Christmas Stories

by The Cranleigh Writers Group

The Toy Santa by Brigid Fayers

“Careful Amy!”
But the squashy Santa slipped, regardless, from the baby girl’s plump grasp. A swirl in the bitter
wind seemed to whirl the small toy up and over the wall of the bridge where they stood. It plummeted down into the icy green water, gurgling past way below.

Amy cooed, unconcerned, as her mother, Teri, raced round the pram to the point where Santa had disappeared. She grazed her hand on the roughly hewn stones as she strained to see over their jagged edges.

There! Teri saw a flash of red racing downstream in the current. Santa was rolling over slowly amongst the detritus of blackened leaves and froth, wearing that smile she’d known every Christmas of her childhood.

“We have to get him back Amy!” Teri whirled the pram round and hurtled back along the path they’d sauntered up five minutes earlier. “I can’t go to Nanna’s without Santa!” The child stared back at her parent’s worried face with serious blue eyes, sensing her mother’s concern.

After a short jog, Teri spied the muddied Santa caught up in weeds at the river’s edge near the path. She put the brake on the pram then grabbed a nearby length of stick to hook out the toy. She stretched out, balancing precariously over the fast freezing water. If she wasn’t careful, there’d be two sodden visitors at her mother’s house for dinner this Christmas!

Slowly she prodded the Santa towards the bank. “I’ve nearly got him Amy!”
She glanced at the pram and saw her daughter’s red bonnet bobbing as she squealed, “Quack, quacks!”

Teri turned back to her task, but the Santa had stuck in an eddy. Suddenly, a honking goose erupted from the weeds close by and snatched up the tiny toy in its yellow beak. It took to the air clumsily, like a lumbering jet.

Teri backed up to the pram, pushing back her heavy blonde fringe as she stared skyward. She followed the bird’s path as it flapped over a hedgerow into a bordering field, where it dropped its cargo and wheeled away.

“Come on Amy! We can still reach him!”

Teri was tiring from her exertions, and pushing the buggy ‘off piste’ now was difficult. The wheels hugged the oozing mud in the lane. But she had to save Santa! Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without him. She found a gap in the hedgerow and dragged the pram through backwards, puffing hard. Through white clouds of breath, she saw Amy stretch out her tiny mitten to pat a jewelled spider-web, slung carelessly amongst sparkling leaves.

Silence cloaked them here, out of the wind. Teri was tempted to abandon the pram. She could run over the uneven paddock and collect Santa so much easier by herself. There was no-one around after all.

But she didn’t. She ploughed on backwards through the blackened remains of summer nettles, which pointed like gnarled fingers at the weak sunshine. “Mooooo!” yelled Amy, waving madly in the pram.

A shaggy highland cow lowed in return. She regarded Teri for some moments with large brown eyes, seemingly unaware that a small red Santa adorned her left horn. The large animal trotted to the gap in the hedgerow and out onto the lane. “Oh no!” groaned Teri. “Come back here cow!”

But the beast’s rump sashayed out of view. Then Teri shook her head and began to chuckle. She kissed her daughter’s soft forehead. “This is becoming quite a Christmas adventure, Amy! We’d better get to Nanna’s anyway now. She’ll be wondering where we are. That cow seemed to be heading in the same direction”.

Teri looked down ruefully at her mud spattered jeans, which she’d freshly ironed that morning, and the filthy pram wheels. “Gosh! Nanna’s going to freak when she sees us slimed in this muck! “

Ten minutes later, they approached a small row of cottages which appeared to huddle together for warmth in the darkening evening. Teri had grown up in the last of the three. She could see brightly coloured Christmas tree lights twinkling in the window, and a thin wisp of grey smoke curling from the chimney.

With certainty, she knew her mother would have a fire blazing in the hearth surrounded by holly ivy and mistletoe. Teri’s mother had always been a traditionalist of the first order. She would have to adapt this year though, to a new grand –daughter…. and no Santa.

Teri sighed as she crunched up the gravel path. Santa had been Nanna’s childhood toy too. How could she tell her he was lost?

A beaming Nanna swung open the door before Teri could ring the bell. It always amazed Teri that Nanna seemed to know things ahead of time – as if she had a sixth sense. “Nanna, woof !” gurgled Amy, as she reached for her grandmother.

“Yes Amy. Barney brought him in a few minutes ago!” Teri stood open mouthed as her mother’s chocolate Labrador dropped Santa at her feet. Delighted, she picked him up and followed Nanna and Amy into
the hall.

“Wow Mum! You won’t believe what’s happened this afternoon…”
“Teri, you can tell me in a minute when you’ve taken off your muddy boots. I’ll put the kettle on.” Nanna bustled into the kitchen.

Teri dragged off her boots and rolled up her trouser bottoms. Then she heard Amy call her. “Mama!”

She rushed into the sitting room doorway, then stood transfixed. There, framed by the fire-place, Amy squatted on the carpet, her blue eyes concentrating hard. On the floor, between mother and daughter, Santa jiggled slightly, then rose and hovered in mid- air. He began to roll over and over slowly…

Granny and the Sprout by Jeremy Elson

I really love my granny, well most of the time, even though she talks like Kaa the python from The Jungle Book. You know, sort of hissy.

Dad says it’s because she stuffs forty fags down her throat every day, which doesn’t sound like a nice thing to say about someone, especially our own mother. If I said that about my mum I’d be sent to my room and made to watch In The Night Garden with my little sister and that’s worse than death. He moans every time she goes out into the back garden to smoke cos she leaves her cigarette butts on the decking for him to clear up. Dad says it’s what makes her teeth all yellow, it’s like she’s got really tiny packets of quavers attached to her gums, although there not really her gums cos all old people have false teeth, don’t they?

At Christmas lunch, she had a bit of burnt parsnip stuck to her teeth like a slimy slug which made her look like the horrible witch from the Wizard of Oz. I always have to hide behind mum when that bit’s on as it’s really scary and I’d be sure to get nightmares if I watched it.

I couldn’t look at Granny in case she cast a spell or something on me. Perhaps the worst kind of spell, one that makes you eat your vegetables.

I tried stabbing one of my sprouts. I thought I’d really try and kill it when Granny leaned over, chomping on a crispy roast potato which made a noise like when the boy next door plays with his basketball. She sort of hissed at me: ‘You should eat them, they’ll put hairs on your chest, they will.’

Now, I know that Granny’s quite old. I think I remember dad saying she was a hundred and fifty, but I don’t know if he was joking. And I know that old people get something calls Owls Imers, where their brains go all squidgy like a cow pat and they forget things. We learnt that at school. But surely she couldn’t have forgotten that I’m an eight year old girl. I mean, I really actually look like one. I was even wearing my new pink princess’s dress that auntie Dorothy got me for Christmas. So, if Granny knows that, why would she think I would want hairs on my chest? I mean, I love my dad and that, but I don’t want to have a chest like his before I’m nine.

Granny was eating loads of them so she must look like the werewolf from that Harry Potter film we watched yesterday. I wondered if she was covered in tufts of hair that sprouted all over underneath her brown jumper. Maybe that’s why sprouts are called sprouts. It’s such a silly name for a vegetable that it must be why. I daren’t ask her what she got for Christmas just in case it was one of those shavers that men use and it gives me the giggles.

I looked at the hair growing out of Granddad’s ears and wondered what type of vegetable you had to eat to make that happen. Not to mention his nose.

Anyway, it’s really not fair. Why doesn’t anyone ever say to me: ‘Eat lots of chocolate cos it’ll make you really brainy, or, have another five custard creams and you’ll pass your spelling test tomorrow.’ I hate spelling. Why does it have to be stuff that no one my age would ever pick up in Tesco, like cauliflower (yuck) or, even worse, hard-boiled egg (extra double yuck).

I’ve never even eaten a sprout, but I can guess exactly what it tastes like. Mum let me stay up and watch that ‘I’m a Celebrity’ programme, where that singer with the tattoos had to eat fish eyes which popped open in his mouth and all this black gunky stuff came out. Gross! I saw it, really I did, and that Ant and Dec just laughed. That’s what eating sprout would be like. They’d pop like that and some horrid green pus would come out and every one would laugh at me, probably.

And grown-ups wonder why kids don’t want to eat vegetables.

I looked at the four yuck balls that mum had put on my plate (I’d eaten everything else, even my peas). I tried to hide them under my knife and fork, but they were too big and Granny saw me trying.

But I needn’t have worried, because then it happened, you see, without any warning. Dad said it was something called serendipity – and that’s an enormous word, whatever it means. He said it was like a happy coincidence, whatever that is, too.

Cos, as I took a deep breath, ready to feed myself the yuckiest yuck from all of yucksville, Granny suddenly let out a long hissing sound, a bit like she usually does, like Kaa the python, (remember I told you). But this was different. We all ignored it at first. I think we all thought she was just gasping for another cigarette as it had only been twenty minutes since she dropped her last butt on our decking. But then she grabbed her throat and banged her hand on the table, like she’d suddenly got all of the cracker jokes we’d read out before we started eating. She hadn’t laughed then, but I thought they were all really funny, especially ‘What’s green and stands in the corner?’ A naughty frog. Get it? Anyway, she banged the table, which I thought was really bad manners, until I saw her face was turning blue.

Later, dad told me he’d been reading about a man called Henry Hemlock – I think that was his name. It was something like that. Apparently he’d died before Christmas and dad told us he was famous for inventing a way of squeezing someone really hard so they didn’t die, called a manoeuvre, although I always thought if you squeezed someone too hard you actually killed them. That’s what Nathan Roberts at school says and his dad’s a doctor, so it must be true.

So, dad said it was this serendipithingy, that he’d read about how to do this hard squeeze that Mr Hemlock had invented, cos it turned out that Granny was choking on something. He got up and grabbed Granny from behind in a sort of bear hug, which was strange as he never even gives her a hug goodbye, like I have to. And she smells of smoke. He gave her a hard squeeze, and another so that she wobbled around like a cola jelly, in her brown jumper, until a sprout shot out of her mouth like a rocket on its way to Mars, and I know that’s really really fast cos we did all about space and stuff at school. No one has ever
been to Mars, but I bet Granny’s sprout would have made it if it hadn’t hit the wall. I swear, if Wilkins (that’s my cat) had been in the way he’d have been killed and then I’d never have spoken to either dad or Granny again. Ever.

The sprout landed on my mum and dad’s wedding photo and it fell and smashed on the floor. Granny fell forward into her plate and got gravy on her glasses and in her hair. It was absolutely wicked. I nearly cheered out loud, but I thought mum might get cross, seeing as everyone looked very serious, like when I get a ‘See Me’ from my teacher for my maths homework.

Everyone crowded around Granny to make sure she was alright, but I just sat there imagining this cool new game for my new Xbox (did I tell you I got one for Christmas?). Anyway, this game, where a load of grannies cough up vegetables like missiles to try and kill an army of ugly, invading zombies. It could be ten points for a sprout kill and twenty for a direct hit with a carrot. Can’t wait to tell my friend, Amanda, when I see her tomorrow.

Granny was okay. She must have been as she had two portions of Christmas pudding, after going outside to have two cigarettes to recover. Dad still gave her one of his funny looks, but I was quite pleased that she hadn’t died, thanks to Henry Hemlock and my dad, but it did make me think again about sprouts.

I mean, it’s not like they make you more clever, and what would you do? I don’t think it’s much of a choice when you run the risk of killing yourself or, even worse, getting a chest like Chewbacca.

So, I know I’ve never eaten a sprout, but it doesn’t matter cos I’m going to make a New Year’s resolution and give them up anyway. Thanks to Granny.

Christmas Star by Tricia Broomfield

atop the tree,
the highest branch,
which brushes the ceiling,
the old worn angel now deposed,
her frail wings crumpled, her skirt all torn.
Lights twinkle as they spiral around green branches
their needles holding up, so far. Sprayed with soft fake snow,
not yet parched and tired of Christmas, they cling on for the festivities,
for now, spiking chubby young fingers, prickling kittens’ tender inquisitive paws.
Gran’s inherited blue tinsel winds around the tree’s girth, glints at happy family memories.
The waft of air from radiators, when they’re on, and ever opening doors make baubles tremble.
To Mum, with love and Dad at Christmas
even though they are no longer
with us. We like to include,
pretend they can join,
be a part of the day.
We hang our gift tags,
on the Christmas tree.

Cranleigh Writers Group is a well established group of writers and poets who are looking for some new members. It meets once a month on a Monday evening at the Arts Centre. If you are interested in joining this friendly group then please contact: Richard Sellwood for more information via email:

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