So, let me see if I understand this,’ Erimem said. ‘To celebrate the birthday of someone who might or might not have lived two thousand years ago, people all over the world give each other gifts and have large meals, even though the day is almost certainly not the date this man was born on if he existed at all… and people celebrate this even if they do not believe he existed at all.’

   Andy thought for a moment. ‘Yep,’ she said finally. ‘But I’m pretty sure that’s the version the Grinch would give people rather than the tinsel-tastic, shiny lights, snow, love and hugs version most of us prefer.’

   Erimem’s eyes narrowed as she scrutinised her friend. ‘I have no idea what that sentence means,’ she said.

It means ‘hand me the tinsel’,’ Andy said clambering up a stepladder. When she had reached the top of the stepladder she reached down a hand. ‘Red, please.’

   Erimem plucked garland of tinsel from the box Andy had given her. It felt strange in her hand, and looked to be completely without any kind of worthwhile use. And yet, as she handed it up, she started to smile as she saw the light glint off the tinsel’s countless faces. ‘And the entire nation decks itself in this… tinsel?’

   ‘Most of the world,’ Andy corrected. ‘Tinsel, lights, inflatable Santas… and then probably more tinsel and more lights.’ She swished a hand around, indicating the canteen around them. ‘This is the time I like working here most. I love tinsel-ing the place up. And light. Got to have lights.’

   ‘You know,’ Erimem said suspiciously, ‘had I not seen the shops fitted out with these fripperies I would have thought you were playing a joke at my expense.’

   ‘Fripperies is a very good word,’ Andy beamed. ‘Very Christmassy. Christmas is just the time for fripperies.’

   ‘You are in a very good mood,’ Erimem scowled.

   ‘I’m always in a good mood,’ Andy answered indignantly. ‘Gold tinsel now, please.’

   Erimem just raised an eyebrow at her friend and handed up the gold tinsel.

   ‘Oh, all right, I’m not,’ Andy admitted. ‘But I love Christmas. It was always a big thing at our house, really important to my family, and I want it to be a good one again.’

   ‘I can understand that,’ Erimem answered. Both of Andy’s parents had died within a few years, leaving her to look after her brother, Matt. Having lost her entire family within the space of a year while in her teens, Erimem could certainly empathise with her friend. What do you plan to do to make it special? She asked, peering into the box of decorations.

   ‘I want to get my brother a very special present,’ Andy replied instantly.

‘Which is…?’

   ‘My brother loves Doctor X,’ Andey answered. ‘He’s a huge fan. Always on YouTube catching old episodes or looking for old books of it.’

   ‘I do not know what Doctor X is, ’Erimem answered.

   ‘You need to watch more TV,’ Andy said briskly. ‘It started back in the fifties. Terrified adults, delighted children, monsters in Westminster Abbey, the Queen’s an alien…?’ She clambered down the ladder. ‘We’re starting you on a marathon straight after New Year. Anyway, there’s something from that TV show I want to get him.’

   ‘And?’

   Andy clasped her hands together, obviously excited. ‘The very first book written about the show is incredibly rare. On Ebay it goes for over four hundred quid…’

   Erimem eyed her friend patiently. ‘At risk of repeating myself… and?’

 

‘And she wants to time travel back in time to buy a copy when it was first published?’ Ibrahim demanded.

   Erimem and Andy were now seated at the table in Ibrahim and Helena’s kitchen, having headed there after Andy closed the now very festively decorated canteen.

   ‘You want to use time travel to go Christmas shopping?’ Ibrahim asked, shaking his head.

   Andy refused to lose her festive spirit. ‘You make it sound so frivolous.’

   ‘It is frivolous,’ Ibrahim answered.

   Helena put a cup of coffee in front of her partner. ‘Christmas is frivolous,’ she told him. ‘And I say use every advantage you can get when it comes to Christmas shopping. December in the twenty first century is dog eat dog in the shops.’

   Ibrahim glowered at Helena. ‘Not you as well.’ He turned his attention back to Andy and Erimem, ‘When was it published?’

   ‘1964,’ Andy answered instantly.

   ‘Sixty four?’ Ibrahim asked. ‘And you want to waste a trip to 1964 on shopping?’

   ‘Yep… and I wouldn’t called it wasted,’ Andy replied.

   Erimem had seen something click in Ibrahim’s face. His mind was definitely onto something. ‘What are you thinking?’ she asked him.

   ‘Nothing,’ he replied.

   ‘Lying weasel,’ Helena scolded. ‘Tell the truth.’

   ‘Oh, all right,’ Ibrahim grimaced. ‘I was just wondering why you’d go to 1964 for a book when you could watch Manchester United play?’

   ‘You can watch Manchester United play on TV every week,’ Helena protested. ‘In fact you do watch Manchester United play on TV every week.’

   ‘But that’s today’s Manchester United… this is George Best, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton…’ He looked at the three faces staring back at him blankly. ‘Oh, you’re philistines, the lot of you.’

   ‘Pardon me for not knowing players who retired before my parents were born,’ Andy muttered.

   ‘Football,’ Helena snorted. ‘And you called Chritmas shopping a waste of a trip through time. You do know that the Beatles were on tour in England in November 1964?’

   ‘How do you know that?’ Ibrahim asked.

   ‘John Lennon was cute and George Harrison was sex on legs.’

   Ibrahim held his hands up. ‘I didn’t need to hear that.’

   ‘You two can argue about what was brilliant in 1964 later,’ Andy said. ‘I’m just going for a book.’

   ‘Fair enough.’

   ‘What were clothes like in 1964?’ Erimem asked. ‘Have they changed much since then? It is only fifty years.’

   ‘You’ll see,’ Andy promised.

 

A trek round the charity shops found what Andy and Erimem needed for their trip. Andy demanded that everything be laundered at least twice to get rid of the smell of must and she was disappointed by Helena’s uncertainty over their makeup.

   ‘In 1964 the Sixties were only just starting to swing,’ she said. ‘Get the makeup wrong and you’ll stand out.’

   ‘I thought that was what the Sixties were about,’ Andy said.

   ‘The Sixties were about celebrating that everybody survived the Fifties,’ Helena muttered.

   For Erimem they had found a pair of narrow black trousers which tucked into a pair of pixie boots and a warm black sweater with a heavy black coat. Andy fared better with a very fashionable knee-length dress in black and white squares and a pair of white knee boots that had black and white checks around their top. Helena wondered if Andy’s outfit was possibly six months or a year early, but they were going to London, where fashion was a bit ahead so she guessed they would be all right.

   ‘Besides,’ Andy said. ‘I’m wearing a bloody thick coat. It’s cold when we’re going.’

   ‘Money,’ Helena said suddenly. ‘What are you going to do about money?’

   Andy grinned and jangled a purse. Mum’s grandad – my great grandad – was a terrible hoarder. He hated decimalisation and was sure it would never work so he held onto pre-decimal coins and notes. Apparently he always said the Old Money would come back.’ She shoved the purse into an inside pocket of her coat. ‘Good old Great-Grandad. Mad as a box of frogs apparently but he was right – the Old Money is coming in handy.’

   ‘I’m sure he knew you’d one day have a time machine,’ Ibrahim said.

   Andy ignored him.

   ‘You are being a Grench, Ibrahim.’ Erimem scolded her friend.

   ‘Yes, he is,’ Helena agreed. ‘And by the way, it’s Grinch, but it’s a very good pop culture reference.’

   ‘Grinch,’ Erimem repeated, storing the correct version of the word in her head. ‘Grinch.’

   ‘Okay,’ said Andy clapping her hands together. ‘Let’s hit 1964.’

 

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