Christmas comes but once a year…

19 December 2022

Howard Bradley reminisces on Christmases gone by, including one that sent him nuts

Iwill never forget one of those ‘people-saying daft-things’ clips from a bloopers type television show many years ago where in reply to the reporter’s question: “What do you think about Christmas?” the response was: “I think we should have Christmas every year!”.

And so in what feels like the blink of an eye, here we are, another year gone, and you are subjected once again to another Howard’s Way Christmas piece. It seems to me that Christmas seems to come about much sooner than once a year!

Casting back in the memory banks I can recall some of my memorable moments over a long lifetime of festive seasons. People often have unrealistic expectations for Christmas and it is no different when it comes to drycleaning. When we had our premises in Newport Pagnell, the prestigious luxury car factory literally just a few hundred yards away down the same road had a very big event for the great and the good, involving dinner. I knew nothing about this of course (not having been invited) until the shop door opened and two men in sharp suits entered and produced a very expensive silk tie, literally dripping with gravy and wine. They asked me if I could clean it for them to which I replied that I could. They then informed me that it was urgent and that it belonged to the chairman. I said I would run a special load and get it done within a couple of hours and explained briefly what I was going to do with it.

However, my projected timeline for the job was not good enough. “Now! We need it done immediately,” they cried. I tried to explain that with the best will in the world the quickest process possible, but even that was not good enough. The company changed hands shortly after that. I hope it didn’t have anything to do with the tie.

One of my favourite films as a youngster was ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ which had Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson in the leading roles. By the late 1970s it was a regular feature on television over the Christmas holidays. So, imagine my surprise after having seen the fi lm about three days before Christmas, who should come through the door of the shop but the very tall, slightly older, but wonderfully well-mannered David Tomlinson asking me for directions to somewhere. I have never forgotten my brief encounter with him, he was so, so polite.

Among our annual seasonal customers we had some high level patronage including members of a Middle Eastern royal family who would fly over to the UK for Christmas and basically buy up the shops. The family members never came in themselves, naturally, instead sending their household staff . Some very expensive beige suits belonging to a Crown Prince were brought in for cleaning one Christmas, and upon checking the pockets I found huge rolls of bank notes.

The person who brought the items in had already rushed off so I phoned the contact number and spoke to an under secretary to an under secretary or some such person and informed them of my find. They asked me how much was there, to which I replied that I had not counted it but had left them banded up as I found them and that they were being kept safely.

Within a matter of five minutes, I had the police on the phone to me asking me to confirm that I had found money and that someone had asked them to check on me. Within minutes of the call, I had suited people arrive sent by Crown Prince to collect the money which I handed over and they counted. I was then thanked fairly brusquely and handed a brown paper bag which was apparently a thank you from Crown Prince.

I did not expect or want a reward but I opened the bag while they watched and found that the contents were about 20 pistachio nuts. I thanked them very much. To this day, I still do not know what to make of that thank you gift.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all, dear readers, and remember, if you get a brown paper bag, it might be nuts…

Howard Bradley

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