“MRS JONES’S CHRISTMAS”
“MRS JONES’S CHRISTMAS”
© 2006, Bella Fortuna®
“Bore da, Mrs Jones!” the street market trader cried to the rather frail old lady with wisps of snowy white hair escaping from her Fifties-style hat. He knew she wouldn’t answer him, just raise her brolly in a form of greeting. That’s what she always did.
Well, Mrs Jones’s hat was a very nice one, although it had, if truth be known, seen better days. She had bought it at great expense in Llandudno for her sister’s wedding in 1958. She and Idris had never produced offspring, although she was aunt to three girls and a boy. Her sister and husband were not as restrained as she and Idris.
Mrs Jones had been overjoyed to come across the hat again in the attic only a few years ago; it was in good condition so she had worn it for shopping ever since. Being navy, it not only suited her, it also went well with her raincoat. You needed a raincoat in Bangor. You needed a raincoat in Wales! Mrs Jones’s brolly was navy, too. It was a good colour, navy, because it didn’t show the dirt too much and she didn’t have to waste her little pension on frequent dry-cleaning.
All the street market traders knew of Mrs Jones. Well, she had been coming around their stalls since as far back as any of them – even Ivan – could remember. Ivan was in his fifties now, with a family of his own to provide for. Ceridwen and Arwyn had rosy cheeks and black hair just like him, and they were his pride and joy. Times were often difficult, especially leading up to Christmas when people had so much to buy but no extra money to do it with. Even still, he felt a twinge of pity for “poor old Mrs Jones”, just as he had when he first started selling fruit and vegetables from his father’s stall back in the Seventies.
He often saw her rummage under the stalls, poking at escaped potatoes or carrots with her brolly. She’d fetch them out, putting her prizes in her bag. Her life must be so hard, he thought, with no husband to support her. He knew, because his wife Arian worked there, that Mrs Jones bought many of her things from the Oxfam shop. Sometimes, when the pang of guilt twanged rather loudly, he would put a few baking potatoes, an onion or two and a cabbage into a bag for her. She was never too proud to accept. No, Mrs Jones thanked him graciously, just like the Queen might have done, had he given a present to her.
Ivan Evans lived quite near Mrs Jones, and knew her house was old and rickety and probably didn’t have central heating. She certainly didn’t have double-glazing like he and his family did. No, peeling paintwork, more likely! And he’d noticed a couple of slates in her roof had slipped. That house must be terribly damp. How could the poor soul live in such a state, he often asked himself. Why didn’t her relatives come and sort her out? “Not much to look forward to when we’re old” he said to himself.
Ivan asked Arian if she would mind having Mrs Jones round on Christmas Day. “What, that batty old lady?” she shrieked. But she immediately agreed when she saw Ivan’s face. He looked hurt and she didn’t want to hurt the nicest kindest heart she’d ever known. Ceridwen and Arwyn thought it would be good fun, as long as Mam didn’t give the old lady Brussels sprouts. They’d seen that advert! So, Ivan was tasked with inviting Mrs Jones to Christmas dinner. “Arrive in time for the Queen’s speech,” Ivan had said.
Christmas Day arrived and so did Mrs Jones (they weren’t sure she’d remember), bearing some packages wrapped with recycled greetings paper. Somehow, she knew all their names because there was a present addressed to each of them. It didn’t really make a difference because each present could have been for any of them. And each present had come from the Oxfam shop and Arian had helped Mrs Jones to choose them. Poor dear! She had so little money to spend, that it had taken Arian quite a while to find something even remotely suitable. Still (as she had warned Ceridwen and Arwyn) it was the thought that counted.
They had a lovely day. The room was decorated in red and gold, and so was the tree. The merry lights twinkled on and off, rhythmically. There were presents under the tree – even some for Mrs Jones. She was delighted with hers - new handkerchiefs and some stockings and a bright red scarf. She insisted on wrapping the scarf round her neck straight away, and nestling into the comfortable, cosy armchair as she listened to the Queen. Nice smells emanated from the kitchen. Ivan told Mrs Jones that Arian was an excellent cook.
Not long after the Queen had finished, Mrs Jones was called to the dining table. Goodness! It groaned under the weight of the food. She had never seen so much since her sister had got married.
The table was also decorated in red and gold – a red tablecloth, red napkins (Arian insisted on calling them serviettes, which made Mrs Jones cringe), and gold crackers. The children shouted happily, pulling the crackers, exchanging mottoes and grabbing the little gifts. Mrs Jones had an impulse to gather them all up and put them in her bag to take home with her, but she had to be polite.
There was enough food to last a frugal person a month. Salmon and prawns for starters. A massive turkey with all the trimmings followed. And then, just to make sure Mrs Jones did not go away feeling peckish, there was trifle, pudding (no sixpences, though), cake and mince tarts. Not to mention brandy sauce and brandy butter. Phew! Ivan and his family had made a huge effort to make Mrs Jones feel at home.
The family played charades whilst Mrs Jones watched and snoozed. Eventually, it was time to leave and Mrs Jones thanked Arian and Ivan for their hospitality and kindness. They glowed with the pleasure that comes from acting virtuously.
Three days later, Mrs Jones went to the Post Office - Swyddfa’r Post – to collect that meagre pension of hers. Could she see Hugh, she enquired of the clerk? Hugh Jones was the manager, not a relative. Still, Mrs Jones had been doing business with Hugh for many years, so she was allowed to use his first name. The clerk smiled and said she would check to see if Mr Jones was available.
Behind the scenes Hugh groaned. That was at least two hours of the afternoon gone! However, Mrs Jones was a good customer so, of course, he agreed. Two and a half hours later Hugh emerged. Mrs Jones remained in his office. Hugh gave the clerk a cheque (properly made out to the Post Office, and written by Mrs Jones) for several thousand pounds. Poor old Mrs Jones wished to add to her ever-increasing stock of “Granny Bonds”! The old lady, Siobhan the clerk acknowledged, was worth quite a fortune.
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