A Christmas Story
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse'
Well not a mouse no, but there was a rat that was getting a bit twitchy… more of that later. Our Christmas story begins, not in a house on Christmas Eve but in a house a week before. In number 20 Grosvenor Gardens to be precise. In London, on a dark frosty night, as the last of the staff were leaving and making their journey home.
One by one they emerged, pulled their scarves close and set off down the street. With each new face, another light was extinguished inside, until all was dark and still and quiet. All except, that is, for the very top floor, where in the corner of the room, from inside the recycling basket, a scuffle was heard. A scuffle soon followed by a pair of whiskers, twitching.
...the basket squeaked.
Thud, thud . ‘You called?’ purred a voice from above.
Desmond, who had been wrestling his way out of the mound of old paper he had been hiding in, peered through its folds to see a pink tail curling over the top of the basket. ‘Oh there you are! Can you help me? I’m stuck! And anyway, where’s…’
Before he could finish, a sudden gust of air lifted the papers clean off his body. One by one they resettled around him, making the office carpet look like a giant paper jigsaw puzzle.
‘Thanks!’ Desmond gasped at the winged furry outline in front of him, ‘I was just wondering where you had got to Oscar’.
‘I’ve been hiding in the tea cupboard. Sarah brought in cup-cakes today. I think I have had one and a half in crumbs alone.’
‘And me’, said Hermione, licking her paws. ‘I love Christmas’.
‘You were supposed to be spying!’ said Desmond, indignant. I‘ve been under that pile all day trying to get a look at Sarah’s Christmas traditions and you’ve been stuffing yourself with cake!
‘We saved you some!’ Oscar said, stretching out the crumbs he had collected on his wing.
‘Oh’, replied Desmond, sheepish. ‘Chocolate, my favourite, thanks’.
‘I rescued something too’ interjected Hermione, uncurling her paw, to reveal the list of festive traditions pinioned to her claws. ‘You can thank me later.’
And sure enough, the list had everything on it: Christmas wreaths, advent candles, wassailing, stir-up Sunday, St Nicholas and turkey! Hermione licked her lips. ‘We have one night to do all these things, I say we start with the turkey first!’
‘Hermione!’ gasped Desmond and Oscar together.
‘What?! I’m just saying, no- one should go adventuring on an empty stomach!’ She sprang onto the window sill. ‘Well? Come on then!’
‘You better catch a ride with me’, said Oscar, ‘you know what Hermione can be like when she gets an adventure into her head. ‘
‘Cats!’ puffed Desmond as he gratefully clambered up.
Off they sped...
...across the roof tops of Victoria. London was a web of Christmas lights, criss-crossing their way like an enormous spider web below. Hermione sprang gracefully from chimney top to chimney top as Oscar swooped overhead.
‘Are we nearly there yet?’ Desmond squeaked from between Oscar’s ears. He heard the flap of Oscar’s wings slow; relieved, he prised open one eye, only to see a great golden clock face rushing towards him.
‘Nearly! Hold on!’ With that, Oscar dive-bombed down, down and straight through an open window of Westminster Abbey.
Desmond slid to the floor and steadying himself he saw the other two gazing ahead of them in awe. Puzzled, he followed their gaze. In front of them was the most beautiful advent wreath he had ever seen, bursting with berries and pine cones and holding three white candles. Hermione sprang to action; by the time they left, a fourth candle had been lit, right in its centre.
They had much to do. On they went to the kitchens of La Gavoche, where Christmas pudding was being served up in abundance. Hermione distracted the chef, Desmond clasped the spoon and Oscar clasped Desmond. He flew him in circles, stirring him dizzy as they made their wish. Through the alleys and over the roof tops to Somerset House, where they twirled patterns across the ice-rink. Across to Trafalgar Square to dangle in the branches of its magnificent Christmas tree. They even perched on the shoulders of a few unsuspecting carol singers gathered around its base but had to leave when one saw a small rat run up their trouser leg.
And so they packed every tradition into one single night: they sang, they danced, they ate and looked in wonder until they could sing, dance, eat and look no more. And as the skies lightened, they turned, with hearts, heads and stomachs fit to burst and wearily headed homeward. Hermione carried Desmond this time, who dangled from her mouth, snoring softly.
As they alighted on the office window...
... they heard footsteps ascending the stairs. Hermione placed Desmond gently back in the recycling basket, still snoring. Oscar who was hungry again, went in search of more cake and Hermione curled up on top of the cupboard.
The door swung open. ‘I’ll just get them for you’ Sarah called to Katja and turned to her desk. That’s funny, she was sure she had put her list there yesterday. She shook her head. ‘Everything seems to go missing in this office’, she said to Nicola who was hanging up her coat, ‘it’s like we have mice or something.
Hermione purred softly from the cupboard. If only they knew……
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