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A Father Christmas Story

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A FATHER CHRISTMAS STORY

Being A Tale of How Father Christmas Came to Be

 
 
Paul T Kidd
ISBN 978-1-901864-09-0 (Paperback)
Price: See buy on-line link
 
 
 

Extract

A FATHER CHRISTMAS STORY

CHAPTER ONE

JOURNEY INTO THE FOREST

There was an age, long distant now, when there was no Father Christmas! With respect to this there is no doubt for it is a historical fact. Imagine that, no Father Christmas! Then it all began, one Yuletide Eve, long, long ago in a far away place, deep inside the frozen lands of the north, close to where the vast coniferous forests that are the habitat of the wild brown bear, gives way to the treeless domain of the great white bear. There, in a time before time, before the world was full of clocks that measure the slipping away of every fleeting second, before there were any calendars to reckon the passing of the days, when there was no need for such things, and the passage of time was noted by the turning of the seasons, extraordinary events did unfold. There, in this now distant and long forgotten world, Father Christmas made his first appearance and the magic of Christmas began.

How did this happen? What tale is there to tell? What story?

In answer I say, quite an amazing one, but the telling of it has long since ceased to be a tradition. Much of the fable that is the story of Father Christmas has now largely been forgotten, lost to the modern world, caught up as it is in living for the moment in an endless quest for instant gratification. But not forgotten by all! For there are those that hold on to such things, preserving the details so that the knowledge is not forever lost. Now, how this information came to me is a tale in its own right, and one that will have to wait another time for its telling. On this matter that is all I will say. But of the story that is for the telling, this started innocuously, on a winter's night that could have been like any other, only it was not!

~

Like a frozen blanket the freezing night air wrapped itself around Nicholas as soon as he stepped out that Yuletide Eve-it was the embrace of death, but only for the novice or the fool. For those who, like Nicholas, lived every long winter's day with this peril, and knew how to cope, how to avoid the dangers, it was just one more extremely cold night-the sort that chills to the bone in a matter of seconds.

No more gentle a person, no more warm a soul, no more kindly a spirit could this determined enemy try to clasp within its deathly claws.

"Too soft, Nicholas," his Father had often said, when, as Nicholas had been inclined to do as a small boy, he had rescued yet another helpless wild creature that had fallen fowl of the deadly world of snow and ice. But Nicholas did not think himself too soft, for it was compassion for all living things that had driven Nicholas to so behave when young, and it was an endearing characteristic that had not faded with the passage of time. He still practised this, and was always concerned for the wild animals that lived in the woods, constantly alert to any that may be in need of his assistance. Now, as an adult, this distinguishing feature of his personality was to influence his future in a way that neither he, nor his Father, nor any of his dear and close friends could have ever predicted.

But before I reveal why this is so, it is necessary to tell you about the climatic conditions that year, for these too had a bearing on events that night. Both personality and weather, taken together, combined to create a set of circumstances that led to the outcome of this tale, taking in some peculiar encounters on the way, and ending with … Be patient, I will, in due course, reveal all.

Now, to return to the matter of the weather, for without doubt this was an important determining element in what took place that Yuletide Eve.

The cold season had come early. It was autumn when the first snow fell, like a white sheet cast across the northern parts of the world, in an instant transforming the landscape into a vast snowy desert.

Snow in autumn was bad news for those who dwelt in the sub Arctic. The early arrival of whiteness was usually a sign that the winter would be colder and longer than usual. This was not a welcome prospect in a region with short summers. Indeed, the summer just gone, when the sun had reached its highest position in its never-ending daily trek across the sky, had been a fairly poor one. So the prospect of an even colder winter than normal, following on from a half-hearted summer, was not a pleasant thought for the hardy inhabitants of those realms.

This is how that winter turned out. A harsher one no-one could recall. This increased the hardships which Nicholas and others like him had to endure. All suffered that year, both man and beast. Food was in short supply, and the wild life, at least those creatures that did not sleep through the season, went hungry. For the men who worked in the vast forest, who eked out a meagre existence in a land that was at the best of times a difficult place to dwell, life had become even more arduous than is common during the long cold winter months.

Nicholas was one of these hard-working woodsmen, living off the land, using the timber, nature's bountiful crop, to earn a living as best he could.

No-one owned the wild wood. The forest belonged to all. From its centre it spread in every direction for hundreds of kilometres, and if one could look down on it from high above, it would, for all appearances, seem as if some giant hand had laid-out a dark green belt across the lands just below the Arctic. Only in winter, most of what should have been green was white.

The forest was a habitat where many animals, some quite fierce and dangerous, found shelter and food. It was also a place where humankind exploited the Earth's resources, as they are inclined to do, using these to fashion for themselves a different existence, not wholly constrained by the environment, but still governed by the climate's eternally shifting moods.

Nicholas was not concerned about the cold for he understood the weather-its power, its temperament-and he was well protected with suitable warm garments. He wore a tunic consisting of several layers of fur stitched together to keep him warm. His trousers, his large brown snow boots, his thick cloves, and his hat-all these were lined with soft warm fur. Above all this protection he was attired in a magnificent long green hooded cloak, trimmed along the edges with the fur of the white fox. Wearing this he looked very grand-almost regal. This however was not its purpose. Its primary function was to keep out the biting wind. In that land of snow and ice the wind was a merciless enemy. It could easily cut through several layers of clothing, bringing with it hypothermia and the end of life for those who fell within its deadly clutches. The locals called this the sleeping death.

In Nicholas' frozen world, all was covered in deep virgin white snow-there being little pollution in those far off times to contaminate and corrupt the pristine whiteness. Here and there loose powdery snow was piled up in high drifts, blown there by the icy polar winds. With the winter being harder than normal, with heavy falls of snow lying deeper on the ground than was typical, these drifts were much higher than he or anyone else, had previously seen.

Polar winds were an ever-present danger in Nicholas' life during the cold season. When they blew down from the polar ice cap they turned falling snow, and that which lay loose on the ground, into raging blizzards-transforming the world into a swirling white maelstrom. It was a deadly mixture for anyone unfortunate to be caught up in such weather. Bitingly cold and potentially lethal they were, but for those who lived in the most northerly inhabited parts of the globe, the polar winds were just another hazardous feature of their isolated world.

Nicholas knew immediately that that winter's night was different from the many others he had experienced.

"Um! What's this?" he thought. "What's going on out there?"

There was an aspect to that night which was mysterious, extraordinary, and strangely enchanting, and he sensed this. The unusual atmosphere seemed to hang over the snow-clad landscape, permeating every frozen nook and cranny. The feeling, the sensation, was one of wonder not of fear, but its cause he did he know. But this he was destined to discover, and soon.

Nicholas' mindfulness came from long practice of reading nature's signs. Call it sixth sense if you will, but these perceptions of the ambience were a skill that came from living life in close harmony with the environment, respecting the unpredictability of the weather, and understanding the peculiarities of its ways.

So, for a brief moment Nicholas hesitated, as if suspended between the warmth and cosiness of his home and the cold, white, and snowy world that lay beyond. He stood on his veranda, not sure whether to proceed or to go back indoors.

"Perhaps I should leave this till the morning, when it's light," he thought.

This was one of those many instants that happen every day, junctures that have the potential to become life changing-the if only moments, in which, with the benefit of hindsight, one would probably have taken a different decision. It is also true however that these decision points, these few seconds, when what seem like simple choices present themselves, and decisions are made, these are the times when one's destiny is shaped, for better or worse. Not to step forward in such circumstances, to stay within the safety of the familiar and the comfortable, is not to live at all, for life is risk and to take no risk is as though to forfeit life, yet to take risk sometimes leads to the same result, but in a different sense.

A quiet voice inside Nicholas’ mind was telling him that it was all right to continue with his plans. This ...

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