Jane’s face went a pearly white as she pulled out of the shopping centre car park into a sorry stationary stream of still vehicles as far as she could see.
“It has to be a pink phone. Your mother is quite adamant. You know what she’s like,” her father had said. The local out of town tech shop happened to have a good 27 MatureSmart handsets in, which Jane’s childless brother was quite adamant was the perfect phone for their mum – even though a suggestion he get his well-suited arse out of his solicitor’s office to the shop would have been unthinkable to make. Unfortunately all 27 handsets at the local shop were black. Which is how Jane found herself setting off at 4pm on the last Friday before Christmas embarking on a 35-mile drive to a tech shop the other side of Uppington with a five year-old and three year-old in the back.
“On the first day of Christmas my two love gave to me, a party and a pear tea,” Jack sang as the rain lashed the windscreen. Jane sighed.
“Mummy, what’s number two?” he asked.
“Number two what, love?”
“Number two in the days of Christmas song…” he asked.
“Oh it’s…two turtle doves,” she said, pleased to take an image off her mind of dozens of black MatureSmart phone handsets dancing around and taunting her.
“That’s it!” said Jack excitedly, “on the second day of Christmas my two love gave to me, two purple gloves and a party and a pear tea!”
Jane trundled the car forward a few yards until the lights turned red again. Well, peace and quiet would be a dream, she reflected, but keeping Jack busy would be a decent second best, while noting in the mirror that his sister Lizzy was fast asleep.
It continued to ‘three French Jens, four drawing words, five old kings all the way to 10 phones a-ringing, 11 wipers swiping and 12 mommas jumping.’ It brought a smile to Jane’s face despite the slow progress of their journey, as she made a mental note to try to recount it all to her husband, George, when he returned from work – if indeed he didn’t get back before them today.
Jane had just made it onto the motorway when Jack screamed.
“What’s number 13? I said!” he shouted with his hands folded “why won’t you listen?”
“Sorry Jack, I must have missed what you said while I was concentrating on the road. Errr…well I think it’s 13 trolls a tweeting, if that makes any sense?”
“Not really. And what was 12 again?”
“Listen Jack, can we just take it easy for a while I concentrate by driving to the shop?” she said as she scanned the signs and tried to remember whether it was junction 7 or 8 she wanted to take.
“Take it easy! No!” said Jack, kicking at the inside of the door.
“It’s just it’s quite an old song actually, so I don’t remember it too well, and I think there’s actually only 12 days of Christmas, honey.”
“Hmmph!” said Jack, “I suppose I’ll have to speak to someone old then.”
Then Jane had a brainwave. When the car next stalled to a halt in traffic, she reached to her phone and dialled her parents’ house – on the landline of course, as her mum didn’t have a mobile yet and her dad never figured out how to answer his in time.
Her father answered and she put the phone on loudspeaker.
“Err, Dad, I’m in a little traffic doing the err…seasonal errand for Mum we talked about…Jack is a bit bored and asking me what the days of Christmas are in the song, ‘on the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me’. I can only remember up to 12, unfortunately, would you have any idea what was given on the 14th day of Christmas?”
“Jack, you have to remember something,” said his grandfather as she passed the phone and left it between the two child seats at the back. “What was given on the 14th day of Christmas is a secret. I was one of very few people told it by one of the Queen’s messengers in 1962…and…I never thought somebody would ask, but if you promise to be good and patient for your mummy, I will tell you, is that ok?”
“Ok, Grandad,” said Jack.
“Alright, it was ‘on the 14th day of Christmas my true love gave to me….14 charter ships a-mooring…model ships I think they mean, like the old dinkies.”
Jack listened attentively. “And that about on the 15th day, Grandad?”
“Well, then, let me see, I think that was 15 tops a-spinning, and I believe 16 was 16 ropes-a-swinging. Skipping ropes of course. Both popular playground games those, before all of these computers were invented.”
“Go on, Grandad…”
“Well 17, that’s a tricky one to remember as it’s 17 pork pies a-cooking, and 18 is 18 young ladies a-twisting. I can tell you a bit more about that one when you’re older.”
And so Jane’s father continued, as she sat there happily mystified at the ability of the oldest generation she knew to pass on knowledge to the youngest, even when speaking complete nonsense. By the time she’d angled her car into a much-coveted space in the packed car park of Uppington retail park, they’d made it all the way to 88 runs a-running.
“And not out, nor will that particular batsman be for a while yet,” said her dad.
“Mummy, can I stay in the car and keep talking to Grandad?” asked Jack as Jane cut the engine.