When Keith Fulbrook was growing up Christmas was a very special time for him and every year the season evoked so many memories and many of those memories were of the times he spent at his grandparent’s farm in Shallowfield.
A row of wellington boots standing on the flagstones, fresh from hours of play in the snow and dripping wet mittens drying on a string behind the tortoise stove in the kitchen, the smell of burning logs and damp wool invading the nostrils, soon to be replaced by the scent of a fresh cut fir tree in the living room filling the air with the aroma of Christmas joining the smells of nutmeg and ginger coming from the pantry.
He just had to smell pipe smoke and he was back with his grandpa with his twinkling blue eyes and wry smile as he puffed out a dense cloud of aromatic smoke from his meerschaum pipe.
But it wasn’t just smells, the house was always alive with the ringing sounds of boisterous laughter of ten grandchildren of varying ages filling the house.
And when the house wasn’t resounding with laughter it was music as the family gatherings always prompted renditions of the carols and songs of Christmas played on guitar and fiddle and sung with gusto.
But that wasn’t the only Christmas music he remembered there was also the sweet sounds of a choir at the candlelit midnight mass.
But candlelight was eclipsed by the sparkle and twinkle of the fairy lights reflected on the fragile glass ornaments and heirloom decorations that magically transformed his grandparent’s living room into his childish vision of a magic wonderland.
And then there were the tastes candy canes and chocolates from the tree, satsumas and nuts in their stockings, sugar almonds, jellied fruits, dates, liquorice, and mints.
Turkey and all the trimmings, Gammon, Christmas pudding, brandy butter, mince pies, shortbread, pies, tarts, fruit cakes, sausage rolls.
But all the bounty of the table was far outweighed by the abundance of love which was linked to every single memory.
But his favourite Christmas memory came when the winter delivered up the perfect Christmas gift, snow.
When Keith went to bed the wind howling through the trees gave no clue that it was carrying Jack Frost to the Vale but the next morning when he woke up to the sound of excited squeals and when he looked outside he gazed out at the whitened landscape and ten minutes later all the grandchildren dashed out into the white magical world, screaming and shouting like released convicts rejoicing in a new-found freedom.
The warm knitted gloves were soon abandoned as snowballs were hurled in all directions.
Shrieks filled the winter air as aims improved and increasing numbers found their mark.
As the battle ground expanded they joined forces with a group of village children and that was the moment he first saw Yvonne Sage and he discovered there was something even more exciting than a white Christmas.
Yvonne was the same age as him, give or take, and she was tall for a fourteen year old girl, lean and wiry with braided brown hair and a bit of a tomboy but he was smitten.
But he had never noticed a girl before so he didn’t really know what to do about his infatuation.
But because she chose to join a group building a snowman so did he.
Rudolf, their giant snowman, gradually took shape on the village green.
A red tartan scarf was draped around his broad shoulders and a boy produced an old battered black hat, which was accidently set at a jaunty angle on his huge head which gave him a rakish look.
Two un-sucked gobstoppers provided him with staring blue eyes.
Keith and Yvonne held the ends of a length of old rope which they tied around Rudolph’s substantial waist, some pebbles substituted for buttons, a carrot nose and a stick mouth completed the magnificent figure.
And then they stood back to admire their handiwork.
Despite being pleased with the finished article Keith panicked because he didn’t know what to do next if Yvonne suddenly went off with her friends.
But then Tom and Lindsay Collingwood suggested going up to Coopers Hill for a bit of sledding.
“Yeh count me in” Yvonne said “What about you Keith?”
Keith was so releived that he didn’t know what to say so he just nodded his agreement and she smiled because she really liked him and she wanted him to go with her.
And so they walked up to Coopers Hill together and the fact that they didn’t have a sled or a toboggan didn’t seem to faze them at all, so on the way there they collected some cardboard boxes from outside Stephenson Supermarket and shared a sheet of cardboard and used it to ride down the hill, screaming at every bump, and when they got to the bottom Tomboy Yvonne had a boyfriend.
Although they didn’t realise it at the time they were victims of love at first sight and it was a love that lasted a life time.