Christmas at Goodbans
Goodbans was our local department store, on the High Road. It seemed big, but it wasn’t, not compared to a proper department store like Derry & Toms. The only records they sold were cheap albums, like Music for Pleasure. They didn’t sell singles there. It’s where we bought things like Themes from great war movies, with 633 Squadron and The Dambusters on it. There was a café, up a few steps. Between the record racks and the café there’d be a Santa at Christmas. One year I went with Dad, and we caught a glimpse of Santa, without his beard and hat, through a curtain out the back. He was skinny and he was smoking a cigarette. He looked really miserable and grumpy, completely different from how Santa was supposed to look. He had grey cheeks like men did when they hadn’t shaved that day. When he put his beard back on he didn’t look much different, he just wasn’t smoking. It was very different from the real Santa at Derry & Toms.
“I know where our Christmas presents are,” Roseanne told me. “Do you want to see them?”
I didn’t, not really. I could wait till Christmas. She showed me anyway. They were in the cupboard opposite the bathroom. We had a quick look at them and then put them back where they were before.
Later Mummy asked me why I was looking for my Christmas presents. I couldn’t tell her that Roseanne had shown me them. How did she know?
“A little bird told me”. That’s what she said. A little bird told her.
Bromley, Beckenham, Castaway Christmas
Auntie Kay lived a long way away, Bromley or Beckenham, down in Kent. We went on the Green Line bus which you only took when you were leaving London. They were a bit like the new red buses, where you got on at the front, but the seats were arranged differently near the driver and there was more room for suitcases.
One day in the Christmas holidays we went there. The journey was so long that I brought a book to read. I’d never read a proper Puffin book all the way through, like the ones that Jim read. I read Ladybird books and I’d read my ITA books, like “three litel funy wunz”, which was how they spelt Three Little Funny Ones. I hadn’t even read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe all the way through yet. I chose a book called Castaway Christmas which Jim said was good. I didn’t read much of it on the way down to Kent. That was the problem with books. They took so long to read. On the way back I looked at how far I still had to go and thought of how little I’d read on the way there. I started anyway. It was dark outside and the lights were on inside the bus. I looked up every now and then but couldn’t see anything through the windows. They were all steamed up.
I was able to read much faster than on the way there. I started to wonder if I could finish it before we got home. I found it easier to read. The book was exciting and I was excited at the thought of finishing it before we got home, like it was a race.
I finished it in plenty of time. We were still a few stops from home. I closed the book and looked up. Jim was reading.
“It’s a good book, isn’t it Jimmy?”
“Castaway Christmas. I’ve just finished it. I really liked it.”