He didn’t get a proper bike for Christmas after all because his dad said he was too young. He got a Scalextrix set instead with racing cars. He hid his disappointment because he didn’t want to embarrass his dad even though he thought the real reason was that his dad was hard up because the overtime had dried up. His dad plugged it in and they raced the cars round the track.
Christopher won every race but he didn’t think his dad was really trying. His mum wouldn’t play. She said she didn’t know how. “It’s easy,” said Christopher, showing her how to push the lever on the control console, “Come on mum, have a go.”
But Mrs Fillary said no, it was a boys’ game. She lit a fag and read her Woman’s Own magazine again instead. She never played games. He heard her muttering to herself while they were playing. She thought his dad was stupid spending so much money on a toy. It would just be another fad that he got tired of, like everything else. She kept going on about it.
“Give it a rest, Anne, would you,” said Mr Fillary eventually, “It’s Christmas for Christ’s sake.”
His mum continued muttering to herself but more quietly, although you could still hear the rumbling. He thought she might be a bit frightened of his dad but not enough to shut her up completely.
The cars kept coming off because they were going too fast round the bends. His dad got tired and wanted to stop but Christopher wouldn’t let him. In the end his dad said, “I’ve got to go and make the Yorkshire pudding.”
They were having roast beef and Yorkshire pudding because his mum had left it too late to get a turkey like she was supposed to do. His mum and dad had had a row about that when his dad found out but Christopher didn’t mind about the meat. He crossed his fingers that they wouldn’t have another row today because that would spoil everything. The two of them had been fighting a lot recently. Christopher tried to calm his mum down when this happened but it didn’t work. She didn’t listen to what anyone said. His mum blamed his dad for everything so you never knew what was going to set her off. They had roast beef every Sunday and he loved the Yorkshire pudding that went with it. His dad made it in the lid of an enamel casserole dish that was blue and had lots of dimples in it. You poured the batter into boiling hot dripping. Next day you could have bread and dripping to eat if you wanted. Dripping was good if you put lots of salt on it. His dad had learned to cook in the navy. He’d been in the War. He didn’t like to talk about it but his mum said that he’d been torpedoed twice and was lucky to be alive. Once she said she wished he hadn’t been rescued after all but that was only during an argument and she didn’t really mean it. His dad had a collection of war medals upstairs which he let Christopher look at now and again.
Because it was Christmas they had the meal in the living room instead of in the scullery where they normally ate. His Dad did most of the cooking. When it was ready he passed the food through a hatch from the scullery and his mum and him put it on the table pretending they were waiters. Even his mum laughed at the joke. As a special treat Christopher had some orangeade and the bubbles went up his nose and made him sneeze when he tried to drink it. His dad drank a bottle of Bass which he poured into a tumbler. His Mum wasn’t allowed to drink because she was taking tablets for her nerves. Before they started they pulled some crackers and then they all wore paper hats, even his mum.
Because it was Christmas they had real gravy which was great.
Afterwards his dad rolled himself a fag with Old Holburn tobacco. His mum smoked Players Weights because they were the cheapest even though they made her cough. He was always being sent out to buy fags or tobacco but he didn’t mind because he usually got something for going.
Then they had the trifle which his mum had made. It was all right but it hadn’t set. His mum said it wasn’t her fault, there must have been something wrong with the custard. Christopher said it was all right, he liked it runny. His dad said it was fine, don’t get yourself worked up about it. His mum pushed her plate away, she said she couldn’t eat it, the whole meal was ruined. She started to cry. Christopher and his dad ate their bits even though it did taste a bit funny right enough and his mum quietened down in the end and they didn’t have an argument after all. Then they all listened to the wireless. Dick Barton Special Agent came on which they all liked, except his mum. Half way through when it got a bit scary he went over and climbed onto his dad’s lap. He could smell the beer on his dad’s breath, mixed with the smell of oil and sweat that he got from working in the engine rooms of the boats in the docks. Because it was Christmas his dad had shaved and his skin felt soft and smooth. Christopher soon fell asleep on his dad’s lap. They stayed like that until it was time for bed.
His mum knelt with him while he said his prayers in his pyjamas and then his dad came up and read him a bit from Treasure Island which his Auntie Mary had given him for Christmas. Auntie Mary lived in Scotland very far away.
It was a brilliant Christmas even though it hadn’t snowed and he hadn’t got the bike he’d asked for. But at least his mum hadn’t had one of her tantrums, which was the main thing. It was great when she behaved herself.