Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
ADD, Aloha shirt, Beach Boys, Caligula, Chi Rho, Come Dine with Me, Father Christmas, Greenland Fulfilment Centre, Harry Styles, Location, One Direction, Paint balling, Red Letter Day, Richard Dawkins, Salisbury Plain, Schnautzer, Tinkerbelle, Victoria's Secret, zombie make-up
A previous Year’s updated post!
Tristram, having appeared on two television programmes in recent months- ie/
Come Dine With Me and Location, Location, Location, was regarded as a minor
culinary and real estate celebrity and therefore was approached by the local
town charities, to see if he would accept the role of Father Christmas at the
late night shopping evening. They had asked Harry Styles from One Direction
to be compere, but regrettably he was otherwise engaged. Clammie had
agreed to be Santa’s fairy as she had an up-to-date DBS check and was one
of the few mums who could pneumatically squeeze into the Tinkerbelle
More grotty than grotto! her rather unkind daughter had remarked. I
don’t think you’ll be finding ANY member of One Direction in your stocking
this Christmas, or any other year, even though they have been known to
go for the older woman!
Right! The brat had just unknowingly forfeited the Victoria’s Secret stuff
her mother had planned to buy her.
Some of Tristram’s duties involved emptying the town Lapland post box
and arranging the re-direction of the mail to the PO department that dealt
with applications to Greenland’s Fulfilment Centre. He had to read them in
order to decipher the return addresses and he showed me some of the
finest epistles deposited therein:
1) Dear Father Xmas,
As one who is a member of the ‘kids from one to ninety two’ bracket,
may I register a little festive plea?
As a long term fan of The Beach Boys, I would very much like an
Aloha shirt- Medium size. Actually, the folks over there can be
quite large, so maybe a ‘Small’ would do?
In spite of my nickname- Caligula- I can assure you that
J’etais sage pendant l’annee 2014.
Why am I falling into the Gallic medium?
Many thanks and The Peace of the Lord be With You,
St Birinus Middle School etc
PS- The use of ‘X’ in Xmas in no way indicates any agnostic
2) Dear Santa,
Please may I have a taser gun so that I can zap the next boy who calls
me Ginger Minger? I do hope that Rudolph has recovered from the
mental trauma of being called names and marginalised at games.
Bullying isn’t nice, I can tell you. I’m glad that you picked him out to
be special, even though his fur is a teeny bit auburn. It sends out
the right message.
3) Dear Santa Claws (sic),
Please may we remind you that we would prefer not to have joint prezzies?
The tandem you left us last year is still in Dad’s observatory.
On the 24th we will not set our buglar (sic) alarm, so don’t worry about coming
in. The chimney has been swept, so you shouldn’t get too dirty. If you are
sooty, please could you be careful of Mum’s cream carpet in the sitting room,
as she goes ballistic if anyone steps on it with outdoor shoes or boots.
We will leave a carrot out, as Mum doesn’t believe in suet, so mince pies
Have a good one!
Castor & Pollux.
The address wasn’t vital on this one as there was only one set of twins in
the town who answered to such stellar appellations.
4) Dear Father Christmas,
I can’t remember what it is that I really, really want, but zombie make-up
would do for my stocking. You usually get it about right, but I think The
Memory Game last year didn’t do me much good, I’m afraid. Or did you give
that to Ming? I can’t remember. Maybe it was the year before?
(There was no address on this one, but Tristram remembered that Carrie’s
son had something like ADD.)
I don’t really believe in you, but I might as well hedge my bets.
I have been reasonably well-behaved this term. Well, it is all
relative, isn’t it?
In all probability, I think I would like Richard Dawkins’ new book
for children- Faith and Fairy Tales.
I enjoyed my Apocalyptic experience on Salisbury Plain, but as
I was done out of a paint balling session, could Juniper- my sister
and I- have vouchers for a Red Letter Day involving anything
violent with tanks and weapons?
Thank You – even if you are only my dad.
6) Dear Santa,
I don’t need anything this year. Please just make a donation to Curs
in Crisis. Maybe the pugs could go on a driving course, like that giant
Schnautzer cross I saw online? Their legs are a little short, though.
I’ll leave it up to you. I think they’d like it, though, as they often ride
on my scooter, but their Highway Code isn’t up to much.
(Such selflessness brought tears to Tristram and Clammie’s eyes.)
She made Tristram a cup oftea when they returned home with the
festive correspondence and warmed up a mince pie for him.
However, she eschewed one herself, as the fairy costume was a
little tight round the bust. Tinkerbelle had obviously not been a
Augustus Snodbury was annoyed. Why hadn’t he had confirmation of
his booking to stay a few days in Bath at half term? The school firewall
was a menace. We would be far better to return to paper
communication, he thought. But then that upstart, Milford-Haven,
had unctuously informed him that one million letters a week go
missing and so his confirmation was probably languishing in a
warehouse in Belfast, along with his request to Father Christmas,
which hadn’t been answered either, even though he had posted it in
that reliable looking box in Suttonford High Street, next to the grotto,
in ample time. He was certain that the Mail Police could not have
possibly detected that he had steamed off a stamp and re-used it.
He supposed that sending anything to the West Country was fraught
with negative possibilities, as he had read that a postman there had
been found with 3,215 undelivered cards and letters in his attic.
Perhaps he had renewed his activity?
Milford-Haven stupidly attempted to re-assure him by relating how a
postcard which had been sent to Aberdeen in 1889 from
Queensland, Australia, had recently turned up a century later, having
been lost in the Aussie postal system- probably in some swagman’s
February was upon him. He glanced at his planner where he crossed
off the days to half-term rather in the manner of Robinson Crusoe,
though the latter hadn’t been as desperate to escape.
Snod avoided looking at the 14th. It indicated the humiliation of an
incident several decades previously. He had plucked up the courage
to deliver a Valentine with Marry Me written in his beautiful
penmanship in the interior. And who was his beloved? Ah, none
other than the fresh-faced Diana Fotheringay, lax mistress at St
Vitus School for the Academically Gifted Girl, lax being an
abbreviation for that dangerous sport played with fishing net
weaponry and having nothing to do with looseness of behaviour.
(Mind you, when you saw the players mid-game, you
could have had some doubts as to the decorum in their modus
The youthful and ardent Augustus Snodbury, then a Junior master at
St Birinus’ had retained the heart-shaped diamond ring in his bureau.
It still nestled in its plush box. He hadn’t taken it out for a number of
years, but he knew exactly where it was.
So why was it not gracing the finger of his chosen one?
To continue the piscatorial reference: she hadn’t taken his bait. No,
not even though they had been sweethearts for almost a year.
It couldn’t have been that silly quarrel, could it?
This was a question that had niggled him in the early hours over the
following years. Worse still, he had had to witness her marriage to
that blockhead, Syylk, the picture restorer from Quarto Street. Well,
that hadn’t lasted. Of course, in those days, once married, a female
teacher retired from scholastic involvement. She had her daughter
to bring up as-ghastly term- a single parent. And now that daughter
taught at St Vitus’ too and he had to meet her on some joint
occasions, even had to address her invitation card to the schools’
joint drama evening. This proved painful, but, at least she
looked nothing like her mother. Oddly, she didn’t resemble that
swine Syylk either, so much the better for her.
Drusilla was grumbling about the disruption to her House flat. Why
on earth did she have to have the new carpet laid mid-term? Of
course, the Bursary was being beastly about letting premises in
the holidays and so all work had to be done when it suited the
school. Actually, she thought carpeting was an allergy provoking
floor covering, so she was going to investigate the state of the
floor boards and maybe she could negotiate some floor paint and
The edges of the carpet were frayed, so she pulled up a rusty tack
with her nail scissors and scraped at the perished underlay. There
was some yellowed newspaper which she resisted reading.
And then she spotted an envelope with Diana written on its front in
faded fountain pen ink.
How strange! Mother had this flat before I did, but this must have
lain there for decades. It must have slid under the carpet when
someone fed it under the door.
The gum had dried up and so the flap was open and the card inside
was visible. She slid it out and was moved by the old-fashioned
romanticism of the bunches of be-ribboned violets and the
invitation: Be My Valentine.
She thought this kind of mishap only occurred in Thomas Hardy
novels! Was Life imitating Art, or the reverse?
Inside it said: Marry Me! Sxxx
Judging by the newspaper dates, this must have been just prior to
Mother’s marriage to- she avoided the term Father, as she had never
liked the man.
The handwriting was exquisite- almost feminine. It reminded her of..
Aaagh! She caught sight of herself in the hall mirror. Teaching was
taking its toll. She was developing jowls like that old buffer: No! S for
Snodbury! Mother! Matron! San sister! Help! This wasn’t an allergy
attack and was too late in the year for an epiphany. She felt as if she
had been stabbed in the heart like Teresa of Avila which that vicar
had been banging on about in assembly earlier in the week, to the
unaccustomed interest of the girls. And she was clearly experiencing
an apopleptic fit, not an ecstasy, even of a questionable variety.
Never look at what has been swept under the carpet, she cautioned herself.
But it was too late!