Cumming’s goings: ‘Twas the night before Christmas...

May Hill viewed from Cam Peak and Long Down, near Dursley, Gloucestershire

May Hill viewed from Cam Peak and Long Down, near Dursley, Gloucestershire - Credit: Archant

with BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Mark Cummings

Many years ago I made an impulsive festive decision to sit down by the fire with a glass of red wine

Many years ago I made an impulsive festive decision to sit down by the fire with a glass of red wine to try and compose the Cotswold version of the classic Clement Clarke Moore poem 'The Night Before Christmas' - Credit: Archant

Many years ago I made an impulsive festive decision to sit down by the fire with a glass of red wine to try and compose the Cotswold version of the classic Clement Clarke Moore poem The Night Before Christmas. My most vivid childhood memory is reading this on Christmas Eve in front of the fire – a tradition I’ve passed on to my children. The original version starts:

---------------------------------------------

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there”

Most Read

----------------------------------------------

Once I’d committed to this I knew I wouldn’t rest until it was completed and so the whole process took three nights and an entire case of Rioja that I’d stored away for the festive period. I wanted to create something that might be read and shared by others on Christmas Eve. For me this is the most magical day of the year and I hoped it would become part of the Cotswold Christmas culture. Like a fine Christmas pudding, certain things take a while to ferment and you have to be patient before tasting the final effect. After all these years I’m thrilled to say that for many, it has become a fixture on the 24th.

Firstly, there is the radio version with festive music, sleigh bells and sound effects. This is always broadcast at 6:45 am and 8:45 am on Christmas Eve and then repeated in the evening. A friend of mine on a different radio station asked my permission to perform it on his tea time show; the flattery worked and amazingly I agreed! Secondly, we have the printed version that hundreds of people have downloaded to read at home with their family and I’ve also had groups and organisations requesting the text for their Christmas Party nights, including several poetry groups and Women’s Institutes. Thirdly, we have the live performance readings. I’ve been asked to do this at venues across the county, topped last year when I read it at a packed Gloucester Cathedral at The BBC Christmas Celebration. It was a real thrill to share this with so many people on such a magical evening. I’ve added the tiniest of tweaks from the original for the updated 2013 mega remix.

Before you read it just imagine a cosy, snowy, magical Christmas Eve in the Cotswolds and let the words paint a picture in your mind. I hope you enjoy it and if you do I’d be overjoyed if you read it on the 24th in front of the fire with a glass of red with friends and family.

-----------------------------------------------

’Twas was the night before Christmas when all through the Shire,

Men from the Cotswolds were caught in the mire,

With their shopping not done on the day from hell,

They usher up help from Esso and Shell.

At the window small faces were pressed to the sill,

But daddy was stuck back on Crickley Hill,

The children were ushered to snuggle in bed,

While visions of iPads danced in their head.

Then all of a sudden they heard such a clatter,

Daddy was back but what was the matter?

He threw down his car keys and furrowed his brow,

Then turned to mama and started a row.

“Why leave things so late?” she exclaimed with a sigh

“It’s just what men do, there’s no reason why!”

As the magic of Christmas was beginning to go,

They re-lit their fire ’neath the mistletoe.

As the snow iced the land like a white Cotswold cake,

The sound of St Nick was beginning to break,

When what to their wondering eyes should appear,

A miniature sleigh with eight small reindeer.

This jolly old man with his bundles of toys

Looked down from on high at our girls and boys,

He appeared in the sky as if sent from heaven,

Flew over the Forest and followed the Severn.

To the old bridge he soared then shouted out loud,

Come Donder and Blitzen we’re going to Stroud

He swept up the valley where the mills once stood,

Then made to refuel at the Enchanted Wood.

Highgrove was quiet as he spotted the trees,

A runway of lights made the landing a breeze,

The pies and the carrots as always were laid,

In a neat little pile by the Acer Glade.

With a nod to dear Rudolph and a tug on the rein,

Said bye to Westonbirt and got going again

Up through branches they rose higher and higher,

And headed for Gloucester and the midnight choir,

The Cathedral they spied in the blink of an eye,

The echoes of carols rose up in the sky,

And then with a twinkling, mischievous grin,

St Nick took his team for their favourite spin,

From Robinswood Hill they revved up the pace,

Time now for fun at that prized landing space,

With a weave and a whoosh and sleigh full of hope,

What fun they all had at Matson ski slope.

Now off to the Cotswolds to deliver more bounty,

A dry stone wall map led them over the county,

From Birdlip to Bisley from Moreton to Stow

The work kept on going down the chimneys below

With his job nearly done in the Cotswolds that night

That jolly old elf made one last flight,

The final location for them to deliver

Had its own mini village and a tree in the river,

The children in Bourton, they lay sound asleep,

Of St Nick and Rudolph they heard not a peep

But one little boy heard the tinkling of ash

So away to his window he flew like a flash

And then to his joy at this late hour

Spied a tiny old sleigh over Broadway Tower

He waved as the reindeer flew further away

What joys they’d left him for Christmas day.

Then as if by magic he thought he could see,

St Nick in the moonlight smiling at ‘me’

He heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.

-----------------------------------------------

This article is from the Christmas 2013 edition of Cotswold Life magazine.

Mark Cummings can be heard on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s morning show 6am-9am

104.7FM and 1413AM, Stroud 95FM and Cirencester 95.8FM

Visit: bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire