Christmas Carols

All this month, we’re publishing seasonal stories by members of CWC. This week, Jean Grimsey puts the music back into the season.

“Christmas Eve and the queue outside the butchers stretched back past the row of shops as far as the pub. Tom nodded to the bobble-hatted man in front of him.

‘Bit chilly.’

‘Just a bit.’

Tom turned up his collar to keep the wind off his neck. The rain turned to sleet. Then there was a flurry of action at the head of the queue as two teenage girls, dressed as Santa’s Little Helpers, came out of the butchers carrying trays of mulled wine and mince pies.

‘That’s more like it. Thanks, love,’ said Bobble-Hat.

‘Really hits the spot,’ agreed Tom.

The queue had grown behind them as they shuffled forward and from the very back came a child’s voice, light and clear.

‘Away in a manger, no crib for a bed…’

Slowly, uncertainly the waiting men joined in.

‘The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay…’

Tom’s Welsh baritone rang out as the child’s voice soared, adding a descant to the deep male voices.

He reached the counter in the shop and then, laden with the precious bird and a carrier bag of ham and sausages, he walked back along the still singing queue as Silent Night now filled the air. The sleet had turned to snow, the pavement was slippery, the turkey and the carrier bag were heavy but he wanted to see this child with the magical voice. He reached the back of the line as the last words of the carol rang out:

‘Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.’

But there was no child; just that angelic voice, and a police notice asking for witnesses to an accident at 3pm the day before. And by the wall just beyond the pub was a bunch of early daffodils and a teddy bear with a label:

‘Goodnight, sleep tight. May angels sing you to your rest.’”

Jean Grimsey

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