It was Christmas Eve. The skies were miserable and the streets dank and dreary. I was 8. My Mam was working harder than ever getting ready for Christmas, cleaning and baking and fussing about and my Dad was out of sorts. He was mostly a bad-tempered hypochondriac but he could be charming and funny and loving aswell. And we loved him. His temper that day was not improved by the discovery that there were no Palethorpe sausages for breakfast on Christmas morning.
He would only eat Palethorpe's sausages. He thought they were the best. He was always very rude about Wall's sausages. So I was bundled into my coat before I could protest too much and sent on a message to Villette Road where Adie's the Fishmonger sold Palethorpe's. Only, Adie's had closed early. My last chance was Walter Wilson's Grocer's Shop. Walter Wilson's had sausages alright but they were chipolatas, not proper fat sausages and they were skinless(even at 8 I knew this was wrong). They were also a nasty bright pink colour. Worst of all they were made by Walls.
I stared at the chill cabinet, frozen by indecision. These were the only sausages I was likely to find. But they were Wall's skinless chipolata sausages, not Palethorpe's. Damned if I did and damned if I didn"t. Time was running out. I decided it was better to have something than nothing and I took the independent decision to buy them, feeling a little bit proud of myself.
That didn't last long. There was murder when I got home, shouts of disbelief, in which 'Wall's' figured a lot, cries of "I 'told you!', lots of 'tch!' and shaking of the head. My Dad was behaving as if I had done something terrible to him on purpose. I tried to plead for sympathy. I did not think I deserved all this carry on when I had done as I was told as far as I could. He calmed down after a bit but the Christmas feeling was severely bruised and we were all a bit quiet before me and my brother went to bed.
There was no listening out for Jingle Bells that night, no delight in anticipation of the gifts to come. I was consumed by fury and determined to do something. I had to work out what I could do to turn the situation round and show my Dad to be in the wrong, as I believed he was with all my heart. I would show him!
I thought of those nasty looking bright pink chipolatas in the pantry downstairs and how much better Christmas would be if they had never been allowed in the house and it came to me that I could put things back the way they should have been. I had some money in a money box and expected more in my stocking. I would get up early, cook the sausages, eat them and give my Mam the five shillings they had cost.
I'm not sure if I slept at all. I was up at 5, dragging my sleepy 4 year old brother behind me. He always had a healthy appetite and a pound of sausages, especially Wall's, was a bit of a challenge for me on my own. I thought we could eat half a pound each but it turned out he wasn't very hungry at that time of the morning and I had to force and cajole him one sausage at a time. I think he ate three, maybe it was two and a half. And I, girlfully, ate the rest, even though I preferred Palethorpe sausages like my Dad. I could eat thirteen nasty sausages if I had to
When my Mam and Dad got up and I triumphantly gave them payment for the sausages, I was in more trouble. I knew I would be. But I sensed a moral victory. My Dad never apologised but he was a bit sheepish.
Later on I didn't feel like eating much Christmas Dinner.