by Jenny

Most people hate hospitals, but not Reg, he loves them. Especially at Christmas. Not the triage unit, where the drunks stagger in, bloody and beery from Office Dos Gone Wrong. Reg likes the quieter wards. Sometimes he volunteers to be Father Christmas for the children, but this year they’d asked someone else. Someone a bit younger. He understood.

He goes along anyway, dressed in his best suit, looking like he’s stepped straight out of 1945, his hair Brylcreemed and pencil moustache immaculate.

“You look very pretty tonight Alice” he tells an exhausted looking nurse and produces a tiny ribboned parcel for her. Her face lights up.

“Reg you shouldn’t - you’ll turn my head!”

“Oh Alice, you know if I were fifty years younger…”

“Reg you old fox!” she blushes and he tips her a wink. Then she looks at her watch and frowns “haven’t you got anything better to do on Christmas eve than make me blush?”

“I’m just dropping in this bag of crochet my daughter’s done for the new babies.”

“Karen and the family down for Christmas are they?”

“The house is full of people - I come here to get a bit of peace and quiet!” They both look around at the corridors teaming with people coming and going with bags of gifts and trays of food and they share a laugh.

“That’s very sweet” Alice tells him “I’ve got to dash, but you know your way to maternity don’t you?”

Alice pecks him on the cheek and hurries away.

He takes the crochet with the shop labels carefully snipped out along to the maternity wards. The tired nurses smile when they see him, visibly brightening at his old-fashioned suit and cheerful face. He’s a regular. An old favourite. They crowd around to admire the tiny garments he’s brought and Reg is in his element.

“How’s Karen and the grandkids Reg?”

“She’s wonderful” he tells her “and Alfie’s nearly four and Charlie’s just starting sitting up by himself”

“I don’t know how she finds time to do all this knitting for us Reg”

“Ah - it’s crochet - she’d be furious if I let you think it was knitting!”

The nurses laugh as Reg pretends to tick them off.

Then, one by one, they scurry away - back to work, or home, or sleep until Reg stands alone with the ward sister. Before she can tell him visiting time is over Reg says:

“I’d best get back. I want to see the boys before bedtime.”

“Merry Christmas Reg” the sister says “Lovely to see you.”

Reg gives a flourished bow to make her laugh and heads home as another nurse joins the sister at the desk.

“He’s a sweetheart isn’t he? How old is he? Eighty?”

“Must be if he’s a day” says the sister “He’s a kind soul. Always popping in with something. His family are lucky to have him.”

Meanwhile Reg lets himself in to his silent house. There are no decorations in the window and no stocking on the fireplace. The heating is off, so he makes himself a hot water bottle and sits in his chair, waiting for Christmas day to dawn.