Christmas Eve Midnight Mass is in full voice to welcome in the Day. A new baby is laid in the crib. The priest turns, arms outstretched, palms open. He stands, almost triumphant, in his white vestments shimmering with gold thread. He reminds us of the familiar story while the forest-scented tree, tastefully decorated, twinkles in the candlelight. How joyful. Pulling coats round snug, hats on, boots zippered, we stride out for home smiling, laughing, thankful that the address was to the point and short. Calm and warm waits for us. Our own Christmas tree too, anchored in piles of presents. An early hoar frost glitters the edges of tired winter tussocks. Pools of coloured light thrown by the stained glass glow gently in the Long Night moon. How pretty. Angled angels and sloping crosses sit in deep shadows. Glancing round, I see a pinpoint glow of red, like a small ‘stop’ light. Out of place. Not part of a pattern. My eyes accustom to the darkness. The light glows again. I trace a burning cigarette back to a hollowed face. A figure is slumped against a tilted gravestone. His dog is curled up against him. He greets me. ‘Happy Christmas, love’.
Viv Longley has been writing for her own pleasure since she was a child. Later in life she undertook an MA in Creative Writing at The Open University, specialising in poetry. As well as having one collection (Tally Sheet, Currock Press, 2021) she is undertaking a number of collaborative publications. Notably, Daughters of Thyme. She is also preparing a second collection of her own and a number of essays – the latter to be called I am in a Hurry. ‘Now nearing my 80’s, you just never know how much time you have left!’