Friday, December 25, 2015

The Willows

We have one more little Christmas Eve gift for you. This is an FCR story - we couldn't do Christmas without at least a little bit of FCR! So did you ever wonder what some of the roots - oh the real roots, the original roots - were to the ranch Christmas?

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Wishing you all a very merry Christmas

Ranger and Rolf 


  The Willows


Boston, Christmas Eve 1927

Willow oaks lined the drive of The Willows. Which was why, fairly reasonably, it was named The Willows. But at the side of the house were the paddocks, and at present the gleaming, well fed Clysdale horses grazing there were wearing their winter coats.

His father and their head groom were coming side by side down the paddock fence, his father with his hands behind his back, still wearing his tweeds from his early morning ride and with a riding crop held behind him in both hands as he walked. He glanced up at the window as he walked, listening attentively to what the groom was telling him, but he smiled when he caught Philip’s eye.

Sitting on the wide window seat – which was his favourite place to read – Philip returned the smile, since he had been watching the horses and not his book. Usually he rode with his father in the mornings. But his foot, currently stiffly splinted and bandaged since the last surgery had only been two weeks ago in what his mother hoped would be the one to force it into a more useful angle, was stretched out in front of him on the window seat and the doctor had said that he must not ride for at least another week. Philip had personally lost count of how many surgeries this had involved so far; being only seven he did not remember too many of the earliest ones and they all blurred together into the unpleasant smelling memories of chloroform and white gowns but they never seemed to result in anything very helpful, and this one, as usual in Philip’s experience, hurt like sin and made getting around the house extremely complicated.

His mother, who had also been reading where she sat at the breakfast table, lost in one of her magazines written by one of her friends who collected in the drawing room to shout and bang their tea cups into their saucers, looked up as his father came into the dining room.

“Is it dreadfully icy? I’m going into town very shortly.”

“You will be quite safe, the sun is strong and it is melting fast.” His father laid his riding crop down on the table, took off his jacket and both were taken by the footman who had been waiting to exchange them for his indoor jacket. “Is this shopping or another shocking meeting you’re attending? I see that’s Arabella’s magazine.”

Ah. Mrs Redmund was one of Philip’s favourites of his mother’s friends who shouted and wrote inflammatory magazines, she banged tea cups quite splendidly and waved them about when she was really passionate, one occasion hurling tea across the carpet. Philip had always been hopeful she might do it again.

“I hope to combine both.” His mother said placidly, pouring coffee and passing the cup down the table. “Arabella and I are calling on the unwed mothers’ home with the gifts the Society wrapped last night, and meeting there with Donaldson from the Police Department about poor Clare MacAuley. The girl has two broken fingers and a broken nose by the father of her baby, her own wretched father will have nothing to do with her since he learned she is expecting and expects her to marry that brute, and the man lay in wait for her outside the home on the night before last so Arabella tells me and I’m afraid to think what might have happened had she not been with other women to raise the alarm. This is the third serious assault he has made on her to my knowledge and the man should be charged.”

“And the girl moved to where he can’t follow her, of course.” Philip’s father took a sip of coffee and took his seat, giving Philip a smile as he drew out Philip’s chair beside him, watching Philip manoeuvre with the crutches around the table to sit down.

“Quite.” Philip’s mother agreed. “Her family run a public house, that’s the trade she knows. Arabella has a friend in New York running a women’s hostel always in need of staff and wondered if she might do well working there, she would have her board and it would be no difficulty to keep the child with her. We will see what she may like to do.”

Philip laid the crutches under the table where the footman would not fall over them. “Will the man be arrested for beating her?”

His mother looked rather wry. “He should be. And we will explain in detail why, and Chief Donaldson is an Irishman himself so we can hope he may be sympathetic, but the law is not supportive to girls dealing with violent brutes like this one. He regards her as his property and cannot assimilate the thought that she has any right to choose to leave him. I suspect he would rather see her dead than accept that she has rejected him. Quite Narcissistic in outlook if one sees it by Mr Freud’s terms.”

“What is a Narcissist?” Philip inquired. This kind of conversation was quite usual at the dinner table. His mother’s friends had their various areas of social passion and his father did too in what Philip thought of as a much quieter and father-like way. The footman held the dish of eggs where Philip could spoon some to his plate, and moved on to serve his mother.

“Narcissus was a Greek mythic young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. So Narcissism is a termed by Mr Freud as a form of excessive selfishness,” his father explained, buttering toast. “Someone who’s social interest and protective feelings of love are entirely focused on themselves and who has little regard for pleasing others, or considering their needs and feelings. The story is in Ovid, I shall find it for you.”

“Are you not hungry darling?” Philip’s mother laid down her fork looking rather anxious. “Is your foot uncomfortable still?”

“Not at all.” Philip said firmly, eating eggs little as he wanted to, since she had worried rather a lot about this last surgery. There had been some discussion this time around on whether it was worth continuing to try at all.

“Madam, the car is ready.” The butler said from the doorway. Philip’s mother hurriedly ate the last piece of her toast and got up, collecting her fur from the back of her chair. She kissed Philip as she passed him and then Philip’s father as she passed him.

“I have some last minute shopping to do on my way, I shall be home in good time to go out to Harvard this evening.”

“Do enjoy yourself and endeavour not to be arrested.” Philip’s father advised and his eyes were twinkling at her in the way that always made her laugh, her pretty laugh out loud without any ladylike choking down of it.

“I shall do my best.”

“Well.” Philip’s father said to Philip when she was gone, and they heard the front door close and the car door shut a minute later and the engine purr out of hearing. “Would you like to come with me this morning?”



The house was decorated for Christmas. Fir garlands were wound all the way down the big staircase bannisters in the middle of the hall, decorated with ribbon bows, and the eight foot fir tree stood in the hall, with the delicate red glass ornaments hung on it by their ribbons where Philip and his mother and the housekeeper had spent an enjoyable hour together in placing them. The blown glass was something Philip’s mother had inherited from her mother, she handled them with love and often told Philip about her mother and father and her sisters and her house in Newport where she had grown up, and where she had first met Philip’s father, since he too had spent his childhood at his family’s summer home in Newport. Philip’s grandparents still lived there.

The hall and the drawing room and the ball room were all prepared and being swept for the large party expected here this evening and the many people staying with them tonight to celebrate Christmas Day. There were always an enormous number of people at their house on any special day during the year; Easter, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, but especially over Christmas.

Philip’s father carried him upstairs since the crutches were a little hard to manage on the stairs, and Philip sat on his father’s bed to watch him change from his riding clothes into one of his – well. What Philip thought of as his ‘nothing’ suits. They were clean and respectable and very non-descript, but hardly new, and Philip was not surprised when his father directed him to put on his own such suit kept for occasions such as these. He had always had at least one suit that was a ‘nothing’ suit since he was very little; he remembered his nurse helping him to put it on when he was very tiny, and always for when he was going out with his father. Over the top of that they both put on the plain, ‘nothing’ coats that went with the suits, and Philip’s father’s driver was waiting outside the front door with the maroon Chrysler Imperial.

 


His father’s world was a remarkably large one. He, like Grandfather and several other men in their family, was one of a mysterious breed called a Financier, as well as the president of his bank, and due to organising and underwriting and investing, all terms Philip understood the definitions of, his father often visited the city’s steelworks, railways, ship building yards and the telephone and telegraph offices where people would always greet him by name and where he would walk with Philip to look at with him and explain about whatever project he was currently involved in. Philip had seen with him the shooting of molten steel through pipes at terrifying speed that forged it into massive girders for the high rise buildings in the cities and men had shown him the metallurgical tests and cyanide baths they were doing on the test sample girders to ensure the batch safety. He had seen the bare frame of a new ship in dry dock where men hammered red hot rivets through the holes to build her and hung in their wooden cranes on ropes way above the ground and where the fires roared and the noise of hammering was deafening, and seen the blueprints spread out on the table while the shipwrights talked to his father about her. He had walked through car manufacturing plants while men showed him and his father how each one was being hand built. His father walked in all these places.

He very often took Philip with him, in the same way that he at times took Philip to meetings where men in suits sat around vast polished tables to talk and often Grandfather or one or more of his great uncles or grown up cousins were there too. Philip’s favourite of these were the several times a year Winthrop family board meetings, which tended to be much more convivial affairs, but whatever the meeting he sat in the chair at the table beside his father, doing what his father did and what his father taught him as a kind of private game between them, which was to look at faces, to listen, to see what hands did and where eyes darted. Sometimes there was shouting at those meetings; Philip, quite used to his father explaining afterwards what was happening, and secure in the fact that his father never shouted and began to look quite coolly quizzical whenever someone else began to shout and behave in an ill bred manner near to him, understood very well from experience that anger and threats were rarely quite what they looked like and this never worried him at all. This deimatic behaviour or ‘threat displays’ as his father termed them, were something he well understood having been taken by his father to the Franklin Park zoo, and really some of the men in the meetings were rather similar to the baboon and his flashing of his unfortunately coloured behind and to the skunk, given to hastily squirting his noxiousness when unsure of how better to respond. With his father Philip had also looked at books on the subject and now mentally categorised many of those men to the most appropriate correlating animal species when they were driven to behave badly.

Today however the car did not go to the railway or the docks and they were not dressed for a meeting, so Philip watched the city pass by beyond the window as the driver took them deep into the centre. There were so many people shopping today. The traffic was thick and the car had to move very slowly, and horse drawn buses and dray horses and handcarts choked the road. The shop windows were bright with the Christmas displays and on the street a group of Mission people in uniform had formed a brass band and people were singing with them while other people pressed around them with their baskets and packages and boxes.

Somewhere just out of the main city streets that Philip knew, the car made a turning into a darker and older street that was less clean than the others and had no shop windows or decorations. From the rising walls and windowless buildings and chimneys Philip recognised that factories largely occupied this area, and at the end of the street the driver drew up the car and came to open the door.

“Shall I wait for you here, sir?”

“Yes please.” Philip’s father got out of the car and offered a hand to Philip to help him gather his crutches. He paused for a minute as Philip got his balance, and then drew from his pocket two wool caps that were considerably different to the hats that he usually wore, but which protected against the rather bitter chill of the wind, putting one on his own head and the other on Philip’s. And walking slowly so that Philip could easily keep pace with him, he crossed the road at the end of the street and turned a corner, going up to a tall, old and weather beaten door in the wall of what looked like another factory. A large sign on the wall stated: Working Men’s Hostel.

The man who answered the door was dressed very similarly to Philip’s father and Philip, including the cap on his head, and he stepped back immediately, holding the door wide.

“Mr Winthrop.”

“This is my son Philip.” Philip’s father said, helping Philip up the steps. “Philip, this is Mr Chester.”

Philip freed a hand from the crutches to shake Mr Chester’s large and rough one. The building was very cold in the hallway and very large, and the very big room through the doors ahead of them was empty and dark and filled with odd, dusty frames.

“This was a paper mill,” Mr Chester explained, seeing Philip looking around them and ushering him gently towards the stairs. “And it’s draughty down here by the yards, but it’s warmer upstairs if you’ll come along up, sir.”

The stairs were extremely steep and rather dark. Philip’s father took the crutches in one hand and lifted Philip with the other arm, walking up the stairs with him without difficulty as if he knew the way. From half way up the stairs Philip could hear the hum of men’s voices.

“Thirty one in this morning, sir,” Mr Chester commented as they reached the top of the stairs. “These are the ones new or we’re most worried for. Fifty six booked in who are working and sleeping here tonight and will be with us tomorrow. Thirteen beds spare for emergencies, although I’m sure we’ll have more than that at the door by morning with the factories and working yards being closed tomorrow.”

It was warmer upstairs. The hallway was narrow and old but very clean and through a wooden door they came into a very large room with several fat iron stoves set into the floor at intervals, their pipes rising up into the ceiling and all of them radiating heat strongly. Very long tables were set out with benches to sit on; the room was quite full of tables, and scattered about the room mostly in groups were men. Some had pulled benches over to sit around one of the stoves and some sat at the tables, a few looking at a newspaper or drinking from one of the tin mugs that seemed to be in the hands of most of the men. The room smelled strongly of coffee and tobacco.

Several of the men glanced over as the door opened, a few of them showed a flicker of interest or warmth as they caught Philip’s eye but most of them looked tired and not inclined to be sociable. Mr Chester led them through a door at the other end of the hall that passed several bathrooms and led them up another flight of stairs. This led to another hall just like the one below, and also set with stoves, but this one had beds. Iron bedsteads as far as the eye could see, set out in rows and each one with a mattress, pillow and grey blanket.

A man was sitting beside one of the beds, the only occupied bed, where a man was laying wheezing as he breathed. He was a very old man; as his father carried him closer Philip could see the pale grey of his hair and his beard and his heavily wrinkled face. His eyes were closed.

“Not one of our regulars,” Mr Chester said quietly not to disturb him, “One of the regulars brought him in though, found him up against the fence of the brewery yard last night.”

“Does he need a doctor?” Philip’s father inquired as quietly. Mr Chester shook his head.

“No sir. No fever, no injuries, he isn’t ill. Nothing wrong with him but his age, and I know the signs of that well enough. He couldn’t be woken this morning, we got a little tea spooned down him but I don’t think there’s anything much left to do now but sit with him. We can do that during the day while it’s quiet and tonight there’s some of the regulars who’ll take a turn to sit, maybe that’ll be some comfort poor old soul.”

“Mr Chester is a very clever man,” Philip’s father said quietly to Philip, “He was an orderly with the Armed Forces during the Great War and he is excellent at any sickness or injuries the men here may have. He should properly have been trained as a nurse, save that unfortunately as yet that is not a field in which men are particularly welcome.”

Mr Chester held the door as Philip’s father carried Philip back towards the stairs. 

“I’m glad it’s warm in here,” Philip’s father commented as he carried Philip down. “Do you have all the fuel you need? Food?”

“Yes sir. The donations for tomorrow’s Christmas lunch arrived this afternoon, twelve hams in all and four sacks of potatoes, four sacks of flour and a barrel of maple syrup, and the bakery to bring over loaves this evening fresh. Ham with biscuits and gravy, bread and roasted potatoes, and we’ll make apple pies with the apple barrels in the store room, I’ve been saving those. And the coffee, and muffins with the oatmeal for breakfast. They won’t go hungry and it’ll be cheering. Many of them need it, it’s a sober day in here usually. Men a long way from their families, or families gone. Will you eat with us now, sir? It’s nigh on lunch and they’ll be serving downstairs?”

“Yes please.” Philip’s father carried Philip into the large hall again, setting him down on one of the long benches next to a man who was eating with his elbows on the table in a very reprehensible way that Philip’s mother would have not permitted Philip to do, and Philip, looking down at the hatchway at the far end of the hall saw the last couple of men waiting in line with their tin plates in hand. Someone behind the hatch was scooping something out of large tins on the counter. Mr Chester disappeared with Philip’s father towards the hatch.

“How do you do?” Philip said politely to the man who was eating beside him. The man glanced down and gave him a short nod, but didn’t reply and returned to his lunch. Mr Chester came back with a tin plate, a spoon and a rough hank of bread which he put in front of Philip. It was hard to tell what was in the plate except that it was yellow in colour and some kind of thick soup and it smelled rather good. Philip dipped his spoon and tasted it, finding it hot and containing sweet corn. The man glanced down at Philip again, then rather slowly and overtly tore up his bread, dropping it into the soup. Philip, realising what he meant, copied him. The bread went wonderfully soft and squashy in the soup and the result was filling. Philip’s father took the bench opposite Philip with his own plate and bread, nodding to the man.

“Good afternoon.”

“Your kid?” the man asked succinctly. Philip’s father gave him a nod, eating soup.

“Yes. Do you have a job yet?”

“Waiting.”

“The lists come in every day from the factories and the railway around here,” Philip’s father said to Philip. “If men are needed they look here for workers, Mr Chester tries to find every man a job.”

“You won’t be waiting long if you’re educated like you sound.” The man said sourly. “Where are you from?”

“Here in the city.” Philip’s father explained. “You?”

“Pittsburgh. Did some steelwork. Did some travelling.”

From the sound of his voice the travelling had not been something he enjoyed.

“Children of your own?” Philip’s father asked in a rather gentle voice. The man shrugged one shoulder.

“None living.”

“I am sorry.”

There was an abrupt roar from the far end of the room. Philip looked up from his soup to see a man struggling in the arms of Mr Chester and another man, apparently trying to fight something in front of him – except that there was nothing there. The man’s eyes were so wild and staring that they seemed to be bulging out and he was shouting indistinctly, something about “everywhere”.

“Poor son of a bitch not right in the head.” The man said shortly to Philip, taking one look and then going back to his soup. “Does this hour in and hour out.”

Mr Chester was doing his best to draw the struggling man away. Philip’s father got up from the table leaving his soup and cap behind and walked down towards them, and Philip heard him speak to the man in just the same calm, steady way he taught Philip to speak to one of their highly strung horses. He stood the same way too, with his face and hands relaxed and Philip could see the man rearing, the wild eyes, the sweating, and then gradually as Philip’s father reached out to put a hand on his arm and guide him to a bench, the man’s weight shifted forward again, his head came down and he walked where Philip’s father guided as if he were on a loose rein.

The man beside Philip grunted. “Haven’t seen that before.”

Philip was nearly finished with his soup when his father came back. The man had walked rather shakily with Mr Chester towards the kitchen and out of sight of the hall, and the muttering from the men scattered through the big room around the tables was grim but sympathetic.

“Worked horses?” the man demanded of Philip’s father as he sat down. Philip’s father gave him a nod.

“Yes. You recognise the signs?”

“Knew a man who could do that. Frank.” He added, shortly, as if it was a challenge. Philip’s father nodded again, calmly, eating his soup.

“John. You’re a man who notices things, Frank.”

“Is the man all right?” Philip asked his father. His father dipped bread in his soup to eat it.

“He was a steelworker. A pipe cobbled, going through the mill – that means it didn’t travel straight as it passed through a tube and struck the tube sides so that instead of shooting straight out of the end it sprayed semi molten metal across the shed. He was struck in the head and badly injured. He is suddenly and easily frightened because of it, and believes he is back in the steel shed when something alarms him. Like Mr Abbot we knew who was shell shocked in France in the Great War, and worked in the stables?”

Philip remembered him well. “It’s the same thing?”

“I read of a doctor who called it a form of invisible wound to the brain.”

The man next to them snorted. “Book worm are you?”

“I’m afraid I am. Do you read?”

“Nothing more interesting than the paper.” The man said shortly. “When I can. Chester’s good about newspapers here, he brings in what he can.”

“You like to know the day’s news?”

“I like to know where I am and what’s being said.”

Philip’s father finished his soup and picked up his cap. Philip, reading the signs, got up with his crutches and the man gave him a rather bleak look, glancing down at Philip’s splinted foot and then up at his father.

“Will that fix?”

“We hope so.” Philip’s father said calmly. “In time.”

“Good luck with that, Mac.”

“Thank you.” Philip’s father guided Philip gently towards the hatch to put their empty plates there. Several of the men were visible at large sinks, washing dishes. Philip’s father gathered his crutches in one hand and picked Philip up with the other, walking slowly through the door and down the stairs as the clatter of plates and the buzz of men’s voices and the fog of tobacco faded away.

“The men help with the cleaning and the cooking and the upkeep of the place as part of their rent.” He explained quietly as they walked. “As many as possible are helped to find a job and when they have wages they pay a little for their bed as cheap lodging until they can afford better. This helps to pay for the men who have no wages yet.”

“What about the man with the hurt head?” Philip asked. “Will he get a job?”

Mr Chester was at the bottom of the stairs waiting for them and he smiled at Philip.

“We’re a clearing house and an alms house in one. That’s how we run. A lot of them we clear through into work and some of them we clear into work and they come back like bad pennies, so we do what we can for them. But a few of them come here to be looked after and that’s all.”

“Mr Chester finds beds for men who are too ill or injured to work, such as the man with the injured head.” Philip’s father explained. “Until they are well again.”

“Well those are the rules.” Mr Chester agreed. “Although you’re good enough to bend them, sir. And Mr Cahill is when he’s here inspecting on your behalf, or talking to the board.”

Mr Cahill being one of his father’s secretaries, Philip knew him well.

“The gentleman that I was speaking to. A Mr Frank?” Philip’s father said, and Mr Chester nodded.

“Yes. Frank Taylor. Wife and child died last year, he hasn’t told anyone how but one of the regulars brought him in last week. The jobs are scarce now, won’t come in much until New Year, but he’s one I’d like to see find a good place. Sharp. Observant. Reads and writes. Kind enough to the others too, I’ve seen him write letters for a couple of them. He’d make a good foreman.”

“I will make some inquiries.”

“He’d be well worth it sir, he’s a steady enough man.” Mr Chester opened the door onto the street, holding it wide for them. “Merry Christmas to you Mr Winthrop.”

“Merry Christmas.” Philip’s father waited for Philip to repeat it and carried him down the steps and on down the street.

“Do you eat lunch there often?” Philip asked him. His father turned the corner, going down the street to where their car was waiting.

“I do occasionally when I visit, as does Mr Cahill, and rather rudely I never call upon them having made an appointment first. It is a useful thing to do as Mr Chester and his assistant never know when I may be visiting or if I will eat with the men, and therefore they ensure that the food is always of a suitable quality. And that the building is warm. While Mr Chester has my full trust, that is still my responsibility to ensure.”

“Isn’t it rude to eat some of their food when they don’t seem to have very much?” Philip said curiously. His father nodded hello to their driver who was waiting to open the door for them, and Philip slid across the broad, high seats of the Chrysler to make room for his father to get in.

“You will find that a man rarely trusts you until you’ve sat at a table with him and shared in the same food as him, and the same conversation. Do you remember what is said in church? We one body because we all share in one bread? It is very true. Many of those men are good men but they have have had difficult times and have learned that they have little reason to trust. So it is important to take the time to earn it from them if you wish to know them.”

“Isn’t it hard to eat and talk and know all hundred of them though? There are a hundred beds.”

“There are.” His father agreed. “It is always a difficult to thing to consider the difference between quantity and quality. We can ensure that all are fed and warm and have a place to sleep tonight, but I then am resigned to conversing with perhaps only a very few when I visit. And I am concerned that there should not be those hundred men sleeping outside with no bed or place to go with little they may do little to improve their lot. I may do a little for many, or a lot for a few, and these are choices I must always make. But perhaps I can benefit a few a little too when I visit. For example we will see what can be found for Mr Frank Taylor, now I know a very little of who he is and what may suit him.”


Philip’s mother was quite insistent that evening that he should wear the white sailor suit she felt was most appropriate for the Christmas Eve church service, and since it would have been rude to argue with her, Philip inwardly sighed but permitted himself to be dressed in it since it was rather hard to put on alone. Since his cousins were without exception considerably older than him, and he did not attend school since the question of his twisted foot precluded it, so his education was largely through the books his mother and father frequently shared with him and the places to which they took him to visit, it was difficult to properly examine his mother’s insistence that this was what all boys his age wore without complaint.  

It was one of the evenings that he thought he mother looked truly beautiful. She had quite the nicest face in the world, and the way that Millie, her maid, curled the ends of her very soft faintly grey brown hair around made it nicer still to look at, and she wore a dress he hadn’t see before that was soft lace crossing both shoulders that hung down to a wide hem of soft, white fur below her knees that went with her white fur coat. He told her so, seriously on the landing since his father explained that it was important to tell people such things when you thought them, and despite the dress she sat down on the top step beside him so that they were at the same height and put her arms around him, holding him so that her soft coat wrapped around them both and they looked down together for a while into the hall with its Christmas tree and the staff crossing the floor below in their immaculate best uniforms and the silver trays, setting out dinner ready for later. The house staff were excited too; Philip had spent some of his time in the kitchen this afternoon where he had been included in their chatter, they liked it when the big parties happened although it made them very busy and they wanted to hear the small orchestra that was to play in the ball room and the maids were talking a great deal about dresses.

“Did Chief Donaldson arrest the man who is like a Narcissist?” Philip asked his mother, who gave him a rather dry smile, hugging him a little closer.

“He’s thinking about it. So we shall invite him to tea in a few days and I shall be quite firm with him.”

She was rather good at that, in her gentle, polite kind of way; Philip had watched her do it with many people in her drawing room when necessary. Philip’s father, in his driving coat and gloves, came to the foot of the stairs and looked up at them, and Philip saw the smile that his father sent that passed over his shoulder to his mother. It was one of his special smiles, one that Philip saw him keep especially for her, and there was something about seeing it that always made him feel particularly safe and happy in this house. And then his smile took in both of them and he came upstairs to help Philip.

“Are you ready to go?”

The Christmas choir service in the Memorial Church at Harvard University had been taking place for seventeen years and since the University was an important place for his father, they had been attending it every year since Philip could remember. It always began with the University choir’s procession through the church, singing by candle light in the Latin.

Adeste Fideles, laeti triumphantes….

Standing between his parents and with his Grandparents on his father’s other side, Philip watched them walk with the candles in their hands as they sang, and felt the soft shiver down his spine of the magic he always felt on this night in this place, the wonder of this special moment of the year. Across the church as the choir filed into the choir stalls Philip caught the eye of one of his particularly favourite cousins, Jacob, a tall young man who Philip had seen several times playing in the University football games and polo matches when his mother and father brought him to see them, looking very big and angelic in his choir robe but still winking at him as he caught Philip’s eye and it was apparent that Jacob was enjoying it too.

Tomorrow would be an exciting day – Christmas always was – with the house filled with the family and friends and guests who would gather there this evening for dinner and dancing and be all over the house tomorrow for the grand Christmas dinner. It felt very right that the house should be full and that so many people as possible should be together, and his father and mother ensured most carefully that everyone should enjoy themselves.

For the last verse of the carol as the organ swelled, all the congregation sang together and Philip’s father tipped the book for Philip to read the Latin words he and his father had once spent an entertaining rainy afternoon translating and linking up to their English counterparts together.

Ergo qui natus die hodierna.
Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Patris æterni Verbum caro factum.

Hail Lord, we greet thee born this happy morning

Jesu to thee be glory given
Word of the Father now in flesh appearing


It was a thought that Philip often pondered on as one of his favourites. For words to become something quite real was a most wonderful thing to imagine. As wonderful as all the people here together singing the same thing in the same moment, and it always seemed to him to be a perfect start to Christmas.


Copyright Rolf and Ranger 2015

2 comments:

Lunar Kitty said...

Oh please do continue with this storyline. It is amazing to know more about Philip!

Paul Wilgus said...

What a great story and a nice peak into Phillip's life.