Last year, we told you about Jimmy Greating’s adventure in helping rescue Santa from Coquet Island. This year…
Jimmy opened his eyes cautiously. He knew it wasn’t yet Christmas Day; there was still the occasional noise from downstairs where mum and dad had invited the neighbours in for a Christmas Eve drink. And, worryingly after last year, a familiar figure was perched on the end of his bed.
Dressed top-to-toe in green; boots bigger than his feet; those baggy trousers, felt jacket and pointy hat. And, of course, the black belt with its red buckle. “Lofty Bigge – again,” he moaned in the general direction of who he knew to be one of Santa’s key elves.
“What – now that you’re a grown-up eleven you’re too old to help a friend?” boomed the deep voice that no-one else could hear. Jimmy groaned, “What – Santa crashed into Warkworth Castle this time?”
“Of course not – we’re not idiots you know – and anyway it was just a glancing blow. We need your help to deliver a present. It’ll just take a few minutes and you’ll be snugly tucked up again.”
“But why do you need my help – can’t you do it yourself?” asked Jimmy.
“Look stop with all the questions. Put some clothes on and meet me outside.” The elf paused. “Because, if you don’t, there won’t be any Christmas for you” And, he was gone.
As he dressed, Jimmy thought about the elf’s last words. They could have been a “do this or else” threat. But Jimmy thought that Lofty sounded sad as he spoke. Outside, in the street, it was cold and dank with a little mist hanging around. His companion was hopping from foot-to-foot in a comical attempt to keep warm.
“Where are we heading for?” Jimmy asked, slightly breathlessly. For a little lad, Lofty could get a move on.
“Queen Street – and I’ll tell you more when we get there”. Hurrying across the Town Square, Jimmy soon came to a dead stop.
He rubbed his eyes. And again. Although it was definitely Queen Street, it was also different. The pavements seemed wider from top to bottom; the shops smaller; the whole thing illuminated by only a few, strangely-shaped lights. And there were neither cars nor parking spaces. As his eyes picked out more in the moonlit semi-darkness, he noticed the few people around seemed dressed to appear in Downton Abbey or the like.
Lofty chuckled. “This is Queen Street in the year 1903.” After all that happened last year, Jimmy simply believed him (it was quicker). “That’s why we need you. I can’t step back in time even to deliver a vital Christmas present – but you can.”
“How on earth.?” the boy started to ask.
“Very complicated – but you are connected to this timeline. Mrs Claus was checking the records of all the Christmas presents ever given – as she does from time to time – and discovered that one had become misplaced.” Lofty delved into his tunic pocket and pulled out an old handkerchief. He opened it carefully. Inside was a necklace made of fragments of sea-shells threaded together on a piece of string. Jimmy looked at it.
“It’s all very well for you to think that.” Too late, he recalled that the elf could read his thoughts. “Back then there was no money for presents.” Even in the cold and dark, Jimmy knew that his companion could see him blushing.
Jimmy’s instructions were simple: to place it on the kitchen table of a house above one of the shops. The elf warned him that a young man would be asleep at that table – but not to worry – even if he woke up, this man wouldn’t be able to see or hear him.
The task was easily accomplished. But, Jimmy did notice two things: it looked as if the sleeping man (who could only have been around twenty years old) had been crying; and, somehow, he looked almost familiar.
In a few minutes, Jimmy was back home and safely tucked up. When he awoke, Christmas Day was soon in full swing. The events of the night drifted away as he tried out the new computer games he’d asked for and wound-up his younger sister Suzie – as you have to.
After lunch, he went back up to his room. On the bed – just like last year, was an unopened present; although this time it seemed very hurriedly wrapped. Jimmy realised his dad and Suzie had followed him upstairs and sat beside him on the bed. His dad motioned to unwrap the object. Inside was a very old photo album. Suzie squealed excitedly
“It’s the darndest thing,” his father began. “We haven’t seen this for years; thought it was lost forever.” Jimmy opened the first page and stared. “It was started by your great, great granddad and then my granddad and dad added to it until it was full. Thought it was lost when we moved house just before you were born. Found it late last night stuck behind the fridge of all things. How on earth it got there…”
Jimmy was still staring. His dad looked closely at the picture: “That was their engagement picture – taken in 1904 I think. See that?” His dad pointed at the thing Jimmy had been staring at the whole time. “He picked all the shells himself from the beach and then drilled tiny holes and threaded it up. Then, apparently, thought he had lost it somehow. Your great, great grandma said it was the best present she ever had. Wore it for the rest of her life; she even said that all the effort he put into it convinced her that he was husband material”
His father laughed; as did Suzie. But Jimmy had something in his eye…