A St John’s Christmas Story

By Brian Stobie’s Mentees

The light was dim outside, flakes of snow had started to flurry and blow along the Bailey and the rattling of the window sashes further reinforced the message that Winter had most definitely arrived. The thoughts of the students at John’s started to turn to Christmas celebrations and time spent with friends and family. The year had certainly brought its challenges and now was a good time to reflect on what had happened. 

The Christmas card image of a roaring fire was brought to life in the minds of the students. They imagined themselves hugging their family, bristling to share their news as the smell of Christmas delights wafted from the kitchen.

But would that image of the happiest of reunions be fulfilled. After all that had happened this term, was it but a pipedream or would they soon be celebrating with those nearest to them?

Looking around their rooms the students began to pick out what precious items would return home with them. Instead of picturing the rigmarole of the testing that would ensue, each student imagined how much they could stuff into a bag or two (or three or four). How much would they truly be able to carry and what would they leave behind to maintain the sanctuary of their room at John’s?

One student packed just their winter clothes, their laptop and a book for their studies (although they knew they’d never read it, it was just in case). Another student emptied out nearly the whole of their room, forgetting only their pyjamas, which were stuffed into a drawer that they unfortunately forgot to double, triple and quadruple check.

Plants were cushioned with bubble wrap and placed into a shoebox as the wind made the windows clatter, and toothbrushes were crammed into wash bags ready to brush away the sugar-coating of Christmas. It was a longer task than expected, but one that filled the students with excitement for the month they’d spend at home.

Next: sorting out the travel arrangements. This had certainly been an odd year for everyone, uncertain what the future was to bring for all. Students rushed about in their households, hustling and bustling around, dropping in on each other for the occasional chat and gossip about the latest duchess potatoes at John’s.

Meeting and finding friends at John’s wasn’t too hard, but finding a train ticket was certainly a challenge! As term drew to a close, students had to go down all nooks and crannies in order to find the best student deal to return home.

Some were determined to find a direct train ticket (an impossible challenge), some were to take flights home, and some were to drive home. Everyone wanted to be home for Christmas with their families, albeit knowing that they would also be uni-sick, missing their new found friends!

In the morning, the few remaining students began to leave St John’s College. The last mince pies were packaged up in tin foil and the last gifts for friends and family back home were tied up in ribbons. Outside, delicate snowflakes began fluttering down from the snow-laden sky. One cold, lonely girl’s parents couldn’t afford to give her warm clothes. A long train journey home in a draughty, tinselled-up carriage lay ahead of her. Suddenly she heard a soft flump at her feet. A large, clumsily wrapped package opened up in the snow. Inside was a fluffy-hooded coat which would definitely keep her warm all the way home. Smiling, she glanced up to the sky and saw a sleigh led by 9 reindeer with a fat man in red sitting in the front whisk into the clouds.

‘T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse!’ – or at least that was how the few students remaining in college over the Christmas period felt as they observed the eery silence of the college grounds. Occasionally, the faint sound of a squirrel leaping from branch to branch could be heard, as they scurried to collect enough food to stockpile for the winter.

The students did not feel disheartened though, for amongst the light pitter-pattering of the sleety-snow descending upon the bailey as they returned to their rooms, they were met with a welcoming dose of Christmas spirit by the college staff. This was since, inside of their residence, a huge Christmas tree now stood; decorated with large, glistening baubles of all different colours, whilst a winding trail of the finest tinsel hugged the outside of the tree. However, all of this could not subtract from the joyous Christmas jumpers, hats, and tinsel ties that the staff had adorned themselves in as they prepared to give each of the students a special present.

Forlornly, a student waved goodbye out of their window to their last friend departing the corridor for Christmas, as they watched them struggle to wheel their colossal suitcase down the craggy cobbled street of the Bailey. But not all hope was lost, as the student gazed up at the train ticket, for the following day, pinned on their noticeboard, in amongst photos of family and friends, as well as some new photos of the memories they’d made over the last couple of months. They pondered how things may be different when the new year arrives, dreaming of going out and exploring the town at night, of playing sports again and meeting lots new people – although they knew this was very optimistic thinking. The comforting sounds of Christmas tunes and mellow conversation was audible from the St John’s marquee opposite. Through the window, two students could be seen confidently batting a ball across the ping pong table, as a few others observed and cheered at the sidelines. Others students were spotted diving into the post-room, scouring through the parcels to locate their last minute present deliveries before returning home for the holidays.

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