Christmas Eve


Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Homeward
not a creature was stirring, not even a Hitmouse.
Or so Uncle thought…..

One of the tallest towers in Homeward is Clock Tower. On every side of it there is a different clock face. The one facing Uncle's bedroom has an image of the great benefactor gilded with gold. Its trunk measures the minutes and an upraised arm measures the hours. A team of dwarves keep the clock in working order - but tonight they have all been out celebrating and are fast asleep amidst a warm glow of light. For tonight is Christmas Eve, and the clock has been garlanded with electric lights in red, pink, yellow and orange.

As always at this time of year at Homeward the weather is fierce. A blizzard whips around the Clock Tower and the snow is deep.
Apart from the whistling wind, all seems quiet and peaceful…..

It had been another spectacular Christmas Eve at Uncle's. Sometimes Uncle gets Cowgill, his chief engineer, to erect a big tree by the edge of the moat outside Homeward. But this year, with the weather so bad, Uncle had decided to host his traditional Christmas Eve party at his baths.

Uncle's guests had cried out in awe at the sight of the transformation that Cowgill had carried out for the party. The baths are quite spectacular - the building that contains them is so colossal that the end is only a dim shadow. But they looked even more remarkable that evening. The pink water had all been frozen creating a sparkling ice rink. Beneath the surface were many coloured lights creating an ethereal glow. In the small island at the centre stood the traditional giant Christmas tree - the lights on it making a great pyramid of colour.

Beneath the tree were the presents that Uncle and his followers would exchange the following day. Pride of place amongst these was a magnificent gold medallion bearing the visage of Uncle. This was a gift from the King of the Badgers to commemorate all of the good deeds carried out by Uncle during the year.

The ceiling of the baths had been lit to create an effect much like that of the Northern Lights. Cowgill had employed an army of glow-worms to produce this effect - they switched themselves on and off in rapid succession to achieve the illusion of moving light.

As usual on Christmas Eve a truce had been declared with The Badfort Crowd and even they were dumbstruck by the beauty of the sight before them. Finally Hateman admitted, “The old gaffer has pulled the stops out this year!”

When the crowd's excitement died down Uncle made a short speech. “Friends,” he said, “ I welcome you all to my baths and wish you all a very happy Christmas. You will see frozen in the lake is my dining raft filled with a mighty feast. For those of you who do not have them there are skis and ice skate's in many sizes. Once you have enjoyed your repast there will be songs and games by the Big Tree where you will each find a gift.”

The cheers were almost deafening. The scene that followed was delightful. Many of the guests were carrying lanterns, which made moving points of light on the ice as they made their way to the dining raft.

Songs, conjuring displays and snowballing, followed the feasting. The Badfort crowd seemed to be on their best behaviour, failing to interrupt the songs with their own pithy comments, and even for once failing to make use of the snowballing to wreak revenge on Uncle and his followers.

To be honest Uncle was a little disappointed with them. “Perhaps they are trying a last ditch attempt to be good this year for Santa?” opined the Old Monkey. “I doubt that very much” grumbled Uncle “I don't like it one bit…I fear they may have some devious intent…” At that moment though three cheers were called for Uncle and so he stood before the crowd to take a bow.

Uncle and his friends said goodbye to the last of the revellers and locked up the Baths. They sat around the Great Hall fire with a mug of Hot Joey congratulating themselves on how well the evening had gone. As the time approached midnight they all went off to bed. Before he made his way up the stairs the Old Monkey noticed Uncle having a quiet word with his detective A.B.Fox…..

Midnight approached, on Clock Tower the Big Trunk hand and the little upraised arm hand both pointed upwards. Uncle was fast asleep dreaming of the evening's entertainments when suddenly he found his trunk being shaken. “Awake sir! I am afraid you must awake - your fears have been proven true!” Uncle opened his eyes and beheld his detective A.B.Fox with a stern look upon his face. “Quick Sir, I have aroused your followers” cried the Fox “But we must hurry - even now we may be to late - there is no time to lose!”. Uncle jumped to his feet grabbing his trusty club and rushing after his Detective. He found his followers gathered in the Great Hall similarly armed. “What's this all about A.B.Fox?” asked Uncle “ I hope you have good reason to drag us from out beds on Christmas morning?”
A B Fox recounted the tale of his evening. “You were rightly suspicious of the good behaviour of the Badfort Crowd sir, as you requested I returned to the Baths to check that all was well. I hid in the Big Tree and waited. As Midnight approached I heard noises coming from the presents that had been placed beneath the tree. Suddenly one of the packages burst open and Beaver's head appeared from inside. “Good hiding place lads” he cried “Nearly midnight and then the truce is over, time to strike a blow for the revolution!“. A B Fox continued “I sneaked back here as fast as I could, Sir, for reinforcements”. “Well done AB - a good night's work.” cried Uncle. He rallied his forces and they all followed A B Fox to the scene of the previous night's festivities - Uncle's Baths.

A sad sight met their eyes as the skated across the ice covered water. Strewn around the big tree were the remains of the wrappings from the presents that they had bought each other and placed there to exchange on Christmas Day morning. Worse than this, though, was the sight of Father Christmas dishevelled and tied to the base of the tree. Around his neck was a crudely written sign “Capitalist Lackey!”

Uncle's followers rushed to the tree and quickly released Santa from his bonds. “Give him a tot of Hot Joey and see if you can revive him' said Uncle. Santa soon had some colour back in his cheeks and Uncle began to question him “Who carried out this infamous atrocity on you my dear man?'. “I have not met them before but they were dressed in sackcloth and one of them kept sticking skewers in me.” sobbed Santa. Uncle's followers exchanged knowing glances. “They said that I was in cahoots with capitalist toy companies - who exploit children by making them watch commercials and brainwashing them so they demand them from their parents - and then they said I make their parents pay hugely inflated prices. I tried to remonstrate with them - I said that my presents are all made by dwarves in the North Pole and are given free to the children….but they asked me If I paid the dwarves a minimum wage and excused me of exploiting them. They said that they were requisitioning all my presents for equable distribution amongst the poor and needy.

 

I told them that I was sure that the poor and needy would be on my list if they had been nice and not naughty. Then they asked me if Badfort was on my list of places to visit and got really angry when I could not find it. They said I was a humbug and had no right to sit in judgement on the proletariat and that they were forming their own revolutionary committee to award the presents to those who were most committed to overthrowing the shackles of tyranny!” At this point Santa was overcome with emotion “They have taken my sleigh…what am I to do ? - there will be so many disappointed children in the morning…this will be the first time I have failed in my mission….” he sobbed.

AB Fox could not contain himself “ Sir, Sir we must be quick, there is still time to thwart this dastardly act - the reindeer will be unco-operative once they realise they have been hijacked…may I suggest that we use Cowgill's new helicopter to give chase?”
“Excellent Idea! Mr Fox” shouted Uncle. Luckily Cowgill's new improved helicopter was close to hand as he had been making use of it to transport the glow worms to the ceiling of the baths, and to train them for the previous evening's light show. He had enlarged it's carrying capacity in order to transport the large number of glow worms employed in the show and Santa, Uncle and all his followers were soon aboard with room to spare.


“Look” cried out the Old Monkey from the prow of the copter “the glow worms have formed themselves into a giant arrow”. The followers all peered into the gloom of the enormous vaulted ceiling. “How clever sir” remarked AB Fox to his patron “they are showing us the route the Badfort Crowd used for their hasty departure”. At the tip of the glow worms arrow could be seen a large gaping hole through which snow was falling and twinkling stars could be glimpsed.

Cowgill expertly manoeuvred the copter through the gaping hole and before long A.B. Fox's prediction as to the behaviour of the reindeer was shown to be true. “Sir, Sir I can see Santa's sledge up ahead” cried the Old Monkey from the prow “it's just swooping round and round in circles!” Through the snow flurries the followers peered below and could see a strangely comic sight. Beaver held the reigns of the sleigh and was exhorting the reindeer in the direction of Badfort. Hootman flew around them screaming orders. But all too no avail - the reindeer were determined to bring the sleigh to ground and it turned in ever decreasing circles spiralling downwards.

“Time for a boarding party I think Sir” shouted A.B.Fox over the whistling blizzard and cries of the Badfort crowd. Cowgill skilfully matched the speed of the copter to that of the sleigh and brought it alongside. Uncle cried “up and at 'em men” and with this exultation they all jumped into the sleigh. Cloutman singled out individuals and stunned them with one blow of his fists, A.B.Fox laid many low with his expert use of the old martial art of ping-pong, and Captain Walrus made use of the belaying-pin in true sea dog fashion. The Badfort Crowd put up little resistance, though. Already much the worse for wear after celebrating the hijacking with copious amounts of Black Tom, the constant circling of the sledge had left them completely disorientated. At last Uncle came face to face with Beaver Hateman. There was a quick rush, and a sharp thud, a loud cry, and then Beaver soared majestically into the night sky - finally coming to land in a large snowdrift at the entrance to Badfort. Unfortunately, the shifting of Uncle's weight caused by this massive kicking up sent the sledge into a nosedive from which the reindeer were unable to recover it. Luckily, all it's passengers were able to jump to safety just before it smashed into an ice covered Gaby's Marsh.

The entire Badfort crowd faded away, leaving Uncle and his followers to survey the remains of the once beautiful sleigh. “The presents all seem to be fine, Sir - landed in that snowdrift” remarked A.B. Fox to Uncle. “But without my sleigh that's where they will stay” sobbed Santa. With tears in his eyes he patted his reindeer “You did your best boys but I'm afraid the games up. We'll never be able to deliver all the presents now.” “Hold fast” said Uncle 'the evenings not over yet - I'm sure something can be done.” “May I suggest sir” said the Old Monkey tentatively “the helicopter?” “Of course!” said Uncle “with Cowgill's cargo modifications it should have no problem taking the load”. “No problem at all,” chipped in Cowgill “and I would be happy to pilot Santa for the night, Sir - always fancied a trip round the world.”
“Excellent Cowgill - and in the meantime perhaps you could get your staff to see what can be done with this sleigh” enthused Uncle. “Certainly Sir, just needs a bit of craftsmanship to get it all back in order” said Cowgill.
Santa was overjoyed “This is marvellous! I cannot thank you enough - we shall erect a statue to you at The North Pole in commemoration of your magnificent work tonight”. “Well if you must, you must - I suppose” said Uncle slightly embarrassed but secretly rather pleased to have his name famed in far off lands. “You shall spend Christmas Day with us, as my guest, whilst repairs are made to your sleigh”. “I cannot thank you enough, noble elephant” said a rather emotional Santa “now I must supervise the loading of the presents, so fare thee well till the morrow”.

Soon all the presents were collected and loaded on Uncle's helicopter. Even the presents the followers had left beneath the tree for each other were found. All accept the gold medallion from the King of the Badgers to Uncle. “Alas I fear that I saw it upon the neck of Beaver as I kicked him up” remarked Uncle. “Oh Sir, your beautiful medallion, to think you have lost such a gift” said the Old Monkey. “The happiness of the children is more important than a trifle in honour of my good works' said Uncle magnanimously, although he had been rather looking forward to wearing it on Christmas Day and explaining the good deeds he had carried out that had led to it's presentation.

Uncle yawned. “Oh well, I'm sure we are all tired, let's get back to our beds - at least we shall have a peaceful Christmas Day after all of this evenings shenanigans.”
Sadly this was not what fate had in store for Uncle and his followers….

Christmas Day

Following the events of Christmas Eve, Uncle and his followers had a late sleep on Christmas morning. It was nearly twelve o'clock when they finally made their way down the Great Hall stairs for lunch. Santa and Cowgill had completed all the deliveries of the presents in record time, and despite having had only a few hours sleep were too excited by the journey around the globe to sleep any longer. They regaled their friends with tales of the many sunsets and sunrises they had seen on their circumnavigation.


Uncle's table was so loaded with provisions that it had actually to be supported in places by casks of ham. There was turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding, mince pies and lashings of Hot Joey.

Following the meal they all gathered around the fire, singing and playing games. As it approached 3'o'clock Uncle took from his pocket a small key and went into a small room adjoining the hall.
This was Uncle's television studio and it was from here that he would make his annual Christmas Day broadcast.

His follower's switched on the television set in the Great Hall and watched Uncle's face slowly appear as it warmed up. “Firstly I would like to wish all of the inhabitants of Homeward A very Merry Christmas,” Uncle began “As many of you will be aware a dastardly plot to disrupt Father Christmas's delivery of presents around the world, by a set of human skunks otherwise known as the Badfort crowd, was prevented last night by timely action on my part….”. The image of Uncle and his voice were suddenly removed from the screen by a burst of static filling the screen. Eventually this subsided to reveal the face of Beaver Hateman!


“We interrupt this broadcast…” crowed Beaver “because it is a tissue of lies from start to finish! As usual the arch boaster is distorting the truth and fabricating falsehoods in order to cast his evil actions in a good light. This tyrant has stolen presents from the very hands of the poor orphans of Badfort. The time has now come for retribution to reign down upon him….” At this point a whistling sound could be heard coming towards Homeward and getting louder and louder until with an almighty crash an enormous brown object smashed through the balcony windows of the Great Hall splattering Uncle's followers with a sticky brown material.

Uncle stormed out of his television studio demanding “What in heavens name is going on!' He looked aghast at the mess covering his followers and the large brown object in the midst of the hall. The Old Monkey licked the brown substance from around his face. “Actually, Sir, it's rather tasty” he said in a surprised voice. Uncle got out his telescope and looked across at the ramparts of Badfort. Beaver and his cronies were doing a dance of glee around a giant catapult - clearly very pleased with themselves.


Over at Badfort there was a jubilant mood amongst the inhabitants. “That must have taught the old bully a lesson” cackled Beaver “what did you load the catapult with Hitmouse?”.
“Well I knew it would have to be something really big, and I found a really big gooey brown thing in the kitchen - stroke of genius I think, if I say so myself…” replied Hitmouse his voice slowly dropping off as he realised that everyone had turned to look at him with faces aghast. “You idiot!...that was our Christmas pudding!” cried Beaver moving menacingly towards the diminutive Hitmouse. Hitmouse needed no more warning than the expression on Beaver's face. He turned and scarpered with the entire Badfort crowd in pursuit. All accept Hootman who had cooked the said pudding. “I think I better disappear for a bit myself” he moaned “Beaver isn't going to be too happy when he finds out I put the gold medallion in it instead of a coin”. With that he vanished.

Back at Homeward Uncle and his followers were very pleased with their gift from Badfort - if a little perplexed. “Look Sir! -they have returned your medallion with the pudding.” shouted the Old Monkey “Perhaps with have done them an injustice, Sir, by always painting them so black. I no it's an odd way to send a gift sir - but they have clearly had a change of heart!” “hmmm I'm not so sure” mused Uncle, as he toyed with the gold medallion around his neck “but anyway, it's Christmas - so let's wish the inhabitants of Badfort a very, merry Christmas!” Uncle and his followers all raised their glasses in the direction of Badfort before tucking into the unexpected gift from their archenemies.