my brother.
The last time we did that he’d persuaded me to hide in the garage in a trunk that was full of nails and saws and he’d left me there to go and play football with his friends until tea-time.
He sensed my apprehension.
“C’mon, it’ll be fun. We won’t hide though,” he said, and scurried upstairs.
What sort of hide and seek involved not hiding?
Tentatively, I followed. I could hear banging and shuffling, the dragging of things about, and doors opening and closing. A shaft of light came from our parent’s bedroom.
“What are you doing?” I whispered, dismayed.
“They hide, we seek!”
I stepped into our parent’s room where my brother was searching high and low.
“For the Christmas Presents!!” he said, in his exasperated older sibling voice.
“But Father Christmas brings those!” I said, horrified.
“Wake up Thicko” he instructed. “Mum and Dad bring them!”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“That’s not true!” I said. I couldn’t possibly be true – really it couldn’t! Santa brought our presents! He flew through the air with his sleigh and his gang of reindeer delivering presents to all us good children in the world.
“Don’t be so stupid!” scoffed my brother.
As my young brain absorbed and digested this absolutely terrible news, I watched as he continued hunting. There were none to be found.
“See! It’s not mummy and daddy! It’s Father Christmas!” I declared, worried, relieved, and on the edge of tears.
He muttered something about getting a ladder and pushed past me. Lamely, I followed him down stairs as he made his way to the garage.
Struggling back in with some step-ladders he told me the grab one end and we staggered back upstairs with them, taking a few chunks of plaster out of the wall and tearing the new Vymura wall paper. I stopped to look at the damage.
“Now look what you’ve done!” he declared.
We dragged the ladders along the landing until we came to rest below the loft hatch. We looked up.
“Yes!” he said with glee. “You can go first because you’re smaller.”
Terror gripped me as I remembered the Loft Spiders – they’re bigger than ordinary spiders because they live in the dark and they have teeth. I knew this was true because my brother had told me. I couldn’t go up there!
Huffing at my reluctance, he climbed the wobbly ladder, pushed open the hatch and disappeared inside the loft….’
To be continued…