Hi my name is Noreen, but my friends call me Nolly, hence my nickname in chat. I live in Kent in the South east of England. I enjoy many crafts, including crochet, embroidery, knitting, cake decorating, gardening and making things with beads. I am also a thespian. Beading is my latest passion and I have made many bracelets, Necklaces, earrings etc. for my daughter to sell in her Hair Salon in London. I love to chat and to travel.
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Midnight on Christmas eve is magic - a time for ghosts. When the clocks strike twelve they hammer a hole in time and eternity slips silently through.
So I was not really surprised
to feel a sudden chill in the room and to see him sitting there opposite
me beside the dying fire. He was in his fifties. Shrewd and dark eyes,
smooth black hair. All the well-groomed charm of the good hotelier. I had
never seen him before but knew immediately, who he was.
He stretched his hands towards
the fire, so real that it was difficult to believe he existed only in my
mind. "Very cold." he said. "And I was dog-tired, out on my feet with the
beginnings of a migraine". He looked at me quickly. "I'm not making excuses
- don't think that - just trying to explain how it was". I nodded, watching
him settle more comfortably into the chair. "We were coining money, I'm
not denying that". he said. "Some high-grade civil servant with his eye
on the New Year's Honors list, dreams up this idea of a census. It's inconvenient,
of course. Right in the middle of winter, everything frozen up solid, the
roads like glaciers. No time to be trekking round the country to sign on
the dotted line in your old home town. But it was money in the bank for
us. We're just a small country inn. Nothing fancy, no frills. A friendly
welcome, clean beds, good home cooked country fare. Most years we just
about break even. But we had more people through the place than we normally
get in six months. I'd have been a fool not to cash in on it." He
brooded softly for a moment or two, staring into the fire. When he
looked up his eyes were haunted. "She was a nice little thing with shy,
gentle eyes. Very young and very pregnant. Her husband was older. Big chap,
a bit rough and ready, with an accent you could hang your hat on. But basically
a decent sort. I took to them straight away. If I'd had a room they'd have
been more than welcome to it." He leaned forward, his voice suddenly sharp.
"And that's the truth." "Of course." I said. "But you were full." "Full?"
he said. " You've said it. Shared rooms, beds on the landing - we even
had people sleeping on two chairs in the public rooms. Paying through the
nose and glad to do it." He shook his head. "He offered me double the going
rste. The husband, I mean. But it wasn't a question of money. The way tey
wer placed I'd put them up for free. On the house, no problem. There was
something about them you don't often see. A kind of innocence. Something
- I can't explain it - something different. Special." He smiled, a small,
wry, smile. "That's when I should have guessed what it was all about, I
suppose. But I didn't." There was a little pause, heavy with regret. I
said gently, "So you put them in the stable." He nodded. "It was my wife's
idea. I was against it at first. After all, we've got our reputation to
think of and sleeping guests in a stable isn't exactly going to get us
four star rating is it?" But my wife can be very stubborn and my head was
pounding and I was too bushed to argue. "So we took them round the back
and settled them in among the horses and the old wagon ox, with a pile
of blankets and a bale of clean straw. I'm not saying it was comfortable
but at least it was dry and out of the weather. My wife brought them hot
soup and a loaf fresh from the oven and they wer grateful." His face tightend.
"That's what gets me." He said thickly. "They were so grateful. So damned
grateful." He cleared his throat. " Well, we didn't charge them, of course,"
he said, as if offering a plea of mitigation. "What about the shepherds?"
" Yes, well, the shepherds came." he said. "Nothing unusual about that.
This time of the year we always leave the back door on the latch and a
jug or two of mulled wine on the hob. It's cold work keeping sheep out
in the open in winter and the shepherds often come down in twos and threes
for a bit of a warm. Take it in turns, you see? But that night they all
came together. Just before dawn it was I heard them milling about in the
yard and got up to see what the excitement was, and that's when I discovered
the baby had been botrn. There must've been about a dozen of them all crowded
into the stable just staring at the baby. When told my wife she was
horrified. I wasn't too pleased myself. It's bad enough giving birth on
a heap of straw - no doctor, no midwife - without having half the village
come barging in on you. Doesn't do a lot for our image either. Not what
you'd call good publicity. They usually come very quietly - the shepherds,
UI mean. But not that night." "Been at the mulled wine, had they?" I said.
"That's what I thought." he said. "But it wasn't that. I wish it had been,
but it wasn't. They were - I don't know - frightened out of their wits
and at the same time wildy happy. Babbling away about angels and a star
and a voice in the sky telling them God had been botrn in my stable. I
didn't believe a word of it, of course. Well, who would? I mean, if God
decided to get himslef born - and that seemed to me to be pretty unlikely
- he'd choose the palace in Jerusalem, wouldn't he? Not my stable. My wife
agreed. She reckoned it was just a story the shepherds had made up. A sort
of alibi to cover themselves for abandoning the sheep like that. They'd
all come, you see. Normally they'd never do that." He shook his head. "But
then, later in the week, these three VIPs arrive out of nowhere and ask
to see the five-day-old King. I was worried then, all right. Scared, too.
Thew were educated men. Scholars." He spread his hands. "Men like that
don't make up crazy stories. I was just relieved we had the young family
in the hotel by then. Moved them in the day the baby was born. Some people
left after breakfast and we switched things round a bit. Best room in the
house and still no charge." "A nice gesture." I said "Too little too late,"
he said. "God came knocking on my door and I turned him away." "An understandable
mistake." I said. "In the circumstances. But you made up for it afterwards."
He nodded doubtfully. "I just wish could believe it was enough."
"I think He would think so." I said.
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