“They play the songs on the radio, ringing bells and frightful weather – its beginning to look a lot like Christmas. “

Having children around sharpens the imagery, heightens the expectation – it’s their time. A week to go – a week of goodwill and treats; where pens are put down and games are played. Where toys are brought in from home; where songs are sung and posted lists are discussed with fevered anticipation. Will he come, will he bring the scooter, the Xbox, the Ipod touch?

They play the songs on the radio as we dress for the day – from now on our troubles will be miles away – if the fates allow.

The fates we hope will allow.

They play the songs and the songs are sung between mouthfuls of Frosties – glad tidings we bring. Dad, what’s a tiding? Good question indeed. Because they play the songs and then they read the news and in our homes fairy lights twinkle and the flames of scented candles dance even though the music has stopped.

In my head a choir sings Away In A Manger as a woman cries.

It’s a season of images and familiarity – a season for children. We dream of a white Christmas as the rain drives against the window and we hope for days that are merry and bright as our children listen, to hear not sleigh bells but stories on the radio and television that trouble the adult’s thoughts. Do we shelter or inform?

This is the time for young children who understand the world is better with magic and fantasy and hope. It’s the reason Father Christmas exists, because the world is better with him in it than without.

They play the songs and read the news and the contrast is jarring – lacing each lyric with a grief and terror that every parent will understand. It shouldn’t mean more just because it’s Christmas, it doesn’t mean more because it’s Christmas. But this is their time and their time has been made all too brief by all too familiar a story. And as we head to the school gates and reassure ourselves that our children are safe, the debate sparks on the airwaves and I have to turn the radio off because, oh yes, yet again – the wrong conclusion will surely be drawn, the denials will be made and we’ll be forced to endure the same old tale in another unsuspecting town who thought, as do we all, that they were immune.

And they play the songs, and we sing along and revel in our kids unfettered excitement and hope that one day, someone somewhere will be find a way to stop the cavalry.

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