You know that bit in Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas when the old grump is dragging his sack across the roofs of a terrace of houses. Some of the windows below him are radiating amazing warm light, suggesting the sort of excitement that Father Christmas will never be party to. Did you ever wonder what exactly was going on behind those windows? Then come and spend Christmas in Exeter Street.
This deserved reissue of a 1989 classic takes the idea of ‘no room at the inn’ and turns it on its head. The Mistletoe family begin by opening their doors to both sets of grandparents, followed by some family friends.
But soon the scene becomes more modern as an ‘unexpected uncle’ returns from Australia, and is joined by a homeless single mother whose baby has to bed down in the sink.
As the night progresses the sense of reality goes out of the window; aunts are stacked up on the dresser with their Pekinese dogs dangling in baskets and some random Indians appear out of nowhere and bed down on the mantelpiece.
By the time Father Christmas arrives the house is so stuffed that the poor old duffer has trouble keeping tabs on who’s where. He’s eventually forced into removing his boots and socks just to count them all.
It all ends with some of my favourite Christmas book things. There’s a splendid cross section of the entire house, so you can count the inhabitants yourself, and maybe find space for some more.
And of course there’s a great big Christmas dinner – where absolutely nobody argues. It’s a miracle on Exeter Street.
Christmas in Exeter Street is published by Walker Books