AS Christmas nears, I find myself being pulled irresistibly back in time by the invisible silver cord that binds us all to our childhood days, and in particular to one Christmas Eve decades ago.
Like all small boys, Christmas Eve was the one night of the year when no encouragement was needed to hit the wooden hill. I would snuggle down into cool sheets, safe and secure beneath layers of coarse, heavy blankets topped off with my mother’s winter coat for good measure. No electric blankets or duvets then, but with a rubber hot water bottle at my back and a stone one at my feet – being ever so careful not to stub my toe – I was soon toasty warm.
The muffled voices of my parents in the tiny living room drifted up to me from below. The distinct smell of hot cocoa wafted tantalisingly through the open door of my bedroom, blending in strange harmony with the faint odour that emanated from the black Valor heater strategically placed on the landing between our two small bedrooms. That and the coal fire below were the full extent of our winter heating.
Nine o-clock on the big round-faced alarm clock beside my bed. Was I the only child in the whole world still awake? Everyone knew that Father Christmas only called when children were fast asleep.
But with visions of a long, woollen sock full of traditional goodies and a pillow case bulging with exciting shapes that would magically appear on my bed in the morning, how was sleep possible?
The glass in the metal framed window was blurred with a filigree pattern of frost both inside and out despite the efforts of the paraffin stove. But in one pane, an unfrozen aperture perfectly formed as if the Christmas Angel had breathed gently on the glass until the thin layer of ice had retreated to reveal the full Christmas moon.
It was shining brilliantly down on the world from a clear, star- filled sky as surely it should on this special night and as I imagined it had over that Bethlehem hillside. I was transfixed.
Before finally drifting into a dreamless slumber to await the imagined sound of tinkling reindeer bells somewhere above the eaves and the soft tread of fur boots on floor- boards, I gazed in childish wonder, and promised myself that I would remember always this perfect moment – through every Christmas and every year of my life yet to come.
And so it has been.
May your Christmas be as full of magic and may you always remember your own special night with joy and hope and love, holding dear the true spirit of Christmas.