Smorgasbord Christmas posts from Your Archives – Christmas Lights by Jemima Pett

Time for some Flash Fiction from children’s author Jemima Pett and that is more than appropriate as you will see when you read the story….. torches at the ready.

Christmas Lights by Jemima Pett


We sat in darkness. No lights on the Christmas tree, no television.

“Oh dear!” Grandmother’s querulous voice said it all, really.

“I think we blew a fuse,” I said, getting to my feet, wondering what lay between me and the door, since I’d been too engrossed in the film to notice what baby Evie had been playing with. “Don’t worry, I’ll soon have it fixed. Just stay where you are, Gran.”

A howl showed Evie’s direction. I shuffled over, kicking building blocks, or something like them, out of the way, managing not to sprain my ankle. I picked her up, producing more howls.

“It’s just the electricity gone out, poppet. Let me put you in your pen, you’ll be safe there with Teddy.”

“Noooooo! Ma-ma, Ma-ma.”

“Mama will be back soon, pet. Here we are. Safe and sound. Here’s Teddy.”

The sound of something large and soft hitting the side of the playpen suggested that Teddy was getting the rough end of her temper. Wails and tears accompanied the sound, but being a hard-hearted aunt, I left her to it. Mama wasn’t going to be back for a good while yet. Light was the best remedy for this problem.

I felt my way to the wall, and negotiated the side of the room. Good thing I was in my own house. You couldn’t move for clutter in Gran’s, and you just couldn’t move in Evie’s, for fear of stepping on something.

I found the door and stepped out into the cool of the hallway. Somewhere I had a wind-up torch, ready for just such an occasion. I felt around, tangling myself in the tinsel that decorated the stairs, and found, not a torch, but my handbag. My phone was in my handbag. If the battery wasn’t flat, that had a flashlight. Success!

You would think you could walk around your own house in the dark with no trouble. You know it like the back of your hand, right? The trouble is, at Christmas you’ve moved things around so that you can get enough people in. And there are Evie’s things in the hallway – buggy, bags, toy bag for downstairs (and another in her bedroom).

I safely negotiated my way through to the utility room. I shone the light on the electricity fuse box. Sure enough, three of the switches were down. I put them back up. Lights came on. Relief.

I had just reached the living room door when – BANG!

Screams from the playpen and Gran’s seat as the lights went out again.

“These lights flickered,” called Gran.

“Which lights, Gran?”

“The ones on the tree.”

“Hmmm. Let me unplug them, then.” The phone flashlight did its stuff as I crept in front of Grandmother and squeezed between her walking frame and the tree. The socket for the lights was in the usual place – impossible to reach without knocking the tree over. I ignored Grandmother’s complaints as I reached for the plug and pulled it out. The lights couldn’t be affecting the mains circuits, they hardly raised 10 watts between them. Their plug was fused anyway. If it had been the lights, the fuse in the plug would have gone, not the mains.

“Ok, Gran,” I calmed her as she moaned at me. At her age anywhere you touched her hurt, so I tried hard not to touch her. Frankly, I’d tried not to touch her since I was about five, but that’s another story. I’d always been bewildered by these stories of loving grandmothers. Mine had ruled her sons with a rod of iron, and expected her grandchildren to toe the line too. Now she was under my roof, I reckoned she had to live by my rules. The only ones I had were Tolerance, Forgiveness and Don’t Eat Animals, but only the last was easy while she was here.

I managed to get away without upsetting her too much, and returned to the fuse box.

The circuit the tree lights were on must be this one, I thought, putting its switch back up. Nothing much happened, except Evie stopped howling. Whether the grizzling was related to time or to a change in her circumstances I didn’t know. I thought I’d better check.

The plug-in nightlight was working. She was staring at it, fascinated by something, but still grizzling.

“There you are, poppet,” I said. “Enough light to see you by now, at any rate. OK? I’ll check on the other lights now.”

I was on my way back to the fuse box when I stopped. The tree lights had been on the plug and socket downstairs circuit. So had Evie’s nightlight and the television. Why hadn’t the television come back on?

Evie started giggling. It was the sort of chortle she made when someone was entertaining her. Not the giggle when she watched something funny on television. She seemed well able to distinguish the difference between television people and real people. This was her real people giggle.

I sneaked back to the door and peered round it.

In the pink glow of the nightlight I could see Grandmother’s face. It was drawn into a travesty of a smile. Her eyes were wide, staring and perfectly dry, unlike their normal state. Her mouth was open, slack. Something inside me clenched into knots as I looked around towards the playpen.

A line of small people were balanced on the top rail of Evie’s playpen. She continued to giggle, one hand stuffed in her mouth, the other pointing at them, almost counting them as she moved from one to another. More people emerged from the nightlight, a stream of mini-humanoids, all glowing pale pink.

As I stood there I realised my mouth was open, jaw slack, just like Gran. I shut it firmly, and strode back to the fuse box. The flashlight gave me just enough time to turn the circuit fuse off and flip the others back on before it gave out.

The house lights came on. The television came on. How? I ran back to the living room. “Evie? Evie?”

She was sitting in her playpen, moving Teddy’s arms up and down. “Dance, Teddy,” she said, quite distinctly. She was safe. Had I imagined it?

I turned to Grandmother.

Her walking frame remained, but she had vanished.

©Jemima Pett 2013

About Jemima Pett

When Jemima Pett discovered the words ‘portfolio career’ she realised she was an example of a new trend – having not only a number of different jobs, but in totally different fields. These included social work, business management, computer technology, environmental research. The thread running through all of them was communication – and that continued in her spare time with writing and editing club magazines, manuals, reports… Jemima loved words, loved to learn and to apply her learning to the real world.

Eventually the world just wasn’t big enough, and so she went back to inventing her own, as she had as a child. First came the Realms, a feudal England run by princes in castles who just happen to be guinea pigs – although you can read them as people equally well. Then came the Viridian System, a planetary area on the outskirts of known space where a frontier mentality mixes with big business and tourism. Her next project could be anything from a D&D fantasy type world, to a children’s picture book about the real adventures of her guinea pigs, who live with her in a small village in Norfolk, UK.

A selection of books by Jemima Pett

One of the reviews for Book 7 of the Princelings Series Willoughby the Narrator.

Jul 09, 2017 Victoria Zigler rated it Five Stars.

I loved hearing Willoughby’s whole story, and thought the addition of some of his tales when he’s telling them was a nice touch.

And as J.M Pett,   About White Water Landings.

White Water Landings – views of the Imperial Airways Africa service from the ground

The silver bird straightened up and sank lower, lower, until it met the sea with a sleek spray that rushed past the windows in its fuselage. M’beriali – the imperial mail bird, as it became known in Swahili – had arrived!

Imperial Airways’ man at Lindi, East Africa, was Geoffrey Pett, then just 22 years old. Selected as a Commercial Trainee aged eighteen, he was posted to the middle of Africa to look after the ground arrangements for the new ‘Empire’ Flying Boat Service between London and Cape Town/Durban. His Africa postings ranged between Alexandria, Egypt, on the Mediterranean coast, Juba, now in South Sudan, and Butiaba on Lake Albert, Uganda. His war years were as traffic superintendant at Cairo (and at RAF Wadi Saidna, Sudan), handling troop movements and other priority personnel on the civilian aircraft, as well as ensuring the ‘Horseshoe Route’ between South Africa and Australia operated at its turning point, Cairo. His career continued with the new British Overseas Airways Company, through BEA into British Airways, until ill-health retirement in 1968.

Geoffrey was often sought out for his memoirs of Imperial Airways in Africa. After his death in 2005, he left a box of memorabilia including his photograph album and a set of tapes dictated between 1995 and 2004. His daughter, J M Pett, has laboured over the contents, producing this book to place the information out in the wider world. More content and links to archive material are on the website

Praise for White Water Landings:

a remarkable and significant piece of aviation and colonial history… shining through his memoirs is a capacity to ‘make do’…, and the sense of the Imperial ‘family’ as a source of identity, support and obligation away from home. … he reveals anxiety and frustration,cynicism for arbitrary authority… Told fondly, plainly and modestly, with touches of humour, Geoffrey’s story reads easily and lingers long. The text is equally delightful as family history, autobiography, and colonial history.” — Professor Gordon Pirie, Deputy Director of the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, and Editor of the Journal of Transport History

The romance of the Golden Age of flying meets the romance of two people torn apart by war.”

Read all the reviews for all the books and buy:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Jemima on Goodreads:

Connect to Jemima


My thanks to Jemima for this spooky Christmas tale and there will be more from Jemima nearer to Christmas..Please share if you can. thanks Sally


22 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Christmas posts from Your Archives – Christmas Lights by Jemima Pett

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Christmas posts from Your Archives – Christmas Lights by Jemima Pett | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Christmas Trees, Abba, Santa’s wish list and Potatoes… | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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