A Ghost of Christmas Past

by Dr June McNicholas

I'm sure that all people have fond memories of Christmas. Not least of our children and school nativity plays. But there is one that will haunt me for some time to come....

It all happened when I was living in the remote Scottish Highlands. By 'remote' I mean about 40 houses every 60 miles, but things still go on. We had a 'local' school of around 12 pupils and, yes, we had a nativity play each year. Then one year some bright spark (who had obviously been watching the Vicar of Dibley) decided that it would be lovely to have a 'real' nativity play with real animals in a real barn. I was contacted as it was well known that I had tame, camera-friendly sheep, goats, a baby pony etc. I accepted the challenge. It was for the children, after all.

I set up Alfie, the goat, Poppet, the pony, and a young calf into the designated stable. I even persuaded a couple of hens and Tennyson, the turkey, to come along. Dolcie, my 'pet' sheep couldn't be left behind either. I had hoped to get three llamas from a local farm to replace camels (we can't manage camels in Wester Ross) for the Wise men, but the weather let us down. Snow and ice meant that the llamas couldn't make the venue in time. So what happened? The Shepherds had their sheep, but the 'Wise men' were so upset at not having real animals that we ended up improvising.

It was probably the only time the Wise Men have ever appeared on stage each with a ferret on a harness!

One Wise Man announced 'I bring Frankenstein, my ferret .. and he's just done a poo on the step'.

That might seem crazy enough, but worse was set to happen. One sheep, (aka Dolcie, the Lamb from Hell) decided she was peckish and started to eat the hay in the manger. Poor baby Jesus rolled off the stage into the audience. Alfie, the goat, joined in. The stage erupted in chaos as the calf decided she would also tuck in, farting great clouds of methane as she did so. All the audience and children gagged at the noxious fumes and Tennyson Turkey decided he would gobble as loud as he could to voice his annoyance.

Ever the professional, the teacher decided to abandon the stage to the animals and continue with Christmas carols and songs. We managed to avoid any mention of socks during 'While Shepherds Watched', but the rendition of 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' was somewhat mangled as the 6-7 year olds had mostly lost their front teeth, leading to 'Thanta Clauth isth coming to town'. This was swiftly followed by 'God rest ye Merry Gentlemen', which sounded horribly like 'God rest your bellies, gentlemen, let nothing rude display'.

Needless to say, we did not repeat that form of nativity in later years!

Wishing all our members
Laurie A Merry Christmas
A Happy New Year

And on that note, let me wish you and your ferrets, a wonderful Christ-mas and a prosperous New Year. Let's make 2014 a year to make a difference to ferret welfare.

So take a tip from 'Laurie' in the photo! Rest your bellies, don't display anything too rude, and have a very merry Christmas.


(First published in NFWS News - #97 Autumn 2013)