Lauren Bilsborough: ‘A Christmas Visit’
Calling back to Charles Causley’s poem, ‘Colonel Fazackerley Butterworth-Toast,’ our fantastic editor, Lauren, gives us her poem ‘A Christmas Visit,’ this Christmas Eve …
Colonel Fazkerley Butterworth-Toast,
Feet warmed by the fire and tum filled with roast,
Was powerfully sure he’d been making too merry—
This Christmas Eve swapped his old brandy for sherry—
When down through his chimney at close to midnight,
A man in red fell and soon caught alight.
He shouted, he jumped, this strange guest of the night,
Paraded regret of wrong turns and missed signs.
‘These houses switch places each year,’ he purported,
And patted the hot flames till they were but scorches.
Colonel Fazack, though well-shook by the clatter
Assured the old man that it didn’t much matter:
“The unbridled joy of your costume and entrance
Have stamped out within me all thoughts of resentment!
My dear man, do sit down & share with me quick
However you dressed yourself so like Saint Nick?”
When met with confusion and shy shifting glances,
Colonel Fazack multiplied his advances.
“Why, all you are wanting is reindeer and elf
And you’d have me convinced you’re the Big Man himself!”
The guest, now aware that his host was quite sure–
believed him to be not Saint Nick but a fraud–
Prevailed on his host to postpone his decision,
And put Claus to the test, so to quash his derision.
“Well, right you are, man, if you swear it is so,
Tell me a fact only Nicky would know.”
The Old Man sat down in the chair by the fire
And stroked on his beard, which he thought might inspire
A word or a phrase to persuade his new neighbour
He was the real deal, not some cheap party favour.
And then it was, there by the fire that night,
He came to the thing he was sure would suffice:
“On waking tomorrow, check the post and you’ll see
I’m quite the same man I’m professing to be.”
Before he might hear any questions in answer
The Old Man stood up, twirled in place like a dancer,
And like the cold grass the first snow falls upon
The Maybe-Saint-Nicholas now was quite gone.
In shock and in awe Colonel Fazack sat back
Wondering at lines between fiction and fact.
The night crawled like tar through a filter of clay
Until, then it was, there arrived Christmas Day.
Down to the letterbox the Colonel ran
A child at Christmas like when he began;
And inside, a letter, no return to send,
Which surely must be from his Christmas Eve friend.
“If I am not Father Christmas, making merry,
How might I know you’d switched brandy for sherry?”
The Colonel Fazack stared for some long while after
Before breaking out into fits of gay laughter.
“What nonsense! What rot! He must know his mistake—
A sherry glass does not a Santa Claus make!”
But a feeling stuck in him, a cloud of deep gloom,
That followed him up the stairs, into his rooms.
Had he gone round the bend? Should he be put away
For believing his friend was the man in the sleigh?
Impossible. Yet Colonel Fazack was, in truth,
Recalling with terror the scenes of his youth
Where older boys told him to stop being silly:
“One man cannot fly from Perth to Piccadilly,
Pulled by some deer and weighed down by a sack,
All in one night!” No, the logic was cracked.
Abandoning reason, our Colonel sat down.
“A Christmas Day sherry will bring me back ‘round.”
Yet, on raising the glass and reaching its end
He found his pulse rising, his fright back again.
Stuck fast to the bottom with inked words enshrined
Was folded a small note in cursive design.
On reading, our Colonel’s heart leapt to its feet:
“What we’re told doesn’t always match what we believe.”
Merry Christmas from our literary family to yours!
The Maker editors and The Charles Causley Trust