“Well – has Felix opened his present yet?”
My mother grinned expectantly, and I realised Felix was at the epicentre of a Christmas Day maelstrøm, with satellites of all heights and ages flying around him at varying velocities and trajectories.
Chief amongst the satellites was a small blonde five-year-old who was clearly on Planet Christmas.
Big Al – my nephew – was highly excited. His voice was high, his grin beatific and his one aim was to get the paper off every package in my sister’s house. And that was an achievement because, what with the extended family descending on the household, the place was awash with presents. Small, tight circles seemed to be the order of the day for Al. Hurricane was his middle name.
So the suggestion that Felix open a present was most agreeable to my nephew. He approved mightily, and he leapt about a bit to show his endorsement.
And then, he set eyes on the shape of the package.
It was cylindrical. It was almost as big as Al himself. My nephew’s eyes gleamed: it was the Excalibur of cardboard boxes.
But it belonged to Felix. This was a promising development for Al, as most things that belong to Felix end up, eventually, belonging to Al. Meanwhile, he did the dance of hope. Hop to the left, hop to the right, jump in a circle, urge your cousin loudly to get the paper off as fast as humanly possible.
Felix took off the paper, and opened the end of the great tube. Inside: Excalibur itself. Or, to be specific, an English Heritage 1066 wooden sword.
Everyone’s eyes widened, even the grown-ups. This was truly a prince amongst swords. A great wooden broadsword to be wielded by a young warrior in combat with – well – other lesser wooden swords.
The sword was taken up and wielded, and everyone ooh-ed and aah-ed. But one small gimlet-eyed figure was advancing upon the cylinder with firm intent.
Two minutes later, Al had pottered off to fetch one of his own swords; a rather natty blue sponge-foam number. The observant might watch the littlest warrior utterly preoccupied, posting the blue sword in and out of the EH sword-box with much the same glee that Eeyore had once exhibited, with a balloon and a honey jar.
Everyone sat down to Christmas Dinner, and ate their fill, and crackers were pulled, and pudding partaken of, until no-one could eat another thing.
And the box was still doing stalwart service. Now, though, the sword was nowhere to be seen. Instead, a small minion – one of those naughty yellow helpers from the feature film Despicable Me – was about to become a minionesque cannonball. There he was, stuffed into the business end of the cylinder, waiting with a measure of uncertainty for something to happen.
And at that point, it was time to leave, and go home to sleep off an enormous, most excellent Christmas dinner.
And I have still, two days later, not learnt what became of the box.