“Grandad. Mavis and me need to talk to you.”
“Yes,” said Mavis, “we do.”
The cousins stood before me, hands on six-year-old hips, looking very stern.
“This looks like trouble,” I said.
“We saw Father Christmas last night,” said Martha.
“Wow,” I said, “where? In the toy shop?”
“No,” they chorused. “In our bedroom. Late last night.”
“Really,” I said. “When I was a little boy I waited up every Christmas Eve but I never ever saw him.”
“He was hiccuping,” said Martha.
“And giggling,” said Mavis.
“And then he fell over,” they chorused again, and looked at each other meaningfully.
“Ahh, did he now, really,” I said, “silly Father Christmas. What did he say?”
“The S word,” said Mavis.
“More than once,” said Martha.
“That doesn’t sound much like Father Christmas,” I said.
“That’s what we thought,” said Martha. Another meaningful look.
“And he had one blue sock,” said Mavis.
“And one red sock,” continued Martha.
Oh no, I thought. Wait till their mothers hear this. Bad language, drinking.
“What a co-incidence. Santa and me wearing the same socks. Do you suppose he stole my idea? You can’t trust anybody who uses the S word.”
More meaningful looks and rolling of eyes.
“He said he’d been celebrating cos it’s his birthday,” said Mavis.
“Just like you,” said Martha.
“And he said he never thought he’d make it to sixty. Just like you,” said Mavis.
“So we know it wasn’t really Father Christmas,” they chorused.
Visions of irate mothers again. Accusations of ruining Christmas illusions. They would find out Father Christmas wasn’t real soon enough, etc.
Then a reprieve.
“Grandad, you’ve got to stop pretending to be Father Christmas or the real one might not come,” said Martha.
“Specially if you eat all his mince pies,” said Mavis.
Richard Lamb is currently living and working in Rio de Janeiro, trying very hard to be a Brazilian, and having difficulty finding time to write.