The Staircase 9 17 Bookshelf choice for December is A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)
It’s a nostalgic and funny account of Christmas time in Swansea, south Wales, during the years of Thomas’s youth. Here’s the description of what happens when there is a fire at the Prothero household:
was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii…
We bounded into
the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at
the open door of the smoke-filled room.
Something was burning all right;
perhaps it was Mr Prothero, who always slept
there after midday dinner with a newspaper
over his face. But he was standing in the middle
of the room, saying, ‘A fine Christmas!’
and smacking at the smoke with a slipper.
‘Call the fire brigade,’ cried Mrs Prothero
as she beat the gong.
‘They won’t be there,’ said Mr Prothero,
There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke
and Mr Prothero standing in the middle of them,
waving his slipper as though he were conducting.
‘Do something,’ he said.
And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke –
I think we missed Mr Prothero – and ran out
of the house to the telephone box.
‘Let’s call the police as well,’ Jim said.
‘And the ambulance.’
‘And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires.’
But we only called the fire brigade, and soon
the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets
brought a hose into the house and Mr Prothero
got out just in time before they turned it on.
Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve.
And when the firemen turned off the hose and
were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim’s aunt,
Miss Prothero, came downstairs and peered in
at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what
she would say to them. She said the right thing,
always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their
shining helmets, standing among the smoke and
cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said:
‘Would you like anything to read?’
The edition of A Child’s Christmas in Wales shown here is published by Hachette Children’s Group. Many thanks to them for the use of the cover illustration.