A puzzling gift

This is another true story, real people disguised, cunningly I hope, but without spoiling a lovely tale of true love.

The birthday present

It was Ben’s birthday in May, and Meriel struggled as usual to think of what to buy him. He always said that married to her, what more could he want. He was always so imaginative with gifts for her, often with a sense of fun. She remarked to her friend that she was struggling this year, and her friend suggested a jigsaw puzzle as in the long winter’s evening the couple enjoyed doing them together – often with a glass of wine, or two!

“But that’s a winter present, I always get him one for Christmas – and sometimes in the past he’s got me one so we have two to enjoy!”

“Well what else does he enjoy – doing the puzzles together is part of the fun, what could you think for which would be a treat for him, and which you would enjoy too? He took you to see Father Christmas in Finland one year, didn’t he?”

“But that’s Christmas again…” as she spoke a plan began to form in Meriel’s mind. It would need some planning and some thinking about… She sat down at the computer when Ben was out, and began to look at her options. A little research, a few inspirations, a National Trust card and the plan soon fell into place, all she had to do was to put it into action.


“Happy birthday, darling! Best wishes for your birthday, Ben!”

Ben sat up in bed and accepted the chilled mimosa, the card and the gifts. There was something for now, a new summer jacket, not very interesting but much appreciated, and a wrapped box, which he could tell from the rattle must be a jigsaw. Hmm, a summer jigsaw, with the light nights and other things to in the sunny evenings? It was very kind, and he appreciated it, and began to take off the paper.

It was one of those personalised jigsaws, made from a photo Meriel herself had taken. He didn’t recognise the picture on the front, a rather nice looking pub  at Christmas time with decorated trees on either side of the door. Christmas… Christmas was the usual jigsaw time.


It was a couple of days after Ben’s birthday, the weather had changed and it was sheeting down with rain from the black clouds. It was so dark they put the lights on, and Meriel suggested he had a go at his birthday jigsaw.

“It’s an extra tricky one as the picture on the front doesn’t match the picture on the puzzle!” she told him.

Well, he was up for a challenge and he began to make it with Meriel doing little except sort out the corners and the edge pieces to be done first. He soon realised it was a Christmas scene, lights and lanterns and dark skies with a big moon.

“Oh I know where this is! It’s Cherry Harston! Look there’s the castle!”

Cherry Harston was a small village up the coast, very old and with cobbled streets and an old wool market in the town square. Each Christmas, over one weekend, the whole village had no street lights but was lit up, with flaming torches and candles; people decorated their houses, inside and out. They tied back their curtains  so visitors could look in to see their beautiful decorations, their tables laid with silver and crystal, ready for the big day. Stalls were set up in the street selling Christmas fare, brass bands played, hand-bell ringers rang, it was a wonderful event. Overlooking the town was the old castle, brilliantly lit over the holiday period.

Ben realised there was writing across the front of the picture, and when the puzzle was complete he read “A Christmas weekend for two in Cherry Harston, staying in the Harston Castle Hotel!!

“I’m sorry you’ll have to wait until December for the rest of your present, darling!” Meriel said, pouring a glass of wine.

Of course Ben didn’t mind waiting, especially when he discovered that they would actually drive to the small village of Lower Harston, catch a steam train and enjoy a cream tea on the journey. They would look round the Castle and then enjoy a special dinner in the Castle dining hall before spending the evening looking round the candle-lit village. A wonderful birthday present, and a great way to get in the Christmas mood!


A true story!!

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