AU: Little Britches ATF – Little Ambassadors Series
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Two small boys sat at the kitchen table, looking a little forlorn, considering it was just six days to Christmas and school was over until the New Year. Of course their fathers had left for work and taken their Uncle Josiah with them. They were going to show him around Scotland Yard before he caught the train to the airport later that morning.
"Well, this is a sorry sight,” Ieuan commented. “Even the dogs are sad.” Three dogs, sharing the warm spot in front of the Aga looked up at him, without bothering to wave their tails.
"We miss Uncle Josiah,” Vin told him.
"He's going to come back very soon now,” Ieuan reminded.
"I miss him now,” Vin told him.
JD sighed again.
"Well moping and sighing won't get the dogs walked.” The dogs perked up at the sound of the 'W' word. “So let's get these dishes in the washer and get ready to head out.”
Once they were back from their walk Ieuan told the boys he needed to do some work. He had brought his laptop so he could work at their house, but he needed some peace and quiet.
"What ya doin'?” JD asked.
"I am proof-reading a new book.”
"What's that mean?”
"I read the book to make sure there are no mistakes. If there are, I correct them or make them so the person who wrote it can change it.”
JD crooked his head to one side. “Like the teacher does when I write an essay?”
"Yup kinda like that, but it's a whole book, so that takes a long time.”
"Wow,” Vin commented, “That would take forever!”
Ieuan smiled and ruffled his hair. “Na, this book will take me a few days, I'll be done by Christmas.” He leaned in and winked at the boys. “I'm really good at this, so they pay me very well to get it done fast.” He stood up again. “So, I thought you guys might like to spend some time this morning making decorations.”
Two small faces brightened. They spent the morning making paper chains. Ieuan had purchased packets of plain coloured paper chain strips, he provided both boys with the same number of packs and a stapler each. The strips came with a self-adhesive end, but Ieuan told them they never held together very well once the central heating dried out the glue. Vin, predictably sorted his strips into neat piles by colour and then methodically joined them together in order. JD was more haphazard, joining his in no particular order although he managed to avoid having two colours trouching, most of the time. When they were called for a mid-morning snack they had already created two long chains. By lunchtime the chains were twice as long. The boys were so proud of their creations that they ran to collect their cameras and had Ieuan take their picture with the long chains so they could send them to their uncles. They put up Vin's in the corridor that ran from the kitchen to the living room, while JD's was wound up the staircase. More pictures were taken of the chains in situ.
In the afternoon they took the dogs out again, this time heading in a different direction down to the stream that ran along the boundary at one end of the estate. Both boys liked to walk and splash in as many puddles as possible – after all, what else were wellington boots for? JD's boot got stuck in a particularly deep, muddy puddle. Ieuan had to lift him out of his boot and sit him on a nearby fallen tree before he went back to pull the boot out. He was just coming back with the boot when he froze and lifted his finger to his lips.
Vin was sitting next to JD and both boys froze, not sure what was going on. Ieuan pointed to the root end of the fallen tree, which was right next to JD. There, on the edge of the roots, no more than JD's arm's length, was a robin. All three of them watched as the tiny bird looked at them for moment, and then went back to looking/searching for bugs to eat in the rotting wood. Ieuan edged closer.
"See,” he whispered. “He's not scared of you. Robins are fearless fighters and very inquisitive,” he told them.
As the boys watched the bird that symbolises Christmas in the UK, Ieuan pulled out his phone and managed to get a picture of the boys and the robin together. They sat and watched the bird for a full ten minutes until it flew off. JD was so fascinated that he didn't move or speak the whole time.
The next day, the dogs were left with Ieuan and the boys headed over to the Greens for a day out. They didn't know where they were going, only that it was a Christmas surprise. They arrived at Waddeston Manor, the former home of the Rothschild family. Every year the National Trust, who now owned it, turned Waddeston into a Christmas wonderland. This year there was an Italian theme. The boys loved the Christmas decorations and they loved searching the rooms for the small hidden figures of characters from Pinocchio. In the gardens they followed the explorer trail, with its willow reindeer to Santa's post box.
"You can write a letter to Santa, if you want,” Eric told them.
"We already did that,” Vin replied.
"Well, considering how busy the Post Office is these days, I don't think it would hurt to send two.”
So they wrote a second letter. Along with the usual requests, both boys asked Santa to take extra care of their Uncle Ezra.
Finally they headed to the adventure playground, to burn off some energy before they headed home.
"Fank you for takin' us here,” JD told the retired couple, as he yawned.
"You are very welcome sweetie,” Jane told him as she buckled him into the car seat.
"We really enjoyed it,” Vin added. “Thank you.”
"Glad you liked it,” Eric added as he climbed behind the wheel.
They were with the Greens the next day as well. Jane had been over on Monday to help them put marzipan on their cake. Having had a couple of day to dry out, it was finally time to ice it. The boys watched as Jane separated the eggs and placed the whites in her electric mixer. They both had a turn to stir in the icing sugar. Once Jane said there was enough sugar in the mixture, they both got a go at pressing the button on the mixer to whip it into a soft peek consistency. At the very end, Jane added some glycerine.
"It's a magic ingredient,” she told the boys. "Without it, this icing will set as hard a concrete.”
Now it was time to ice their cake. Jane took the brave decision to just let the boys do it, with minimal supervision. It wasn't going to be a petty cake, there would be no fancy piped curls or mirror flat top, but it would be all their own work.
After lunch they got to add the finishing touches. Jane produced an old biscuit tin full of small figures and ornaments, for the cake. She had very wisely removed the ones she wanted for her own cake.
"Boys you can choose whatever you like to decorate your cake,” she told them.
It would have been nice if they had used just used a few or gone for a theme but, predictably, they put on all the decorations in the tin. She couldn't help but laugh and smile as her two young charges grinned up at her from behind their creation, powdered sugar on their clothes, and icing on their fingers and the tip of JD's nose.
"Boys, that is the most cheerful, and the most Christmassy Christmas cake I ever saw!” she declared.
They weren't quite finished with cakes, as the very next day, Ieuan produced a chocolate Swiss roll cake.
"I know it's from the supermarket, but I didn't think it was fair to ask poor Mrs Green to make another cake, especially as this kind of cake is hard to make.”
The boys agreed that Mrs Green had been more than generous with her baking skills.
"But I do know how to make chocolate butter icing, so we can turn it into a yule log cake.”
By the time they were done mixing icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder together and then smothering the cake in it, all three of them had sticky, chocolate icing on their face and fingers. All that remained to do was for Ieuan and Vin to draw a bark pattern in the icing, before JD shook some icing sugar over it. Finally, they there was a simple chocolate log cake to show for all the mess they had made.
Now it was very nearly, almost Christmas!
Continues in So Here It Is, Merry Christmas
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Paper chains in a classroom
Traditional paper chain
Christmas at Waddeston
Icing sugar - Confectioner's (powdered) sugar
Royal Icing= (link to conversion tables on web page)
Yule Log cake