The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Doves at Christmas

Christmas lights

One Christmas, my mother took us to Hamley’s in London’s Regent Street. This vast toyshop on six floors was overwhelming. A massive leap from Eden Lily’s toy department in Cambridge. I was about four years old and had my Christmas money to spend. I planned to buy something very special..

The magic department was enormous, with a very long counter and not much on display. I was delighted when I spotted exactly what I wanted in a showcase on the wall. Even better, I had enough money to buy one. When I pointed it out to my mum she didn’t seem to realise how wonderful it would be to have one. She questioned me closely. Why did I want one? What was I going to do with it?
If I really wanted one I had to ask the man behind the counter myself.

He was thin and harassed and it took a long time to catch his eye. He bent down to hear what I wanted,
“I’d like a coloured scarf please the magic one that makes doves.”
He looked surprised.
“I’ve got the money,” I held out a ten shilling note and pointed to the case on the wall. He glanced at the display of scarves and then back at me,
“We don’t stock the ones with doves.” He shrugged and turned away. I shrivelled back to my mother. The scarves in the case were exactly like the one magicians use. Why wouldn’t he sell me one? I’d only use it in my room and in the park of course.
“Proper magicians probably shop elsewhere, darling,” my mother soothed.
I imagined a shop full of white doves and coloured scarves.
“Can we go there now?”
“No, we’ve got to go home.”

I still enjoy watching a good magician, even though I know that there is no such thing as a magical dove-producing coloured scarf. The Christmas story is a bit like this for me. Whether it happened or not is irrelevant. The simplicity of the scene is touching and magical. Hearing the tiny tenor voice fill the void in King’s College Chapel with the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City” always brings a tear to my eye.

Happy Christmas everyone.


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