You see, Vicar, it was entirely my fault. I should have given up and booked into a Travelodge. But the first flurries didn't look so bad and I had promised my kids that I would be home for Christmas. So I decided to chance my luck— obstinate dolt that I am!
By the time I was level with Blackpool, the motorway looked more like a skating rink. My windscreen wipers were whirling back and forth, scattering snow in every direction and granting me perhaps an inch of visibility through the fogged glass. I had Chris Rea on the CD player bellowing out, “Driving Home for Christmas” and I could see a few fellow drivers slipping and sliding all over their respective lanes. It was insane but we all thought that we could make it.
The flashing lights brought me to a stop. A frosty-sounding snowman attired in a policeman's uniform asked if I had been drinking. He ordered me to pull off the motorway at the next exit and find somewhere to rest up. I know I should have listened to him but by then I was less than 30 miles from home. I prayed to the Good Lord in Heaven, asking him to keep an eye on me as I navigated the blizzard cloaked A-roads. At least, I reckoned, there wasn't much chance of my meeting oncoming traffic.
If you ask me, the angels were all huddled around a charcoal fire somewhere, roasting chestnuts and grumbling about the weather. Certainly they weren't looking in my direction because ten minutes later I hit some black ice, went into a spin, and ended up in a close embrace with a birch tree. My windscreen shattered, the air-bags inflated and I cut open my ear on the driver's door.
I suppose that at this point deciding to walk was a tad idiotic. But the snow was coming into the car anyway and I thought that I could maybe find a house to shelter in. Only problem was that within sixty seconds I couldn't even see where the road was, let alone if there were any buildings nearby. But it was right then that the miracle happened.
It was like something straight out of Narnia. This cry of “Ho, ho ho!” pierced the storm's howl. Then two reindeer tore apart the wintry veil of snow to reveal a sleigh festooned with balloons and banners, decked high with brightly wrapped presents. And there at the reins Santa Claus himself! Red gown, white trimming, a big, bushy beard and furry earmuffs to keep out the cold.
I don't know who was more surprised— me or Father Christmas. But as the sleigh drew level I noticed that the reindeer were actually made of inflatable plastic. And the silent sleigh was really one of those battery-powered lorries that milkmen drive around in, all dolled up to look Christmasy. And while the guy behind the wheel might not have been the real mccoy from Lapland, he did at least invite me to climb on board.
As we drove along I related my sorry tale and learned that Arthur (his real name) made this trip every year, delivering presents to the children's ward at a local hospital. My street was only slightly out of his way so he offered to drop me home. The journey took a good hour and a half during which time I discovered that Arthur has the corniest collection of Christmas jokes I have ever heard...
What do elves learn in school?      The Elf-a-bet.
What nationality is Santa?      North Polish.
What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?      Frostbite.
Why do birds fly south for the winter?      Because it is too far to walk.
It was a relief to close my front door behind me. By this stage I was too cold and too tired to think straight. I staggered into the bedroom whereupon my wife opened one eye and muttered something indistinct about my being tucked up in some hotel. I crawled into our warm, comfy bed and felt the ache deep within my frost-bitten fingers. I felt sure Sarah wouldn't mind my warming my hands on her smooth, naked back. With hindsight I can see it wasn't a sensible thing to do.
So there you have it, vicar. That's why you find us sitting together in this pew on Christmas morning, one big, happy family, and me sporting this gorgeous black eye.
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