Wednesday 8 February 2023

Fay and Xmas Gifts by Judith Skilleter, whisky mac

Fay is going through her Xmas gifts. It is something she does each year, usually sometime after Boxing Day, and she decides which her favourite presents are, which were given with thought and love and which were given with little thought or little love.  Nobody knows about this little ritual; after all they might be offended and decide to take her off their Xmas present and card list altogether, which would not do. “It is just a bit of harmless fun and no malice in intended” she says to herself in justification.

Top of the list and a close contender for first place is the long thin hot water bottle from her friend Grace. It might take two kettles full of water, which are quite an extravagance these days but, my golly, it warms up the whole bed, a line of warmth from top to toe, and not just a bottle shaped patch near her pillow.  Fay and Grace go shopping and for coffee every couple of weeks and they saw these strange shaped hot water bottles at the same time. 

“What a good idea” they both said. 

“I am having one” said Fay.

 “And so am I” said Grace. And then Grace had this marvellous idea that she should buy Fays’ and Fay buy hers as Xmas presents, then they would both be happy with the choices. Fay agreed immediately and was very pleased when she opened something she was expecting with keen anticipation on Xmas morning. Of course it came with a label from Grace that made her laugh.

“A little surprise you were not expecting. Lots of love, Grace,” it read.

The hot water bottle was tried out on Xmas night and Fay loved it; she loved not having to shift it from her chest to her knees and then to her feet and then back again. It was perfect.

Her daughter in Gloucester sent her a pair of fleecy warm pyjamas, which, of course, were very snug with the new hot water bottle. And her daughter, another Fay, sent it with an extra pair of pyjama bottoms. “How sensible and thoughtful,” thought the older Fay. “The bottoms always need a wash more often than the top.”

The pyjamas also came with cashmere bed socks from the younger Fay’s children, the older Fay’s grandchildren. Together these two gifts were up there with the hot water bottle in terms of thought and love given.

Fay’s son, who lived and worked in Paris, sent her flowers and first class train tickets to Euston and back and then Eurostar to Paris and back for a visit in the spring. 

“Hmmm,” thinks Fay “I hope he doesn’t expect me to walk everywhere, I am too creaky these days for long treks.” 

Nevertheless, Fay looked forward to revisiting the Musee D’Orsay, never The Louvre, far too big and confusing, and enjoying coffee stops in those famous Parisian cafes. This gift was not in Fay’s top 3 but was close.

Then there were the three gifts from her bridge partners. Bath salts from Meg, totally useless as Fay has not had a bath in years. She can get into a bath well enough but getting out is a nightmare. In fact, last year she had her bath removed and replaced it and her shower with a bigger walk in shower with a seat and grab rails and all sorts. And Meg knew this as the whole bridge team had visited for afternoon tea and to admire the renovations. So the bath salts were pretty low down on Fay’s list and they would go into a drawer for “presents to be recycled at the appropriate time.”

Gloria gave her a scented candle. Well, Fay likes candles until they are lit and then just look used. Also her sense of smell is not good so a scented candle was wasted on Fay. The candle also went into the drawer to be recycled at a later date and was not in her top ten of gifts,

The fourth member of their bridge team gave her chocolate – a big slab of good quality milk chocolate from a specialist chocolate shop. This was given with much thought and love as Gloria had remembered that Fay did not like dark chocolate or fancy chocolates. 

“Why meddle with perfection,” Fay had said (and grumbled) on a number of occasions when the bridge team had brought chocolates, usually liqueurs, to eat during their games while she munched through a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

Fay’s brother Wilf had done very well for himself and always provider her with expensive presents sent with thought and love. This year it was a bottle of whisky, a bottle of green ginger wine and a nice crystal whisky glass. Wilf knew Fay enjoyed a whisky mac on cold winter nights. This year his gift came with a note “Please excuse the fact that the whisky is a blend and not a single malt. I just can’t face the thought of you drowning an expensive single malt whisky with ginger wine.”  It was done in jest by Wilf and received with a loving chuckle by Fay.

Her sister in the USA sent her an Amazon voucher. “Very sensible” thought Fay “given the price of postage.” The voucher would probably be above the mid-point on her list as it did not require much thought. Fay had sent her sister, Val, a calendar and Xmas socks and had been horrified at the postage costs and she, Fay, wished she had thought of a voucher or gift token as a present for her sister.

Her neighbours, Harry and Anne, gave her a lovely present. A hand-made glass robin for her Xmas tree. Fay was really thrilled with this as it had been years since she added to the dwindling collection of toys for the Xmas tree. There were always breakages despite very careful packing when they went back under the stairs after twelfth night. This gift was straight up there in the top three, it was delightful to look at and gave Fay a lot of pleasure. (Harry and Anne also gave her home made mince pies which were eaten almost at once. They were so much nicer than those bought in sixes in shops.)

Then there was the present from her husband who was currently enjoying a new life in Malaga with a widow they had befriended at the bridge club. It was a hand embroidered tablecloth with six matching napkins. “Made in Ronda” it said on the packaging and was clearly very expensive. Well, this present did not even get on the list and was already at the Women’s Institute, as a contribution for their next tombola.  The label said “love from Bill”. “He must be tiring of her,” thought Fay. It was not the first time in their marriage that this had happened and she reckoned he would be home before the summer.  “Would she, should she take him back?” thinks Fay. “Probably” she concluded, despite advice from all corners that it would happen again, that he was using her until someone else turned up etc., etc.”

All in all Fay thinks she had a lovely Xmas, she has a lovely family and lovely friends and she is very lucky.

“I think it is whisky mac time” she says to herself.

About the author 

 Judith Skilleter is new to writing fiction after a long career in social work and teaching. Her first children's novel The April Rebellion, has recently been published. Judith is a Geordie, who settled in East Yorkshire forty-five years ago and is married with three grandchildren. 
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