Countdown To Christmas – Episode 08

BORN during the war years, Ted Hodges was of that generation of gentlemen who grew up dressing for all occasions in collar and tie and jacket, the only concession to casual wear being that the jacket might be tweed and, if it was a warm day, he might roll up his shirt sleeves to the elbows.A lifetime working in various offices of the textile factory in the next town had given him no reason to change his habitual garb, and, to be honest, he was more comfortable when he knew he looked smart.So it was this evening as he got ready for another meeting of the organising committee of the Christmas show.He sat at the kitchen table, set rather forlornly for one, over a light supper of two boiled eggs and a nice bit of wholemeal toast lightly spread with butter, his thoughts a million miles away.He was thinking about Lilian, his late wife, to whom he had a habit of talking as though she were still sitting opposite.“A night like this, I could have done with one of your nice stews, love. Can you hear that wind? It’ll blow right through me. I hope Bill’s turned up the heating.” Bill Cheshire was the hall caretaker. “I reckon I’ll put on that nice cosy sweater you knitted me for my birthday.”It had been one of Ted’s quiet pleasures to glance up from his paper or from the TV screen to his wife sitting beside him, her needles clicking away as she rattled up another sweater for him, a cardigan for herself, or a colourful woollie for one of their grandchildren. It was the little homely touches he missed most . . .“I can hear you telling me to stop being such a maudlin old goat,” he said, chuckling at himself.He crunched into another slice of toast and thought about the evening ahead.“Evelyn Whitby’s been a real big help,” he told Lilian. “Do you know, she used to act and stage-manage and all sorts when she was younger, before she came to Helmshill. Amateur, of course, but even so she knows a lot about it. A lot more than me! She’s kept me right.”Another crunch, another thoughtful chew.“It’s funny, but she reminds me a bit of you, love. Not in looks, mind. Nobody could hold a candle to you. I remember the first time I ever saw you, at that summer dance when everyone seemed to be dancing the twist . . .”


“What do you reckon to those two?” His pal Brian nudged him as they stood at the side of the dance hall surveying the girls dancing in twos and threes.Ted’s gaze fell on a pretty little dark girl twisting away, her face a picture of concentration.“OK, but the dark one’s mine,” Ted told him firmly, straightening his tie and smoothing his hair.Brian frowned, puzzled.“Dark? But they’re both blonde . . . Where are you looking, Ted?”Ted, naturally reserved and usually one step behind the braver Brian when it came to chatting up girls, was already striding towards the dark girl in the polka-dot dress.“Hello. I’m Ted,” he said. “I’m no great shakes at this twisting lark, I’m afraid, but would you like to dance?”Lilian looked up at him and liked his open, honest face and his frank brown eyes, and the polite, hesitant way he asked, and smiled.“Thanks, that’d be nice.” And that had been that.


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