This is a bit of a long tale, very much about Christmas time years ago, so here we go.

I loved to visit the farm at Christmas and New Year, because there was always something going on, and one of the very best events was Nell’s Christmas party, Part 3!
Nell and Will lived in a tiny apartment in town, so minute that idea of entertaining ALL the relatives at Christmas was ridiculous!
She did though, by dividing us into three parties and serving dinner three times. I think it was twice on Christmas Eve and once on Christmas day. There was method in her madness, namely to keep clashing elements of kith and kin safely apart. Grandpa was in the favoured group, I suspect. Anyway, there we were, at least twenty of us, in Nell’s kitchen – she’d only two rooms – a twelve foot square filled with tables, loaded down with the marvellous food she’d cooked herself, turkeys, roast tatties, peas and carrots, gravy by the bucketful, buns, coffee and tea, and then an enormous trifle, which was always a complete delight.
Sixteen that year, I sat with the adults and not with the wee kids, which burnished my ego no end, and as after the meals cards were to be played, we were sent to the movies in the town, for there wasn’t any room for childish high jinks.
Nell wasn’t big on drinking, but nevertheless a tot or two passed lips, and by the time Grandpa and I left, he was grinning from ear to ear and feeling no pain. The world was a great place, and he’d had a great time baiting a couple of the silly young lads.
I don’t remember why we weren’t driven right home, but left at the lane end to walk the last bit ourselves. It was very cold and frosty out, no moon graced our way, and a sharp wind cut right through my thin coat and my stockinged legs had to totter along in high heels! Grandpa had on his best suit and shoes, bespoke for him sixty one year’s previous, for in those days one preserved best clothes very carefully. He had a torch, with flat batteries, but as the lane was straight we headed down it, confident of being home in no time at all. Everything was going fine until we reached the big tree growing on the bank to our left – the only thing we could make out in the pitch dark – when our plans for hot tea and warm beds were put back quite a bit.
Grandpa, glowing with the fumes of whisky said it was thirty odd paces from the tree to the farm road end. “Fifty,” I said. I’d counted the distance many times over the years.
“Thirty,” said Grandpa confidently, turning sharp left, and walking straight into a ditch, partly full of water, and far too deep for him to get out of on his own. I couldn’t pull him out, I weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet, Grandpa was well over two hundred and six foot tall to boot!
“Get the tractor and pull me out,” he said, and off I went as fast as I could go on my high pins. I quickly shed shoes for Wellies, and my fine coat for an old Burberry and a hat.
In those days tractors were started with petrol(gas), and ran on paraffin, so getting going in the dark was tricky; so was Grandpa’s predicament. Speed, therefore, was needed, no matter what!
There were no lights on the tractor that worked (it was never out at night, so why wire them?), which left me to grope for a storm lantern. Once it was lit, I hung it on the end of a pitchfork and drove off on the mission of rescue.
It was successful: with a strong rope Grandpa was skidded up onto the road and driven home none the worse for the experience; cold definitely, sober certainly, despite two more whiskies. A bit tired, of course, he was 79 years old after all, as far as I can work it out.


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