A Tale to Warm Thy Hearth

Once upon a holding cell…

For the record, please state your name.




Come now Nicolas, this is 1995. You can’t really expect anyone to believe that you are saint.

But officers, I was venerated by Greek and Italian mariners as early as the 4th century.

Well that’s very nice for you but this isn’t the Mediterranean, Nicolas, this is North Wales. What brings you to Point of Ayr?

Business, actually, I pass through this time each year.

Can you account for your whereabouts between 1 and 2a.m on the morning of December 25th?

…while down the hall with a boy as well.

Young man, do you understand why you’ve been brought here today?

Ay, sir.

Good lad. Would you mind telling us your name please?

Billy Tanner, sir.

And how old are you Billy?

11 an’ three quart’rs, sir.

Billy, would you tell us how you met the man calling himself ‘Saint Nic’?

T’was at me house, sir. Ain’t no sleepin wuf no heat, so I’s awake when ‘e plunk down the chimney.

The chimney?

Ay, sir, with a proper big crashin ‘e came on. Spilt the kettle an’ all.

Did he say why he was there, Billy?

Ay, had a pressie, ‘e did. Grand fine ball fir playin, sir. Said I’d been a right good boy an’ t’was a pressie fir me.

Good for you, Billy, so you still have the ball?

Nay, sir.

Why not?

N’ver claimed it. Not a ball I’s truly wishin fir. 

And all because he caused a fuss...

Lord Wringbottom, you are Chief Officer at Point of Ayr Colliery Company and plaintiff in this matter, for the record please describe the incident on the morning in question.

Theft of the first order, I say! My company, upstanding institution that it is, has been a driving force of the Ayr community for decades, and I’ll not stand by while some red-cloaked cad makes off with our private holdings.

Approximately how much would you say was stolen, sir?

Well, couldn’t say exactly. Difficult to gauge, you understand. Several thousand tons, at least.

And you claim this to have been perpetrated by one man working alone?

Scoff if you will, but I was there! Jammed the lot into the damndest big sack you ever saw.

Did you attempt to stop him?

Bloody how could I have? Flew off in that blasted sleigh of his, didn’t he? And he wasn’t alone. He had some wee scamp with him as well.

… which made more questioning a must.

What can you tell us, Nicolas, about this boy, Billy Tanner?

Well let’s see…I’d made my list months ago, and I’d checked it twice. According to my records Billy Tanner helps his father with chores, looks after his sister, and keeps up with his school work: a very good boy, indeed.

Can you describe the nature of your relationship with the boy?

Quite simple really, the child makes a wish. I grant it.

And how did you come to be seen together on the morning in question?

But, I believe I’ve just told you. It’s my duty to grant a good boy his wish.

And curious, indeed, was the story…

Slow down please, Billy, we must be clear.

Ay, sir.

Has Nicolas told you to say these things?

E’ most certainly hasn’t, sir. T’was me wish an’ no m’stake.

Now, Billy, we can appreciate how exciting Nicolas must seem to you, but we must insist that you tell the truth.

Tis true, sir! Pa says it’s bad enough the works all gone an’ naught to eat. Nows we’s not got a whisp o’ heat n’ the house neither. Why, whole o’ the Point’s a chiverin with cold, sir!

Alright, lad, just tell us what you remember.  And please be careful to leave nothing out.

Ay, sir. Too easy, tha’ is. Ol’ Saint Nic, ‘e come bangin down before me very eyes with tha’ ball, and I’s gives ‘em a good thankin too, but ‘e looks at me knowin there be somfin amiss. So I’s blabs me proper wish, I did.  An’ Bob’s yer Unc, ‘e says; “Right, off we go then”, an’ off we went. Tis the way it was, sir. Honest-like; jus as ya say.

…but mean old nasty, he wasn´t sorry.

Lord Wringbottom, if you’ll please remain calm, sir, we can assure you that justice will prevail. Calm, you say?! And just how do you propose I remain calm while the victim of grand theft coal? Oh the agony! Now how am I to sell what I don’t have?

Sell, my Lord?

What? Did I say that out loud? Nevermind. None of your concern. Could we please carry on? I’ve a pressing engagement I cannot miss.

Of course, sir, our apologies. In your estimation, what were the motives behind the incident?

My god man, are you hard of hearing? Has the constabulary all gone deaf? I’ve already told you exactly what the scallywags have done with my most valuable commodity. Divvied the bloody lot amongst the townsfolk, they have.

The citizenry, sir?

Yes, blast it all! Today every parent and child in all of Ayr warms their sooty hands on my nest egg. They’re all in on it, I tell you, each and every grubby one.

But, my Lord, what would the populace of Point of Ayr want with your coal reserve?

Yet fear not, our tale ends fair…

That’s a good lad, Billy. We’re all finished here.

Ay ,sir. Is jus’ tha’ we’s owe im’, sir, each lass an’ ev’ry lad, we do.  

Of course, Billy, of course. Now it’s Christmas and you’ve had a rather busy day. Your father will be waiting.

Jus’ promise you’ll leave em’ be, sir! ‘e done right by Point o’ Ayr an’ no mistake. Warmed the whole holiday, ‘e has.

…because the true cad was laid bare…

Congratulations, old chap. We’re sure you’ve heard about Lord Wringbottom’s embezzlement scheme. Naturally this means you’re off the hook, Nicolas.

Ah yes, Wringbottom. Quite the naughty boy according to my records.

 Well, it’s ‘case closed’. The wrinkly, old crook’s even skipped the country, so no need for any more games. May as well come clean, eh? Where’d you stash the coal?

Ho-Ho-Ho! Why into each and every stocking of course, so the happy townsfolk might know warm holiday cheer.

Look, Nicolas, you can come off it. The charges have been dropped. We’ve no reason to hold you. Young Billy Tanner’s outside singing your praises—along with half the town I might add.  Why not tell us what really happened?

Just a little boy granted one selfless wish, gentlemen. What could be more important than that?

Alright, Nicolas, have it your way. You’re free to go. May we call you a cab?

Very gracious of you, officers, but my sleigh should be winging by any moment. By the way, Happy Christmas. You’ve been very good boys this year.      

…which meant a cozy Christmas for a town called

Point of Ayr.