It was the twenty-fourth of December, 1950. Gingerbread-men and chocolate cookies filled the kitchen, the Christmas tree was in full blaze, and the walls were decked with holly and Christmas cards. The house was hued in blazes of gold, red and dark-green; the streets sprinkled with wreaths and lights. To be unhappy on a day like this was considered positively indecent in the Knock family. It was even snowing, for crying out loud.
Jemimah, however, had on a very miserable face. There were several reasons for this. Firstly, she had set her heart on a Vera Lynn record, and she had just come to discover that there was none among her Christmas presents. Secondly, she heard someone in the market say, “I think nine is like a midget. Ten is like a grown-up. I read that in a book so that means it’s true.” This crushed her heart, seeing she was nine, and not ten. The third reason was because her Christmas dress, which, however pretty it was, had a collar which looked painfully like a baby bib. The mortification of wearing it on the best day of the year would be huge.
Being gloomy on the twenty-fourth was a sin in this household, so Jemimah was sent out to the grocery store to buy two pounds of brown sugar and twenty inches of red velvet ribbon.
It was obvious that everyone around her was having a jolly time. Children were building snowmen in their front gardens, young couples were holding hands under lanterns, and some fathers were buying Christmas trees. Laughter and merriment danced around, people were singing ‘T’is the season’ in the snow, unashamed to publicise their untalented vibratos. The Christmas spirit truly had intoxicated the nation, like it did every year.