Mistletoe and Baileys! by Kate Furnivall
Okay, I’ve flipped over my calendar. It’s official: December is here. Yes, dear reader – Christmas is zooming towards us even faster than one of David Attenborough’s stripey pyjama sharks. And I am prepared to admit it here in black and white – I LOVE Christmas.
I adore all the glitz and the tinsel and the cards tumbling through the letter box, the aroma of mulled wine and the foolish belief that this year I won’t have finished the Christmas Baileys before Santa hoiks himself up on to my chimney. Always I am convinced that Christmas will be more magical than ever. Even the annual heated – and I mean HEATED – argument about the height of the Christmas tree has become a tradition – BIG, it must be BIG!
For all of us I think Christmas is about childhood. And this connects very strongly with my latest book The Betrayal. No, it’s not about mistletoe and snowballs, but it IS about the bonds of childhood. At its core lies the relationship between twin sisters.
I am a twin myself and my earliest memory is of one very special Christmas. When we were three years old my twin sister, Carole, was taken to hospital with polio. We had never been apart even for a day, so to be separated for several months was as traumatic as a knife wound for us both.
The day she came home is my earliest memory. It was Christmas Eve. I remember sitting on the bottom of the stairs, quivering with excitement. I heard the ambulance draw up outside and saw the ambulance-man carry her into the house with a blast of icy air. I ran to him and looked up at Carole in his arms, searching for the sister I’d lost. Her face was very pale against his dark navy uniform and she wore a blue ribbon in her hair.
And there were leg-irons on her small legs.
That came as a shock. Horrible contraptions of black metal and brown leather. But I forgot them in a moment as soon as we were seated on the sofa together, touching each other, laughing, playing, prodding, finding the other half of ourselves. The next morning Father Christmas brought jigsaws and there were cakes and crackers and games to follow, but all I remember is sitting tight against my sister doing those simple little jigsaws again and again together. We didn’t leave each other’s side all day, hair and skin mingling as we merged into one person once more.
Fortunately my sister made a full recovery from polio and two years later we trotted off to school together, hand in hand. But I can still taste the happiness of that day whenever Christmas comes around, and it tastes of sugar mice and smells of Christmas tree (which is why I won’t give house room to a fake one) and sturdy brown leather straps.
It was the resurgence of those same powerful emotions that drove me to write The Betrayal. And as it has reached #10 in the Bestseller List, I know that this Christmas really will be more magical than ever. Now, where’s that bottle of Baileys?