THE festive preparations were getting her down, and mother's short temper was about to explode.
Fred, my brother and me, Ray, were asked to look after our little sister Amara while she got on with making dolls' clothes and mince pies. The sewing machine was playing up, the mince pies were burning in the oven, the dog was getting under her feet and it was snowing outside.
The burnt mince pies went out through the kitchen window, followed by the dog through the back door, followed by us two for loffin' and the key was turned in the lock.
Well, that was another fine mess we had gotten ourselves into.
It began to look like a pretty grim Christmas for us as we headed up the garden path to the shed grabbing our jackets on the way. Once inside we began to assemble something like a bed with Dad's old and new planks of wood, in case we had to stay the night. He always said it might come in handy some day.
We made plans. The first was to sneak back into the house through the front bedroom window to get some blankets for later, when it was getting dark. This should be no great problem, we had mastered this manoeuvre several times before as the window was just over the bay and easy to get into. It was very unlikely that any of the neighbours would be surprised enough to raise any alarm or get involved.
The bedroom window was always left open by a small amount even though it was mid winter and faced north.
Our exit from the kitchen had been so rapid that neither of us had the chance to raid the pile of coppers traditionally stacked on the shelf just inside the pantry to feed the gas meter.
To our dismay a turnout out of our pockets produced only one penny. We could live off that for a while so we decided to walk to Woolworth's in Bilston. It would be warm in there and we could wander around for ages without being approached by the store detective.
We saw some food for only one penny. Nutmegs 1d each was the label on the little glass tray. This looked promising we thought, but as neither of us knew what nutmeg was, we had a brief conflab to decide who was mug enough to ask for it, and it was me. "These are not real nuts," said the counter lady, "they are for baking."
"I know" I said, and handed over our entire housekeeping. We dashed outside anxious to get started on our meal. Both of us were unwilling to take the first bite lest we should get the smaller piece. I began to wonder how could we have got so far on the wrong side of someone (mother), of whom, it was not unknown, could tip an entire dinner over my head for not eating it. At that moment I had no answer.
As we approached the house we noticed that the bedroom window, normally slightly open, was completely closed. We made our way to the shed. Suddenly it didn't look so inviting, cold and dark, not such a cosy den now. Our next and immediate plan was - panic.
On his arrival back from work Dad must have missed our presence and he started his one-man search party for us - first stop the shed. Expecting a bit of a shouting when he found us, he just said calmly: "Don't upset your mother."
It is difficult to remember how this situation was finally resolved, but I expect that we had the usual stocking full of presents and a pork and chicken dinner on Christmas Day.
The dog came back eventually still looking bemused and things went back to normal.
Ray Evans 1936-2010
Revised by brother Fred Evans.