Reading Time: 8 minutes

‘I don’t know… you come home from your firm’s do, obviously a little merry, then you insist on a glass of wine with the sandwiches no less! I know it’s Christmas, but you’re getting older and can’t take it like you used to!’

The damn cheek!

‘Well get your coat on. We planned to do the final shopping this afternoon, and I want to get everything back here so I have time to get ready for the party.’

Oh yes. The party! I supposed that I would have to put up with her Aunt Lizzy and the other vultures again.

Why can’t I find the sleeve hole in my jacket?

‘I’ll drive.’ She announced.

I sat in the passenger seat, and closed my eyes.

I certainly didn’t feel in the slightest bit merry – in the alcoholic sense of the word, that is. Best course of action was to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the peace and quiet while she drove. She never speaks while she’s driving.


So to cut a long story short, a little later there I was – to use some well worn cliches – minding my own business, just pushing a trolley through the entrance to Tesco. For a welcoming change this was not a feat requiring much dexterity or determination, as, for once in my life I had chosen a chariot without even one wonky wheel. Come to think about it, that fact alone could have been a portent that this was a very special moment in time, and herald the fact that I was about to think I was experiencing one of those super important instants in life that don’t come along all that often…

… Rattle… rattle… rattle…

No, not bottles of Christmas spirit in the trolley, I hadn’t even entered the store at this point: It was a Salvation Army collection tin being thrust in my general direction. Then – with a different timbre – ... rattle… rattle… rattle… the tambourine started, and I must confess my first reaction was to scuttle into the heaving throng of pre-Christmas lunatics who had also chosen to engage in the Xmas shopping battle at such a late stage. But then she began to sing.

From the moment that I heard her vocal chords first skip through the words and notes – like water tinkling its way prettily along a pebble lined river bed – I was astounded by it’s magnificence.

…Sleigh bells ring, are you listening…

In retrospect I just don’t know what got into me: Here was an opportunity to stop, stand still, and feast myself on the spectacle of a nightingale… no, an angel … singing in… singing in Tesco’s square. And yet the need to shop, the inbuilt genetic drive to be the hunter gatherer and thrust myself into the unsavoury soup of fellow nutcases simultaneously grasping for the last parsnip – was stronger than the artistic and emotional one.

We have probably all had this egotistical thought at some time or other (and normally I would have discarded it for its obvious absurdity) but I actually imagined that I alone had recognised this girl as being the answer to Simon Cowell’s prayers. I’m right, aren’t I? I bet at some time or other you have been walking along the High Street and have been passed by a vision of loveliness that you immediately know would be the next Kate Moss if only you really were a fashion model talent scout?

Well, anyway, I didn’t stop. My wife evidently didn’t share the same blinding flash of talent recognition, and so I followed my leader and the pair of us became swallowed up in the heaving mass.

This pre-Christmas last-minute-shopping event was not that long ago, so like me you can probably still bring to mind the babble of sound that accompanies this annual swarming of humans around the nectar of beers, wines and spirits, which happens to be the most far distant department from the entrance at this particular Tesco store. And even there, amid the tinkle of glass and satisfying clunk of cases of Heineken being dumped onto already groaning trolleys, I could hear her voice. It was like the fabled call of a mermaid to me.

…Oh the weather outside is frightful…She really has a good voice, don’t you think?’ I ventured - to she who must be obeyed.

‘Hmph..’ She hmphed absentmindedly - whilst checking the yard-long till receipt.

We hurried… well I did really - and as I had assumed my usual role of being the master trolley pusher I was able to dictate the pace - towards the exit. Unfortunately, by the time we reached it, the accompanying band and singer had disappeared into McDonalds' for a well-earned break. But, fate had decreed that it was not to be the last I was to hear her, as once we had unloaded this trolley-full into the boot of the car, we headed back for a second foray, this time into M&S.

In my minds eye, as I recount this to you, I can see her standing there, microphone in hand, smiling slightly nervously to someone she recognised as the opening chords of the next carol were struck up by the musicians behind her. For just one brief moment our eyes met, and I was suddenly convinced that we had met before – a long while ago. But I fancied it was an illusion, we were generations apart. But she smiled!

…Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more…

And all through the vast, enlarged and refurbished M&S her voice tormented me with tit-bits of 'Have yourself a merry little Christmas'. Apart from the first few lines of the carol (that I knew well), the remainder were just enticing, enchanting vagaries, dancing through my mind as mysteriously as legendary elementals flitting amid the flowers, their silver wings and the prettiness of their dresses dragging a sparkle trail behind them… while we searched for suitable socks, gloves, hankies and other similar gifts of the last-minute order with which to further burden the already sagging Christmas tree.

For some reason, the refrain ‘… gather near to us once more…’ echoed through my head and tumbled my tummy, and it continued to do that throughout the following restless night, when her voice echoed through my head in replay – trapped within the synapse coated walls where it was restrained, retained, and maintained. It stood at the periphery of my senses, in that no-man’s land where memory of sound is neither real or imagined, neither truly heard or spoken.

…gather near to us once more…


‘God, you were fidgeting in bed last night!’ Exclaimed my spouse, dumping, rather noisily, a plate full of toast on the breakfast table. ‘What on earth was wrong?…Through the years we all will be together…

She was already fading from my mind’s eye. Did I really think that I’d met her before?

‘It was that girl singer with the Salvation Army… She was inside my head singing a carol all night’ I answered, bravely.

‘I wondered why you had been so generous. But after last night I can’t say I’m actually very  s-u-r-p-r-i-s-e-d !…If the Fates allow…Generous?’ I asked, amid the torturous jungle drums that munching on toast produced inside my hungover head.

‘Ten Pounds! It was pretty obvious, why!
…hang a shining star upon the highest bough…What do you mean?’

There was a pregnant pause while her eyes investigated mine across the table. ‘You fancied her didn’t you?’ She accused. ‘I wondered why you put a ten pound note in the collection box… and then afterwards… at the party…’’

‘Don’t be ridiculous, she was young enough to be my granddaughter! She just had the most amazing voice…’ I interjected quickly.

She continued with the investigative stare.

Then she laughed suddenly. A laugh that somehow delivered a ‘I’m sorry for you’ message, ‘You don’t remember, do you?’

‘Remember? … Remember what?’

‘You spent the entire evening talking to her… ogling her bottom and other, err... bits! Imagine, your own favourite nephew’s girlfriend!’

Her investigative look had by then metamorphosed into the dreadful accusative stare… eyes wide open like a Maori preparing for battle.

‘What? … Who? … When? …’ My innocence being absolutely genuine, as I had absolutely no memory of the party whatsoever.

Gordon’s girlfriend? No, it couldn’t be. I met her when I bumped into them in the ‘Green Jacket’ pub, last week….

And that’s when it all came together: That’s where I’d seen her before… and now that I came to think about it I did vaguely remembered a rather curvy brunette at the party… she had a rather attractive laugh…

‘OH...’ It came out of my mouth in a long, low, extended form, and completely without prior thought. It was more of a groan really.

… And have yourself a merry little Christmas now…

Maybe she’s right. I’ll take some more water with it in future.

© Allen Ansell 2023