The Night Before, The Night Before Christmas
It was the night before the night before Christmas and all through the house nothing was stirring not even my spouse.
The cats, they were snoring with something that would pass; Because… it was the night before the night before, not the night before Christmas. (Shakespeare)
Christmas fever has hit M20. Didsbury Son has realised that pre-teen moodswinging is assuaged with treats, the promise of treats and apt jokes at proper times. The Tao of Didsbury decrees a list of treats to try in our sleepy little Cheese Hamlet. You discover Appleby’s is not only a) run by a schoolboy whose genuine hardworking and enthusiasm override any order-taking issues and b) the vegetarian breakfast with a Sunday paper lifted from a bizarre wall display is great and the place is lively, has outlived Nido and hopefully has a rosy future. The bizarre solicitor on School Lane is now a music shop. I once went in there with a serious issue. The solicitor, straight from the 50s told me to “shape up and pull myself together”. I have not been back – but I did join a gym.
I love Didsbury this time of year. If you want to catch anyone you have not seen for ages go to the Post Office. The queue snakes aimlessly and the combination of prams, nervous teenagers emitting body odours in confined spaces and grumbling pensioners is a heady mix. Once you get to the counter it’s pot luck. Will it be the safe hands of Siobhan helping you through, or will it be the officious Derek scowling at your poor packing and offering to sell you a line of cellotape. By midday the stress hangs over the waiting line like a damp cloud and the murmured groans are not-to-be forgotten.
Saints & Scholars is essential at this time of year – like The Nelson, The Crown and The Dog the menu, staff, banter and clientele never change. There is no branded coffee machine, its 1996 every time you go in and it’s a refreshing change.
Here is a last minute guide for those hamstrung by time and budget.
Hail the Giddy Goat. I have sneaked in the twins separately and they have gurgled with delight. I have asked for help and it has resulted in presents far more suitable than I could have ever achieved. I have looked longingly across Albert Hill Street from the Post Office queue to its wonderland and even through the eyes of a 30+10+something it is a little slice of local heaven.
Talking of little slices of heaven – there is still nothing that beats a pit stop at The AiryFairy CupCake boutique, whether solo, or familied up for a cake that tastes as though it was made, not designed
Turkeys. The choice is superb. Evans has Copperas Farm bred Anglo-Saxon Turkeys that can trace their lineage back to William The Conqueror; Marks & Spencer’s have a degree in Social Sciences from Loughborough to discuss the best way to pluck and cook and come with a guide to post-Nigella, lineless cooking… and Aldi, bless them. Turkeys at a price so low that they must have been reared in a Fiat 500 and air-dried out of the window – all within 100 metres.
Moretons on Warburton is a perfect throwback. A throwback to the tactile joy of bookshops pre-Amazon. You can touch, feel, plan, but not really afford as many as you can on Amazon – but it’s an experience
Harriet & Dee next door is another favourite. I am never sure what they sell, or why – but they have a combination of ShopCat Laura, friendly staff, a little feel of Harvey Nicks and know what to tell you to buy for all the people and occasions that baffle a Y chromosome.
All this and a Nero with room for a double buggy in the baby change. Sometimes I count my fortune, because counting my change is a short and pointless experience.
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”