Skip to content

THE WINTER STORY

January 22, 2019

The first snow of winter hit High Wycombe today.

This isn’t as major an event as it would be in less temperate climate (the illustration here is from several years ago when it was more serious) but because we don’t get much experience with white, slippery stuff on the roads people tend to panic and everybody in the vicinity decided to go home early and block the roads by driving along them at an average of two miles an hour.  It will all (hopefully, if the weather forecast is right) be melted and gone by the morning.

I was telling Chris (1) about the time I had a slightly more serious encounter with  heavy snow and the story I  had written based on it. This is another  bit of the fallout from the Arvon course I did last year. Up to the point that the ‘lift’ emerges out  of the snow this is pretty much autobiographical. In my case what I got was a good samaritan with a car who took me straight home but that wouldn’t make as good a story, would it?

The Winter Story       

The small, fat, disgruntled looking boy stood by the bus-stop as the sky emptied out every flake of snow in the world on Greater Manchester. He had a bag containing his schoolbooks, notebooks and pens and another bag containing his never-quite-sufficiently-to-be-accursed rugby kit and was just thinking that it was a damn good thing he had finally moved out of shorts and into long trousers because if he hadn’t the cold would be in even more intimate contact with his skin.

So that might delay him freezing to death by about ten minutes. Best guess.

At least, he thought, in a there-must-be-a-silver-lining-somewhere moment, he didn’t have to do rugby that day. They had cancelled afternoon school in time for him not to have to trudge out to the foul smelling changing room and suffer his dose of weekly humiliation.

On the other hand he was freezing to death at this bus stop and there was no sign of any rescue. He’d tried to thumb down a lift but small boys at bus stops must terrify people with cars. And now even the cars were thinning out and ending as the snow kept on falling. You couldn’t see that far down the road and the last two scheduled buses (according to the time table at the stop) had failed to show up at all.

The teachers had planned the evacuation of the school. They’d brought the school bus service in early to pick up those who needed it to get home. Unfortunately they’d timed it to depart five minutes earlier than he had got to the stop. If there had been a list with their names on it (he sort of assumed there must have been a list) someone must have shouted out ‘He said he got a lift home, miss’ when the roll was called. He could just see some merry japester in his form doing that. If he survived he would institute enquiries. Have his dad write to their MP. Do something.

But for now he was freezing to death.

He peered shortsightedly down the road: he thought he saw a shape coming and he stuck his hand out in hope it might be a bus or someone who would show mercy on a mostly harmless small fat little boy. With his other hand he picked up the rugby kit, willing to throw it through someone’s windscreen if it would get them to stop.

There was something there. It pulled up but not with a rumble of engines. With a swish and a clip-clop and a jingle.

“Oh, come on!” he said. “You cannot be serious!”

Standing at the bus stop was a large open sleigh. It was pulled by three large reindeer (wearing bells, hence the jingles) and driven by a wizened looking little man with a green cap, a whip and a large dewdrop dangling from his red nose.

“Hop aboard,” said the wizened little man, who had, the boy noted bitterly, a nice woollen scarf wrapped around this neck.

“Not likely! Where’s the wicked witch? Where are you keeping the Turkish Delight?”

The little man looked baffled. “We haven’t got anything like that here. Have we? Norman?”

The lead reindeer looked back over his shoulder at them, opened his mouth as to speak, thought better of it and just shook his head.

“Perfectly free of any such elements. Just a chance arrived conveyance to offer you a life-saving trip back home.”

“Chanced arrived my backside! You’re a setup you are! You’re the sort of person they tell kids my age to avoid accepting lifts from!”

“What? With reindeer? Specifically?”

“You’re a lot more suspicious than just a salesman with a Cortina and wandering hands. Appearing in the middle of the worst snowstorm in decades, pulling up by a lone schoolboy. I wouldn’t be surprised if you set this whole thing up!”

Clearly annoyed by this burst of cynicism the little man sighed. “Well, yes kiddo yer right. I did come here specifically to find you…”

“And did you set up the snow storm as well?”

“I can neither confirm nor deny any meteorological manipulation. But the important thing is that you have been Chosen! You are a wise and virtuous youth who my employer wishes to talk to concerning….”

The boy looked down at the rugby kit and remembered what he was willing to do to a passing motorist. “I have reason to doubt my virtue,” he said, “and I’m too wise to fall for that sort of flummery.”

“Well,” said the little man, “are you quite determined to freeze to death?”

The boy harrumphed, looked up and down the road again and got into the back of the sleigh, pulling the furs around him in as ungracious a manner as possible.

“Take me home.”

“Surely, young master, surely. But first,” said the little man cracking the whip hard above the reindeer, “a short diversion.”

And the reindeer began to tread their way into the air, rising above the snowbound suburbs and up towards the cloud layer.

“Now then,” he said, “young master Stanton, you’re probably wondering….”

“Who?” said the fat little boy.

The sleigh driver peered over his shoulder. “Oliver James Stanton?”

“My name,” said the boy, “is Stanley Throckmorton.”

“Really? Where’s Oliver James Stanton, then?”

“Never heard of him! Are you sure you got the right bus stop?”

“Well, this is a…. There’s been a cock-up somewhere.”

“Obviously,” said Oliver James Stanton snuggling down in the warm furs and feeling in control of things for the first time that afternoon.

 

 

(1) Who was kindly giving me a lift back from  recording the podcast: my thanks to her and Roger if you’re reading this please tell her about the story.

From → Writing

One Comment
  1. Chorlton Voice permalink

    Good to see you are getting the work out there!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: