PEACE, GOODWILL AND PROSPERITY must surely follow
Let's Talk|December 2020
In view of such uncertainty hanging over the rest of this year – and possibly well beyond – it was hard to come up with a suitable offering for December in his usual style, says Keith Skipper. So, he has decided to settle for a festive story set in 1951, that he wrote some time ago.
Keith Skipper

MABEL WAS ROBBED of her husband by one war and lost her son in the next. Arthur died in the Flanders quagmire of 1917. Gregory perished on the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940.

She dusted their photographs gently, a weekly sideboard ritual, gazed for a few moments and then reorganised the crinkled newspaper on her fireside chair.

It was Christmas Eve, 1951, an occasion fashioned out of a clear need for continuing austerity in most Norfolk homes. Making a little go a long way came naturally to Mabel, born into rural poverty as her parents fought to squeeze a living out of a small parcel of stubborn land while Queen Victoria lorded it over half the world.

Married at the turn of the century to the boy she sat next to at village school, Mabel stayed close to deep countryside roots as Arthur worked on farms until he answered the patriotic call to arms. He left a wife and young son behind to join the big march towards mud-caked carnage.

His widow taught herself dressmaking. His son became an accomplished craftsman, providing furniture for some of the fashionable addresses in Norfolk. Then another war reintroduced Mabel to loss.

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