Shaking Hands With Christmas – Brian Whittingham


The Quilt and The Book, Christmas Day
The Ball and The Boots, Boxing Day

A Christmas Trilogy



Mum cleaned the grate of yesterday’s fireplace

replenished it with crumpled newspaper, kindling, adding course-coal

she lit, gently puffing her cheeks, blowing to fan the new-born flame.

She’d stand the coal-shovel

against the flu

fronted by a spread open newspaper

to create a vacuum that sucked the flame to life.

With his little poker, brush and shovel set,

dad would poke, jab and prod the spitting coals,

brush the sooty dirt from the hearth.

In the sixties, the tree’s pine-needle scent

seemed stronger when it hadn’t been sprayed

to make it last in pristine condition.

We luxuriated in anticipating 

the inevitable early shedding

resulting in the living room rug

having its own carpet of green needles.

But, till then, the sprigs, alive,

weighted down with homemade

gummed paper decorations

and small wax candles clipped and flickering their spell.

With almond, brazil and hazelnuts

in German decorated bowels

at the base of the tree, no gifts, only

a glass of Schnapps, a saucer of Lebkuchen biscuits

and a carrot, of course.

All this as dad dozed

the remains of an early-shift in his chair

after his 4:00 am start the day before

driving the Clockwork Orange.

Round and round and round in the dark tunnel.

Early on I’d ask if it was time to go to bed

because I’d be in such a hurry the next morning

to ask if it was time to get up.

Brian Whittingham, 17 December, 2020

roy of the rovers


Christmas Day.

I’d waken, buried under a giant’s pillow

filled with the million feathers

that was my continental quilt mum had hand-made.

I asked if it was time to get up.

My council house room appropriately cold for Christmas day

the ice freezing the insides of my windows.

But in the living room,

the coal fire spat its welcome against the mesh-fireguard.

At the base of the tree Santa’s glass and saucer empty

and the reindeer’s carrot gone,

Instead, a few brightly wrapped presents.

One that I held with my fingertips.

Feeling its shape.

Sniffing for a clue through the wrapping.

Raising it up and down to gauge its weight.

Tapping it with my knuckle to hear its sound.

The Sherlock Holmes in me

deduced an annual … which one though?

The Dandy, The Beano, The Hotspur,

The Valiant, Roy of the Rovers, The Eagle,

The Wizard, Oor Wullie or The Broons?

With Gorgeous Gus, The Tough of the Track,

Wilson the Wonder from Winter Island,

Dan Dare and the Mekons,

Wee Eck, P.C. Murdoch, or Maw & Paw Broon.

The cracking of the spine.

The aroma of fresh pages.

The black of Indian-ink.

The imagination of escapism.

The headiness of it all,

a branding I still carry to this very day.

Brian Whittingham – 17 December, 2020



Boxing Day.

Charlie Boyd, he’d got the boots,

Adidas high ankled leather boots.

Black with three white vertical stripes

and screw-in studs.

Each boot a thing of beauty.

Me, I didn’t get boots but …

I’d got a leather panel size 5, football.

The leather was porous so the wetter it got

the heavier it got even when you dubbined it

and if you headed the knotted lace after it rained

there was a danger you could knock yourself out.

Still, a thing of beauty.

So, cared not a jot.

That day it snowed

and the pitch at St. Pius school

had a good covering with the snow still falling

obliterating all the lines so you couldn’t see

if the ball was in play or not.

As I said, we didn’t care,

didn’t feel the cold,

imagined we were playing for Scotland at Wembley.

His boots … my ball.

We took to the field, us two, determined

to have our game at all costs.

Charlie was Dennis Law

I was Eric Caldow.

Eric Caldow chipped over a cross

that Dennis Law first timed past Gordon Banks

and Charlie and I wheeled with our arms aero-planing,

Momentarily crunching two solitary tracks of

footprints in the deepening snow.

Brian Whittingham, 17 December, 2020


Hear Brian Read His Christmas Trilogy on YouTube
The Fire and The Tree  Christmas Eve

YouTube Video – From Brian Whittingham’s Christmas Trilogy ‘Shaking Hands With Christmas’ – The Quilt and The Book – Christmas Day

YouTube Video – From Brian Whittingham’s Christmas Trilogy ‘Shaking Hands With Christmas’ – The Ball and The Boots – Boxing Day

Jim and Pat’s Wet End Chat – Pat Chats with Brian Whittingham, Poet and Writer, 27 November, 2018

Twelve Days of Christmas – Leela Soma
To Move On - short story by Samina Chaudry

This section: Christmas in Glasgow, Christmas Poems , Stories and Winter Tales, Pat's Home Page Blog, Seasonal Stories and Poems by Glasgow Writers, stories and poems, Writing, Writing for the Festive Season

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