The Christmas Present.

It was a cold December day near Christmas, all those years ago, and my mother asked me if I would go to the Butchers shop to collect our Christmas Turkey that she had ordered a few days before.
I was only a very young boy at the time, and I remember walking through the snow covered streets of old terraced houses on my way to the shop, and looking in wonder at the icicles hanging down from wherever icicles hung from. (Its strange what fascinates you when you’re young).
I arrived at the butchers shop, to find that there was a queue of people that were already there before me, so I took my place, and waited.
Everyone in the queue was cold and damp, but quite cheerful, as bad weather in our part of the country is not unusual.
I was waiting for a little while, with my eyes looking towards where the customers were being served, and I happened to notice that the “Chattering” had dried up behind me, and heard a few disconcerted mutterings, that didn’t sound to0 favourable . I turned around to see what was happening, and I noticed a young man had joined the queue, he looked rather scruffy, and he had very long hair, which in those days of the early 1960s
was very unusual in the small North Yorkshire town of Thornaby, where I lived.

The queue gradually got smaller as people were served with their orders, and left, and then it was the turn of a little old lady to be served.
She was rather shabby looking, and I felt pity for her, as even though I was very young at that time, I always felt sorry for older people.
In those days Pensioners only got a very small State Pension, and even now, pensioners in Britain get a small amount, compared to other European countries.

When she got to the front of the queue, she asked the man that was serving, how much the joint of meat on display was.
When he told her the price, it was far more than she could afford, so she asked (rather embarrassed) If he could possibly cut in in half.
The Butcher, unkindly I thought, seemed annoyed, and told her that he wouldn’t cut it up, as he could sell it to somebody that could afford the full piece.
I noticed the look on the old lady’s face, and felt very sorry for her.

Suddenly a voice from the back of the queue spoke up. “Wrap it up” he said, I’ll have that!
Everyone turned around to see who had spoken, and it was the scruffy long haired young man.
He marched to the front of the queue, and the butcher wrapped it up for him.
I noticed the look on the old lady’s face, and she seemed a bit shocked that anyone could be so ill mannered, and there was certain mumblings from some people in the queue.
The butcher handed the young man his order, and gave him his change after he paid for it.
He turned to the old lady, and smiled. There you are love, he said, and he opened her shopping bag and placed the meat in it, as well as the change he’d received.
Happy Christmas he said, as he disappeared into the falling snow outside. I learnt a lesson that day, that has stayed with me throughout my life, and that was “Never judge a person by their appearance" !
I don’t know what the young man had gone into that shop for , whatever it was, he never got it! But I believe he left with a whole lot more than that.

The Christmas Present.


Thornaby on Tees, United Kingdom

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