I left school when I was fifteen which was in the early seventies.
I was living in Stevenage, with my parents in a warden run block of sheltered accommodation for the elderly, my mother was the warden.
I attended the School nearby which I left in the May and I started my first three days later.
However In the November of that same year the family moved from one side of town to the other, the significance of this will become clear later in the story.
The house move didn’t affect my getting to and from work as the town had a good bus service, operating a flat fare service on circular routes.
So I still got the same bus as I did from the old address but from a different stop but the price was the same.
This also will prove significant later on.
As I said this was my first year at work and I had my first Christmas party to look forward to.
It was on the last day before we broke for the Christmas holiday and we had a little works party in the yard where a little Christmas cheer was imbibed and a drink or two were consumed.
Now I was only sixteen and I had only had very limited experience of alcohol and I got well and truly bladdered on whisky Mac, cider and something unpronounceable from Yugoslavia.
At the end of the afternoon one of my workmates gave me a lift into the town centre and from there I caught my usual bus.
In my drunken state I managed to climb the stairs to the top deck and the bus set off filled with Christmas shoppers and a drunken trainee grounds man.
I must have drifted off on the journey and I suddenly came to and looking out the window recognized a familiar site and I promptly got off the bus.
I headed off up the road in the direction of home wishing all and sundries a merry Christmas as I went.
I entered through the main doors to the flats and passed the Christmas tree in the foyer and headed straight for flat number one.
At the door I fumbled for my key and presented it to the lock, it wouldn’t fit.
I peered closely at it and it was definitely my door key so I tried to put it in the lock again, still it wouldn’t fit.
Suddenly the door opened and a stranger looked out at me
“Can I help?” she asked.
“Ah my name is Paul and I don’t live here anymore do I?”
The lady, who was the new warden, laughed and agreed with me that I no longer lived there.
So I wished her a happy Christmas and made my way back to the foyer were there was a public telephone with a large Perspex dome over it.
My intention was to phone for a taxi but rummaging in my pockets I discovered I had no money for the taxi or indeed a coin to make a phone call.
Then as I tried to duck under the Perspex hood I tripped over my own feet and fell into the Christmas tree which ended up on top of me.
The lady who now lived at no 1 heard the commotion and came to investigate and to my surprise thought it very amusing to find a drunken teenager wearing the Christmas tree.
“Oh dear” she said laughing.
Deeply apologetic I explained the circumstances of my predicament and the new warden phoned a taxi for me and even gave me the money for the fare.
That was real Christmas spirit and I have never forgotten her kindness and tolerance and try to keep that same spirit in my own heart at Christmas.