I remember very well Christmas when I was 8 years old, it was bitterly cold and for weeks there had been heavy frost lying on the ground, it just seemed to build up in layers. Naturally, as children, we were delighted as a nearby pond was frozen solid and we - had we known about them - imagined ourselves to be the Torville & Dean of the early 60's.
At the school Christmas concert I got roped into playing the part of a Policeman, a desperate teacher, anxious to ensure that the whole class got a part, decided that I should arrest one of the three Wise men. There were 33 in our class that year, the stage was a good size but holding 33 all staring reverently [Mother Superior's beady eye being upon us] at the Baby in the Manger was not what the stage was built for.
When it came time to arrest the Wise Man, [probably for the illegal importation of Gold or Frankinsense] I rose nervously, teetered along the edge of the stage, put my hand on his shoulder, overbalanced reaching across the classmate playing the donkey and cartwheeled off the stage, bringing two wise men, [neither the guilty party] and a stuffed sheep [don't ask!].
Therein ended my acting career. By mid-March Miss Byrne had forgiven me, by June Mother Superior could greet me in the corridor with my given name and not a disdainful "Oh yes, you're the one that disturbed Baby Jesus by falling off the stage, aren't you?].
Good comes out of bad somehow, and Mum [bright red in face] won a Turkey, probably a consolation prize for her turkey of an actress daughter. Two days before Christmas Eve we went to our local town to pick up the bird. There he was. A large, irate, bronze Turkey, fully feathered and gobbingly - well - gobby! That bird could gobble for Ireland. Mum's face was a picture, this was obviously a conspiracy on someones part, revenge for daughter's fall from the stage!
So, what did we do? Well, we walked Henry [he had a Henry face] up the main street to where the car was parked, eventually managed to get him in the boot of the car, brought him home, and upon arrival cautiously opened the boot of the car. I think he may have overheard Dad comment on his fate if he had misbehaved in an anti-social manner in the boot, because as soon as the lid opened even a little bit, fourteen pounds of bronze turkey flew from the boot, up the garden in a charge that would have done the Light Brigade proud, straight up the hill, and for the next fortnight we could hear his gobbling call, taunting us.
That was a really tasty chicken we had for Christmas dinner that year. Henry? Well, he gobbled until February and then went silent. Around St Valentine's Day there was a well fed looking fox in the garden. Of course, he could have fattened himself on the rabbits that graze on the hill, couldn't he?
Happy Christmas to you all!
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