Let There be Lights…

A short story written for Tunbridge Wells Writers annual Christmas countdown. There are a few more to come, but I don’t want to pull focus from the group project so will post here after they’ve appeared there. This year’s prompt is the opening line from Terry Pratchett’s HOGFATHER, which I take a slight liberty with in this particular story… 

Let There be Lights

Everything starts somewhere, we’re told, though I’ve heard it said that many physicists disagree. The amount of time I’ve spent trying to find the start of these fairy lights I’m beginning to think they might be on to something; if I ever find the first bulb and get them unravelled it’ll be a Christmas bloody miracle! My own fault, I suppose, because I was so busy sorting the rest of the decorations back into their box last January I let the boy sort these out. ‘Make sure you wind ‘em round the slotted spacer thingy and thread them on one by one,’ I said, ‘or we’ll never untangle ‘em next year.’

Two minutes later he says, ‘all done! What’s next dad?’ and I actually winced as he said it.

I go to look, and the box – and the slotted spacer – are both still on the floor and there’s a dirty-great black bin liner bulging at the seams with what looks like a green plastic tumbleweed poking out the neck of it. The little coloured lamps seem to be winking at me conspiratorially, but it must be a trick of the light (if you’ll excuse the pun) because they’re nowhere near an electricity supply.

‘What happened to the box,’ I ask, ‘and the slotted spacer? Why didn’t you use the spacer?’

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I forgot,’ he said.

‘But I only just said… … …’

‘Calm down, dear, it is Christmas after all,’ said the missus.

Technically Christmas was all done and dusted, but I wasn’t daft enough to pick her up on it, so I just sighed and got back to putting the baubles away. I think I might have snapped the head off one of the little redcoat soldiers, but I haven’t found him yet. That’s easily sorted – a bit of superglue and he’ll be good as new. Not like these bloody fairy lights.

Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. There’s been plenty of time to sort them out. If I’d done it straight away I wouldn’t have this problem now, but after all the other Christmas stuff I just couldn’t be arsed, and once they were back in the loft I just forgot all about them. Until now. Not just the boy who forgets stuff, then. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Or the fairy light from the Christmas tree in this case.

I can’t even see the fuse bulb. God knows. I’ve got the plug – well can see it at least – so that’s the business end sorted, but it’s right at the centre of the tumbleweed, and if I reach in and yank it out I’ll be tying all sorts of new knots that’ll make things even worse. Come on, you little white bugger, show yourself! It’ll still be like unravelling spaghetti, but once I lay my hands on you I’ll at least have a fighting chance.

She’s no help either. I say it every year: if we had lots of smaller sets it would be much easier to sort ‘em out. One big string’s just asking for trouble.

‘But I don’t trust them extension cords and four-way adaptors,’ she says, ‘and we need the other outlet for the telly.’

That’s her dad’s fault. He nearly burnt their house down one year trying to plug about eighteen things into one of them little five amp round-pin sockets. She’s been paranoid about electrics ever since.

Ah. There you are… Gotcha! Now we’re getting somewhere… I hope you’re not blown after all this…

WHAT? What love…?

Well tell him to sort it out himself, I’ve just found the fuse bulb and I don’t want to lose it again!

Well what does he expect me to do about it? If Rudolph’s got the squits again there’s sod all I can do about it! One of the others will have to stand in for him. Besides, we’ve got headlights on the sleigh now, so Rudolph’s more tradition than necessity. Tell him I’ll be back at the workshop in a couple of hours, and if he can’t handle things himself until then I’ll be looking for a new foreman in January…

Bloody Christmas.    



Santa’s Lidl Helper

My plans for christmas postings went a bit off course this year thanks to a telephone / wi-fi outage outrage. Anyhow, here’s a little Christmas poem to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas…

 Santa’s Lidl Helper

I’m totally sorted for Christmas,
I popped into Lidl, you see,
A thirty quid ham from Serrano
That’s almost as heavy as me.
A floral display for the table,
A beautiful, natural tree,
No needles, they swear, before the New Year
With a full money-back guarantee.

The champagne’s reduced by a fiver,
Award-winning stuff, don’t you know,
It’s better than bolly for getting one jolly
And under a tenner a go.
Their claret’s an absolute winner,
Not blended – a proper Chateau,
And the Gavi’s divine if you like a white wine
And you fancy a change from Pinot.

The bohos who live in The Village
Have tooled-up with brollies and mace:
A two-for-one offer on lobster,
They’re only a fiver a brace.
You’ll have to fight dirty to get them,
The pushing’s a bloody disgrace,
‘Cos the gastro pub landlords and restaurateurs
Are snapping them up by the case.

They’ve biscuits for cheese by the barrel,
They’ve mince pies and stollen and duff,
Panetone, biscotti, you’d have to be potty
To pass on this seasonal stuff.
Their piggies are pre-wrapped in blankets,
My family just can’t get enough,
And their all-butter pastry’s incredibly tasty
For en croute with plenty of puff.

They’ve turkey and goose by the truckload,
They’ve pheasant and quail and such,
There’s ostrich if that takes your fancy,
But a whole one is prob’ly too much.
They’ve duck and they’ve partridge and chicken,
Or four different birds in a clutch,
They’re all trussed together inside one another
With stuffing the finishing touch.

I’ve bought a guitar for our Henry,
A uke each for Katie and Sue,
A pipe wrench for Bill and an art set for Jill,
Thermal socks for the whole bloody crew.
That wheelbarrow’s sure to please granddad,
For granny I hadn’t a clue,
So I hope that she’s keen on her sewing machine –
She can knock out a onsie or two.

I’m totally sorted for Christmas,
I’ve been down to Lidl, you see,
It took just one stop for my whole Christmas shop
From the cranberry jelly to tree.
And then, as I serve up our dinner,
I wince and recoil at the shouts,
Our wonderful Christmas is ruined:
Oh fuck, I’ve forgotten the sprouts!




Twenty-First Century Santa…

Blimey, it’s Christmas Eve! My mince pies and sossidge rolls are all ready to go and the goose is ready for bathing overnight in a big bucket of fruity, herby, boozy brine – I’m ahead of the game for once! Here’s a little bit of fiction I wrote for the Tunbridge Wells Writers Christmas Countdown. I hope you enjoy it, but even if you don’t have a Very Merry Christmas and Wonderful New Year anyway! x 


The street is silent, the early darkness and biting cold keeping people inside their homes. The shower of snowflakes falling from the sky is too light to lay; the flakes melt on impact with the ground. The grey paving slabs of the footpath and black asphalt road surface glisten with reflected light from the yellow street lamps. If the gritters aren’t out tonight the roads will be treacherous by morning.

kiplingA white van turns into the street, its headlights illuminating posters in the windows of the corner shop. Quality Street are five quid a tub for this week only, and Mr Kipling’s deep-filled mince pies are only ninety-nine pee for a pack of six. There are wines on special offer too, and there’s a lottery draw this weekend guaranteed to make four lucky winners millionaires.

The van passes the corner shop and pulls over to the kerb outside of number eighty-six. The driver sits for a moment watching the snow dancing in his headlights. He smiles, his lips, red from the cold, almost concealed behind his curly white moustache and beard. He turns off the headlights and cuts the engine then opens the door and steps out onto the road. Continue reading “Twenty-First Century Santa…”

A Smashing Christmas…

… and a smashing present.

I posted this on the Tunbridge Wells Writers’ website yesterday as part of our Christmas Countdown, so if it seems familiar that’ll be why. Today’s post, however, includes an ‘Easter Egg’ in the form of a crappy seasonal Clerihew at the bottom, which I forgot to put in my last post here. Enjoy! 

It’s difficult in these days of Mp3 mass storage and unlimited music streaming to comprehend just how desirable a bottom-of-range compact cassette recorder might have been to a twelve-year old cahnsil estate oik in the early 1970s. Imagine today’s average twelve-year old unwrapping their first ever i-phone and multiply it by a factor of around a million, then throw in an X-box1 for good measure and you might be getting somewhere close. But probably not, because twelve-year olds today are already likely to be on their fourth or fifth generation smartphone, and will have regarded ownership of such items as a god-given right rather than a privilege from the time they lost their first milk tooth. Spoilt little buggers.

casseteBut I digress: In 1973 I would have sold my granny to sex-traffickers to get my hands on a cassette recorder, and thrown in my granddad too, had he still been living, for the price of a triple-pack of blank C60s and a set of spare batteries.

My dreams were almost answered in December 1972. I had been pleading miserably (shush!) for a tape-recorder since my birthday in August (when I had received nothing grander than a cheap kite), and had convinced myself that said pleading had “incentivised” mum into borrowing the necessary monies from our tallyman, Mr Pither, to procure it for me. Imagine my shock and dismay, then, on discovering on Christmas morning that the daft old bat had instead invested my present money in a poxy little second-hand reel-to-reel recorder on the advice of a “family friend”. That the “friend” was the person selling the reel-to-reel – probably to fund the purchase of a proper cassette for their own offspring – was an implication lost on my mother, but an oversight she would rue throughout the entire Christmas period and for at least six months of the following year. Continue reading “A Smashing Christmas…”