Countdown To Christmas – Episode 25

CLIPBOARD now redundant and tucked under his arm, Ted was watching with approval from the side, quietly congratulating himself on a job well done, when he was surprised to hear himself being called forward by Nick.He shook his head, but Nick was adamant.“Please, Ted, come out here.”Reluctantly Ted stepped forward and was amazed to be greeted by more rapturous applause.Nick was standing centre stage, a microphone in his hand, and was addressing the audience.“I think we all know that tonight would never have happened if it hadn’t been for Ted. We can all have bright ideas and this show was certainly that! But every bright idea needs someone to make it happen, and Ted has been the driving force of this since it was first suggested three months ago.“So let’s have a big round of applause for Ted Hodges!”The audience obeyed wholeheartedly with a few piercing whistles for good measure, and Ted found he had to swallow hard past the lump in his throat.Nick thrust the microphone at him.“Would you like to say a few words, Ted?”Ted took the microphone, though he felt pretty speechless at the moment. He was still fighting to control his emotions in the face of the overwhelming warmth of this reception.He cleared his throat.“Er . . . thank you, Nick.” What could he say next? And then he knew.“I’ve lived here in Helmshill for forty-three years now, and I can honestly say I would never want to live anywhere else. The community here is special, one of a kind, the way it works together and supports events like this.”That was greeted with appreciative applause.“This show was designed as a celebration of this magnificent hall, our Millennium Hall, which we all worked so hard to make happen. I don’t think we could have done anything better than stage this show, which once again has seen all of the village organisations come together in a common cause.”More applause, longer this time. Ted waited till it died a little, then held up his hand.“But you’re mistaken in thinking I made it all happen, because I couldn’t have done any of it without the help of my right-hand woman, Evelyn Whitby.” He turned and scanned the ensemble for Evelyn. “Are you there, Evelyn? Come out from wherever you’re hiding and take a bow.”He saw Evelyn being prodded forward by Megan and Carole, and eventually she was standing by his side, blushing madly.“I’ll kill you for this!” she muttered behind her smile, but there was amusement in her grey eyes.Then the two tiniest Rainbows were being ushered in from the side of the stage, one bearing a little basket of flowers, which she presented to Evelyn with a sweet gap-toothed smile, while the other presented Ted with a big box of treacle toffees, his favourite.The performers behind him joined in the tumultuous chorus of “Three cheers for Ted and Evelyn!” and then everyone was gradually dispersing amidst much hilarity and chatter.Ted looked at Evelyn as they found themselves alone on the stage.“Well, that’s that then,” he said.“Yes,” Evelyn agreed, sounding slightly forlorn.“I suppose I’ll have to find myself another project to get my teeth into,” he added, seeing the long and lonely winter evenings stretching out ahead of him.“Me, too,” Evelyn answered. Something in her tone gave him a sudden burst of courage.“Um . . . I don’t suppose we could look for something to tackle together, could we?”Gratifyingly he saw her face brighten.“Do you have something in mind?” she asked.“No, not at the moment . . . but perhaps it’s something we could discuss over a bit of supper? My treat, after all the suppers you’ve made me while we’ve been working on this show.”He held his breath, wondering if he’d gone too far.But then he felt her hand grasping his arm and she leaned in so that he could smell her floral scent.“Ted, I can’t think of anything I’d like better,” she said, and reached up and gave him a little peck on the cheek.He felt his shoulders straighten and knew he was looking forward for the first time since he’d lost his beloved Lilian.“Right then. We’d better get this place sorted out and locked up, then we’ll pop along to the Helmshill Arms.”“I’ll book us a table, shall I?” she said, and he patted her hand where it still rested comfortably on his arm.“That’ll be grand,” he said.


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