Friday 1 December 2023

The Post Box Topper Christmas Finale by Dawn Knox, celebratory cocoa with a dash of sherry


Needless to say, Sally gushed with enthusiasm over Levi’s Christmas post box topper suggestion.

Petronella was very complimentary.

Even Stuart thought Levi’s plan was excellent.

And Vera? She was spellbound.

However, Effie wasn’t so keen.

‘Alice Gruber? Are you sure?’ she’d asked when she learned of the idea.

Effie hadn’t been invited to the December topper planning meeting in Bonzer Buns, but she’d hovered near their table, sweeping up crumbs with her long-handled broom, and had overheard the discussion about Levi’s proposal.

She still wasn’t satisfied Alice Gruber didn’t harbour murderous tendencies. Once again, Vera explained there had been no evidence, merely much feverish speculation on Effie’s part, to suggest Alice Gruber had murdered anyone. Unfortunately, Vera’s logic didn’t wash with Effie.

‘Why can’t you do it without that woman’s… er man’s… er person’s assistance?’ Effie demanded.

‘I’m afraid that’s not possible,’ Vera said. ‘And anyway, this is a private meeting of the Post Box Topper Society. You shouldn’t be eavesdropping.’

As regrettable as it was, Levi’s idea needed Alice Gruber’s participation. And, in fact, Vera realised it was a clever ploy. As the official Creaping Bottom spy whose job it was to make a note of anything displeasing in the village, Alice conducted her duties with great zeal. Not that the Reverend Prendergast took most of the points in her frequent reports seriously. After all, did many of the residents care that there had been five yellow cars parked in the parking bays along the High Road when Alice had done a survey? This was not a normal range of colours, Alice had remarked. Was it some sort of yellow car owners’ convention? And if so, what did it mean?

Prenderghastly didn’t care if it meant anything or not. Yellow cars and their owners were not on his radar.

On the other hand, he was interested in Alice’s report about the squirrels. They were multiplying rapidly. And what’s more, each morning, they emptied a rubbish bin and scattered the contents near the churchyard. Alice had predicted it wouldn’t be long before the litter blew in or was even carried into the churchyard.

The rubbish bin had rapidly been moved further down the High Road away from All Saints.

Nothing was too minor for Alice Gruber’s attention, and she wasn’t afraid to state her mind. If the society involved her in the topper's design, then it would be done to her satisfaction and there would be no complaint to Prenderghastly.


Nothing must risk spoiling the last topper of the year. Nor threaten Vera’s re-election next year to the post of chairwoman of the topper society.

Either the crumbs on the floor were particularly sticky or Effie was determined to hear more. She was still standing within earshot, brushing vigorously. Swish, swish, went the broom while Effie inclined her body so far towards the society’s table, she was in danger of keeling over. Vera thought it best to include her in the rest of the planning. After all, Effie had overheard most of the conversation. It wouldn’t do if she talked about it to others and spoilt the surprise. If she was involved, then she, too, might feel invested and would be supportive. However, Effie proved a remarkably hard woman to convince that Alice should be included. Once they’d explained the entire plan, she’d understood and had given in.

Effie had also been carried along by Beryl’s enthusiasm. She was so excited by the prospect of December, that she’d planned a whole range of Advent Cakes of the Day sweeping Effie up in the festive euphoria – not to mention the promise of a sample of each Cake of the Day throughout December if she agreed to the proposed arrangements. The post box and therefore the Christmas post box topper would be outside Beryl’s establishment, and it appeared she was going to make use of it for promoting Bonzer Buns in any way she could.

She asked the society members if they’d put in a good word to Alice for her. Beryl was considering asking Alice to make a Bonzer Buns’ tinsel-covered Christmas Drone and had only been dissuaded when Levi had pointed out that a small flying object in a confined space might, at best, knock over cups of coffee, and at worst, maim a customer. Beryl had reluctantly agreed, but she was still toying with the idea she might have her own custom drone outside.

‘Doing what?’ Vera asked warily.

‘Going up and down,’ said Beryl, ‘that’s what they do. Isn’t it?’

‘But for what purpose?’ Vera asked. ‘People might be put off entering because they’ll assume the place is under attack, or wonder if a hostile foreign nation is snooping.’

‘Yes, perhaps it needs a rethink,’ Beryl conceded.

Vera breathed a sigh of relief. She didn’t need any Christmas competition in the razz-a-ma-tazz department. Nothing must outshine the topper.

Vera’s only misgiving with Levi’s proposed idea was that December was a busy month, and the topper – once it was in place – was going to take up a lot of time. However, Petronella had already drawn up a rota and everyone had committed to participating.

Alice, with her absence of friends, had plenty of free time and she’d already agreed to be on duty every day. And that was just as well, because she was going to be in control of the show.

Would they be able to keep it up? Vera had no idea, but judging by the enthusiasm of everyone in the group and a few who weren’t members, she was beginning to believe that perhaps they could. And if, for some reason, the show didn’t take place one evening, at least the Christmas topper would be in place for people to look at. Or it would be, once they’d started knitting.

Originally, when Vera had begun reading Levi’s proposal, she’d been disappointed. Not that there was anything wrong with the traditional Nativity Scene. Of course, it was charming with its stable, animals, shepherds, angels, and of course, Mary, Joseph and the baby in the manger – but it was rather predictable.

However, once she’d read more of Levi’s notes, she realised how their topper would differ from most other people’s Nativity Scenes.

It would start each evening just before the bells at All Saints had rung at 7 o’clock. Alice would wait outside the church, connected on her mobile phone to the society member who was monitoring the post box. At exactly 7 o’clock, Alice would use her remote control to send a drone up the High Road with the illuminated, knitted star dangling beneath. Once the star was hovering over the Nativity Scene, the society member would let Alice know. She’d flick a switch on her remote control, and a beam of light would shine down from the drone onto the stable as if the star was lighting it up.

The show would last several minutes and then the lights would go out, and the drone would carry the dark star back to Alice at the far end of the High Road.

Already word had got out that something spectacular was being planned at 7 o’clock each evening and various shopkeepers wanted to know what would happen. However, Vera had insisted on complete secrecy.

‘But what if after two weeks of the star lighting up, people get fed up?’ Petronella had asked.

A good point. Of course, during the past year, many people had come from miles around to look at their toppers, so possibly it wouldn’t matter. There would be different people there each night, but perhaps they ought to have something slightly different the closer they got to Christmas.

‘How about starting on 21st December, one of the three Wise Men could arrive suspended beneath the drone with the star each evening?’ Stuart suggested.

That was a good idea and would certainly ring the changes. They decided they’d incorporate that idea, although it meant that on those evenings, the society member at the post box would have to unhook the Wise Man when he arrived at the topper. Later, after the crowds had gone, he’d be sewn onto the cap in a space that would have been left for the visitors from the Far East.

That led up to Christmas Eve. How could they celebrate that?

Levi suggested that on Christmas Eve, an enormous balloon filled with sweets could be conveyed beneath the drone to hover over the topper. Using the technique Alice had tried once before with extending scissors from the bottom of the drone, they could reach downwards and burst the balloon, like a piñata, showering everyone with sweets.

‘And if they hit someone?’ asked Stuart. ‘We might be accused of grievous bodily harm.’

‘He has a point,’ said Sally reluctantly.

‘Well, instead of sweets, how about gold and silver confetti? That can’t upset anyone,’ Levi said.

‘Except the postmistress,’ said Vera, who’d had words with the formidable Miss Witter before regarding clutter around her post box.

‘Well, we’ll rush out and clear it up before she gets upset,’ said Effie.

At last, Effie was completely on board with the plans.

So, it was settled.

Now all they had to do was knit the figures and the cap.

And rely on a lot of luck.


As soon as each member had finished knitting a figure, it was taken to Vera’s house, where they were lined up on her dining room table. It had taken longer than Vera had anticipated because Stuart, who’d been given the job of knitting the stable, had been very slow. But finally, he’d finished. It was so substantial that it could almost stand up on its own. And much larger than anyone had expected.

Vera had knitted a white cap for the post box to represent snow. She was certain it hadn’t snowed in Bethlehem that night, but who was she to go against tradition? Once everything was ready, the society members gathered at Chez Twinge to agree on the layout. Vera had been reluctant to invite Alice Gruber to her house but needs must. They’d look foolish if on their opening night, the drone didn’t work, or the star didn’t light up. No, a rehearsal was crucial and that couldn’t be done without Alice.

Once they’d all gathered, they started arranging the figures. The stable was placed in the middle with the figures inside, an angel stood to one side of it and two shepherds knelt at the front, each with a sheep under his arm. Spaces were left for the three Wise Men.

Vera looked with dismay at the other knitted figures that still lay on the table – a whole host of angels, more shepherds and various animals – donkeys, sheep and cows. There was no room for them. The topper was full. But perhaps that was a good omen. “No room at the inn” had been the reason for the figures being in the stable in the first place.

The three Wise Men also lay on the table, but they wouldn’t take part until just before Christmas Eve, when the drone would convey them, one by one, down the High Road.

Next to them, looking like a distended bladder, was the balloon which Vera had painstakingly filled with confetti. With pride of place, the star was in the middle of the table. It had been knitted with tiny fairy lights woven into it, and while Alice attached it to her drone, the others sewed the figures in place on the cap. Once everything was done, they toasted the final piece with mugs of cocoa.

Now for the rehearsal in Vera’s garden. There were two more days until the beginning of December. Everything must be perfect.

As they trooped into the garden, Vera wondered if perhaps they’d been a bit premature toasting the topper with cocoa. Maybe they should have waited until after the rehearsal. Oh well, if everything went well, they’d have more cocoa and Vera might even break out the sherry. And if it didn’t go well, it was going to be a long night.

They carefully laid the topper on Vera’s bird table at the far end of the garden, and Levi waited nearby, connected on his mobile phone to Alice.

‘Go,’ whispered Vera, and Alice switched the drone on.

Everyone held their breath as it began to whir, then judder upwards into the night air. It hovered, dipped alarmingly, rose again and righted itself. After turning three hundred and sixty degrees, the drone carrying the illuminated star travelled the length of the garden until it hovered over the table.

‘Now!’ Levi said into his phone and a second later, a beam of light shone down from the drone, lighting up the topper below.

There was stunned silence for a few moments. Then everyone began to cheer and applaud.

Alice insisted on trying it twice more, but each time it was perfect and eventually they went inside and over more cocoa laced with sherry, they congratulated themselves. They were ready for their first show.


Tony Parstedd had been invited to the first topper event on December 1st, and it was hoped he’d give them some good coverage. Vera still didn’t trust him, but if he was on their side, and his report was good, then it would bring people to Creaping Bottom to see the Post Box Topper Christmas Show.

However, on the morning of the first show, the Creaping Bottom News carried a sensational story on the front page. Margaret Bludge, a resident of Creaping Bottom, had apparently spotted a UFO flying over her garden. It had whirred, and there had been flashing lights. Before the UFO disappeared completely, there had been eerie shouting, as if aliens had been calling from their spacecraft.

When Levi brought the newspaper into Bonzer Buns that morning, they all stared at it in dismay.

‘That busybody, Margaret Bludge, is my next-door neighbour,’ said Vera wearily. ‘She’d obviously been spying on our rehearsal.’

‘Well, there’s nothing we can do about it,’ said Levi. ‘Let’s hope people don’t remember the last UFO experience and link it with a voodoo doll on the rampage.’

Vera groaned. This was supposed to be the society’s finest hour. Oh well, there was nothing for it, they had to proceed. And if the Creaping Bottom News had only given them a few lines on page six that no one would notice, well, word of mouth appeared to have been working well.

That night, the High Road was packed. The story about the UFO sighting and news of the post box topper society’s show had reached many ears. It appeared lots of people didn’t actually know what they were there for, but they had the impression something spectacular was about to happen.

At 7 o’clock, the bells at All Saints chimed.

All the members of the society had volunteered for duty that night to see the arrival of the star. Or not.

As the last chime died away, Vera heard the distant whirr of a motor and the gasp of people at the far end of the High Road. So far, so good.

Vera held her breath as she saw it. The star lit up with its delicate fairy lights twinkling. At first, it drunkenly wove along the High Road and then, following a more regular orbit, advanced towards the post box. In the darkness, the drone was barely visible, and it really appeared that the star was moving on its own. Children pointed in wonder and parents oohed and ahhed.

‘It’s a miracle!’ someone shouted.

Vera’s skin rose in delicious goosebumps. It was going better than she could possibly have imagined. And that was, indeed, a miracle.

Each night after that, crowds gathered on the High Road. They watched in awe as the twinkling star glided over their heads until it reached the post box topper where the brilliant white beam shone down on the stable below. Vera was thrilled at the success so far. Only four more days to worry about with the Wise Men and balloon. After that, there would be no more shows. It would be Christmas.


On the night of 21st December, the first of the three Wise Men swung beneath the sparkling star as the drone rose into the air. Alice had got used to the trajectory of the drone when it merely carried the star, but the extra weight of the Wise Man tipped the balance slightly and she was finding it hard to direct the drone in a straight line. The Wise Man’s journey along the High Road was rather meandering and bumpy.

Stuart was on mobile phone duty at the post box and his instructions weren’t very clear, so the dizzy Wise Man overshot the topper and then turned for a second approach.

‘Up! Up!’ barked Stuart. ‘No, not up in the air! Back up the High Road!’

Vera sighed. There were going to be words between Alice and Stuart after the show was over. That was assuming the wobbly Wise Man ever made it down to Sally, who was waiting to unhook it and place it on the topper.

‘He can’t find anywhere to park his camel,’ someone in the crowd shouted and thankfully, everyone laughed.

At the same time, Sally grabbed Stuart’s mobile and guided the Wise Man down to her, where she unhooked it. The drone rose and hovering over the topper, the beam of light glowed down on the stable.

Rapturous applause.

Vera allowed herself to breathe again. Well, hopefully, Wise Man number two’s journey would be less fraught the next evening.


There was much hilarity on the village WhatsApp group regarding the journey of the first Wise Man. One wag joked he’d been rerouted due to traffic congestion and suggested the two other Wise Men might be redirected via the M25.

However, overnight, Alice had obviously practised, and on the next two days, to the delight of the crowd, both Wise Men made it directly to the post box topper without weaving a tortuous route along the High Road or overshooting.

Word had obviously got out that Christmas Eve was going to be a special show. This would be the pièce de résistance. Three drones would proceed up the High Road, one carrying the confetti-filled balloon, and the other two with angels dangling beneath, like a winged guard. Once the balloon was hovering above the topper, the beam of light would come on and the scissors would plunge downwards and shower the topper and bystanders with confetti.

Vera was worried. She wasn’t sure why, except that Alice appeared to be extremely nervous and that was enough to bother Vera.

Why was Alice so anxious? Although perhaps ‘distracted’ was a better word. Maybe Vera had underestimated how tricky it would be to control three drones at once. Had the topper society overreached? Oh well, it was too late to do anything about it now.

But if it was so complicated or difficult, why had Alice suggested it? Perhaps it wasn’t anything to do with the drones. During the last week, Vera had noticed Alice spending a lot of time in Bonzer Buns, deep in conversation with Beryl. As soon as they’d seen Vera, they’d stopped talking and changed the subject.

Surely Beryl wasn’t still harbouring ideas of having a drone inside the café? That was just a disaster waiting to happen. Vera’s stomach sank. Alice looked very serious. Perhaps she was threatening to make a complaint against Bonzer Buns. That might cause problems for the society who were now working in partnership with Alice. Would Beryl remove their mates’ rates? Or worse – might she ban them from the café altogether?

Vera would worry about that after the Christmas Eve show. There was too much on her mind now. She checked her watch. It was almost time. Members of the society stood around the post box keeping people back so everyone would have a chance to see. They also had small pans and brushes, ready to clear up when the balloon discharged its cargo of confetti. Assuming the scissors lowered and pierced the rubber. Effie was there with her long-handled tool caddy, ready for every eventuality.

Vera nibbled her lower lip and checked her watch again. The bells in All Saints had started pealing. Five seconds until Alice at the other end of the High Road released her drones.

The entire street was packed.

‘Go!’ whispered Levi into his mobile phone, and from the far end of the High Road, Vera heard the crowd inhale. As the drones drew nearer, a gasp, like a Mexican wave, rolled towards them.

Vera could see a spotlight from each drone beaming down onto their respective cargoes. Two angels and a large glittery balloon. There had been a momentary panic earlier that evening when Vera hadn’t been able to find the angels, despite there having been too many knitted for the topper. Finally, Alice had found them. Just in time.

‘Oh no!’ an elderly woman near Vera shouted. ‘It’s like that dreadful balloon in The Prisoner.

Having seen the television programme many years before, Vera knew what she meant and held her breath. Would there be panic?

Luckily, no one took any notice. Presumably, few of the crowd remembered that huge, horrifying balloon in the 1960s television show.

Thankfully, all was perfect so far. And then, something strange happened. Instead of proceeding towards the post box topper, the drones veered towards Bonzer Buns.

‘What’s happening?’ gasped Vera, but there was nothing she could do – simply stand there and watch. The three drones rose and the two conveying the angels advanced towards the café. Vera flinched as bright lights lit up the front of Bonzer Buns and Vera could see all the angels she hadn’t been able to find earlier suspended as if flying. Presumably, they were dangling on strings out of Beryl’s windows, there were even three of Stuart’s angels which Vera had rejected because they were so chunky they looked like anaemic beetles. What’s more, there were the left-over shepherds, donkeys, sheep and cows as well as several stocky knitted creatures that Vera thought might be kangaroos. They were bobbing up and down as if hopping.

The crowd oohed and ahhed, and then fell silent, as from Bonzer Buns came the sound of a heavenly choir singing.

‘Ahhhhh!’ sang the angels, drowning out Vera’s screech as she realised everything was sliding out of control.

The balloon had retreated from Bonzer Buns and was now hovering over the post box topper. Slowly, the scissors descended, piercing the balloon and showering everyone with gold and silver pieces while the crowd applauded wildly.

Effie rushed forward with her long-handled brush and pan and swept vigorously, as the crowd continued to cheer. Vera looked up at Beryl’s illuminated café, with its shepherds, angels, farm animals and mutant kangaroos, who appeared to be serenading them with heavenly sounds. She watched spellbound, unsure whether the topper had been outdone by Bonzer Buns or whether the angels, shepherds and kangaroos had added to the entire show.

Before she could make up her mind, abruptly the choir finished, and everything was plunged into darkness. Then, a blaze of light shone from inside Bonzer Buns, including the neon sign in the window proclaiming it was open. People charged into the café where Beryl and Tilly, wearing Santa Claus hats, were waiting to serve them.

‘So, that’s why Alice had spent so much time in Bonzer Buns on the run-up to Christmas Eve. We’ve been hijacked,’ Vera gasped.

Sally turned to Stuart. ‘You knitted those kangaroos, didn’t you?’

Even in the darkness, Vera could tell Stuart was blushing.

‘How did you know?’ But before anyone could tell him, he added, ‘Well anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that for the rest of the year, we have treble mate’s rates in Bonzer Buns thanks to my assistance.’

That was good news, but still, Vera’s pride was dented. Right at the final moment, Beryl had stolen the show.

‘Excuse me…’ It was Tony Parstedd. ‘Could you people please stand near your topper? I’d like to take a photo. This will be on the front page tomorrow.’ He shepherded the members to the post box. ‘Now, could one of you throw some of that confetti up in the air so it flutters down as I take the photos?’

‘Oh, for goodness’ sake,’ said Effie, ‘I just cleaned that all up.’


Tony Parstedd’s photographs in the Creaping Bottom News were amazing. They showed a merry group of society members being showered with confetti and standing by their Christmas post box topper. His report was glowing and although Bonzer Buns was mentioned, it was portrayed as the backdrop to the topper.

Things couldn’t have gone better, thought Vera and she toasted the Christmas topper with a mug of cocoa and a splash of sherry.

Now to consider the January topper, although arguably, it might not be her responsibility to decide. At the next meeting, the members would vote in the new chair and Vera wasn’t sure who might be voted in, but a warm glow inside suggested it might be her.


To read the previous stories in this series:


Part 1 – Post Box Topper Outrage –


Part 2 – Post Box Topper Surveillance –


Part 3 – Post Box Topper Confusion –


Part 4 – Post Box Topper Shock –


Part 5 – Post Box Topper Triumph –


Part 6 – Post Box Topper Photo-Opportunity –


Part 7 – Post Box Topper Summer Scene –


Part 8 – Post Box Topper Animal Extravaganza -


Part 9 – Post Box Topper Star Trek Theft –

Part 10 – Post Box Topper Celebration of Creaping Bottom –


Part 11 – Post Box Topper Shock Revelation –

 About the author

Dawn’s three previous books in the ‘Chronicles Chronicles’ series are ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’, ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ and 'The Crispin Chronicles' published by Chapeltown Publishing. 


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