A Christmas Renuion


Ian stepped away from his desk at noon, he was tired, his head ached and he wanted be with his family. He stood by the window and looked across the park, wondering about the young homeless girl he’s seen that morning and hoping she’d found somewhere warm to spend the day. A limo pulled up to the front door.
“Hey Gina,” he called over his shoulder, “come look, maybe this is Valerie.”
The both pressed their faces against the window, hoping to see the person who could make or break their Christmas. All they saw was the top of her head! The limo was followed by several white vans.
“Oh no, maybe she’s closing the place down and the vans are here to take away the furniture.”
“No, it wouldn’t happen that quickly. Look they’re bringing boxes in, not taking them away.”
Ian was right. A team of folks worked diligently unloading the vans.
“Come on, we’d better keep working or Madame Scrooge will be screeching at us again.”
No one could concentrate. What if the mysterious Valerie was coming to close the place down? The idea of starting a new year looking for a job wasn’t appealing.
At 1:30 Lucy, the office manager came into the room and clapped her hands loudly.
“Listen up, as some of you may have heard, Valerie Street is here. She wants to talk to us all in the conference room at 2:00. Don’t be late!
Ian and Gina looked at each other. “I guess we won’t be wondering much longer”

There was a line by the window in the hallway when Ian and Gina arrived for the meeting. Fred was at the back of it.
“We tried to get in, but the door is locked, there was a lot of activity in there a few minutes ago. Sounded like Desiree was shouting at someone, but not any more.”
The buzz of anticipation was catching. Was it dread or excitement?
Felicity from marketing was pointing out of the window to where Desiree was striding across the car park. No longer wearing her dangerous spikes, instead she had tennis shoes on her feet. Her expensive leather brief case was full to bursting and she carried a box. There was a chirp as she unlocked the door of her black Audit TT. She opened the boot and she placed her briefcase, and the box, inside. She sensed she was being watched and turned around. With a flourish she gave the double two-fingered salute to one and all. Then she jumped into her car and with a screech of tyres, she left the car park. The applause started slowly and quietly and then escalated. Fred clapped louder than anyone. Ian and Gina looked at each other puzzled.

The double doors to the conference room opened and Christmas music filtered out. The bewildered employees made their way into the beautifully decorated conference room. It was a Christmas wonderland. Catering staff filled glasses with champagne, but everyone was too stunned to drink.
“What do you think we’re celebrating?” Ian asked.
Fred picked up his glass and held it high. “Desiree’s departure is good enough for me”

The lights dimmed. The music stopped and a solitary figure appeared at the front of the room.

“Merry Christmas everyone, I’m Valerie Street, some of you may remember me, but no doubt I’ve changed since we last met. I’m here to run the company the way my father used to and I want to start with a celebration to thank you all for your hard work.”

Cheering and applause was long and loud. Gina and Ian looked at each other in utter amazement. The young lady standing at the front of the room caught their eye and raised her glass.

Ian raised his glass and mouthed. “Well played!”
“What’s going on?” Fred asked. “Do you know her”
“She’s been around for a week or so.” Ian replied, “Sitting under the bridge.”
Fred laughed. “George used to play that trick too! Pretended he was homeless. Said it was the best way to test people. Fired many folks because of the way they treated the less fortunate. She’s her fathers girl alright. I knew she’d be back.”

Merry Christmas


Grandma’s house – Sheila’s Story.

Butterknowle - where Grandma lived

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What I remember surprises me. The first house I remember my Grandma living in was in a place called Lands, it was a big house with a lot of steps going up to the front door. My Grandfather died long before I was born, so I only remember my Grandma in that big old house. She used to beat rugs on a line in the back garden. I am really old if I remember a time before vacuum cleaners.

My Grandma moved, under much protest, to a little bungalow in Butterknowle. It only had one bedroom, a small living and dining area and a small kitchen. There was a pretty front garden, and in the back garden, as in all houses back then, there was a coal bunker.

My Grandma had white hair, used to take her teeth out and pull funny faces. She talked like a true Geordie. She was funny. Of course I never knew her when she was young. The Alice Hobson I knew was always a Grandma. She had piercing blue eyes and was as sharp as a pin.

My Mam and I didn’t stay with Uncle Billie for long. We couldn’t because we  just didn’t feel welcome and their son Julian, terrorized us. He was an Evil little boy. I think Uncle Billie knew he was bad, but my Aunt thought he was an Angel. I think the last straw was when he took me out in the back yard and dropped a firecracker in a milk bottle. He ran, but I didn’t and I ended up in casualty  to have the glass removed from my arms. A firecracker exploding in a bottle will do that.

Anyone following my story will wonder how I ever survived.

Anyone following my story, that knows me personally, will understand why I am the way I am.

We moved to Butterknowle after when we couldn’t bear living with my Evil cousin Julian anymore. I moved in with my Grandma, sleeping on an air mattress on the floor. There wasn’t room for my Mam to sleep there with me, so she would put my to bed every night, kiss me and then walk up the road to my Aunty Nora’s house. Aunty Nora had a posh house in upper Butterknowle. She didn’t want me staying there because I was a kid and I may mess the place up. Aunty Nora came to a sticky end, but that’s another story.

Staying on an air mattress on the floor was much better than being subjected to the torment of my nasty cousin, much better. My Grandma made me laugh too. She thought every man who spoke to her wanted to woo her and would send the off with a flea in their ear. I laughed a lot the short time I stayed with Alice Hobson.

To read other stories about Sheila, click on the links below.

Mammy I love you!

West Auckland and Aunty Gwen

I am going to continue with ‘Sheila’s Story today’, just to put the back ground together of who she is and where she came from. Just to recap:

My story starts when Sheila is three, and living with her drunken violent dad and her long-suffering mother. In a recent blog ‘One Beating too Many’ you learned how Sheila’s mother walked out on her mentally and physically abusive husband for good, much to Sheila’s relief. Then Sheila learned they were moving in with an uncle and aunt whose son she was scared of.  The story continues:

Sheila was very quiet for the rest of the evening. She sat and watched her mam play at hairstylist much to the delight of Mrs Matthews whose hair was being styled. Mrs Matthews didn’t notice how tense both Sheila and her mam were, why would she?  she was being fussed over and pampered. The styling and teasing was just about over when someone knocked loudly at the door making both Sheila and her mam jump. Sheila started to cry!

“Whats wrong pet?” said Mrs Matthews “there’s nothing to cry about.”

Sheila was afraid it was her dad coming to get them. I think her mam was thinking the same thing. Being scared wasn’t nice. It was Uncle Ronnie. Sheila’s mam ran to her older brother and they hugged. They talked quietly for a minute by the door and then Uncle Ronnie came in. He was a funny man with black curly hair. He kind of looked Italian! Sheila knew about Italians, she can’t remember how, but she did and she liked them.

Mrs. Matthew gave Sheila’s mam half a crown for styling her hair and then they left with Uncle Ronnie in his minibus. Uncle Ronnie had a garage and as well as fixing cars, he ran a school taxi service. The minibus was what he used to transport kids to and from school. Sheila, her mam and Uncle Ronnie all squeezed together in the front, no seat belts in those days.

“Ethel, I think you may have to stay with Bob and Gwen in West Aukland tonight!” Uncle Ronnie said “Ginny isn’t feeling so good and hasn’t had chance to make up the spare bed”

Sheila wanted to clap her hands with joy. She loved Uncle Bob and Aunty Gwen, they didn’t have any kids and always made a big fuss of her. She sat there holding her breath, waiting for her mum to reply.

“I’m not sure if they are home Ronnie, I haven’t spoken to them in weeks”

“Don’t worry” Uncle Ronnie answered. “I popped in to see them on my way here, as I was dropping some kids off at St. Helen’s school, they said you could stay as long as you wanted”

Sheila was so relieved she felt like crying again. The longer they could put off staying Joe the better, he scared he almost as much he dad did.

Sheila squeezed her mam’s hand and looked up at her.

“I love you mammy” she said. She put her arm around Sheila and hugged her close “I love you too pet”

Sheila’s Story – Homeless

A K6 Telephone Box and a King Edward VII Pilla...

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Sheila was four years old that fateful day when her and her mother left her childhood home. She was too young to remember much about it, other than they had no clothes, no money and nowhere to go. Her mother was sobbing silently for a while, but then pulled herself together. She was holding Sheila’s hand tightly.

“Where are we going mam?”  she asked her mother.

“To Mrs. Matthews house pet, I promised I would give her a perm” her mother replied.

Sheila couldn’t understand why her mum would be going to give someone a perm right now. Feeling her stare, her mother looked down at her and said “we need the money, we have to get a bus to your Grandma’s house so we can sleep there tonight”. Sheila didn’t think there would be room to sleep at her Grandma’s house. It only had one bedroom, it was an ‘old folks bungalow’. Still her mother knew best.

They walked to Mrs Matthews house, stopping on the way to make a phone call. Sheila stood outside of the red phone box waiting for her mum. She could have stood inside, but those telephone boxes smelled awful. Her mum was sobbing again when she finished her phone call.

“Whats wrong mam?” Sheila asked.

“Grandma doesn’t have room for us Pet, we will be staying with Uncle Ronnie for a while”

Sheila shivered, Uncle Ronnie was nice, but he had a son called Joe. Joe wasn’t nice, he wasn’t nice at all! She had heard her mam say there was something wrong in his head. He made Sheila do awful things she didn’t want to do.  She shivered again as they walked along the road hand in hand until they reached Mrs Matthews house.

Mrs Matthews had a phone which Sheila’s mother used, leaving four pennies to cover the cost of the call. She made arrangements for her brother (Uncle Ronnie) to come and pick her up after she finished the perm. Sheila felt like crying now because her mam was safe from beatings, but Sheila didn’t know how things would turn out for her with Joe around. She didn’t say anything though because she wanted her mam to be safe.