But it is in the old story that all the beasts can talk, in the night between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the morning ….
I have to confess that I am not a huge fan of Beatrix Potter’s tales – Mrs Tiggywinkle scares me (especially as Theresa May seems increasingly to be morphing into her), Peter Rabbit had much to be fearful of in Mr McGregor’s garden, and let’s not dwell on the fate of Tom Kitten for too long… but her beautiful Christmas story, the 18th century-set ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’, which appeared in my Christmas stocking (ok, then pillowcase: I was a greedy child) in the year 197-, has always brought a lump to my cynical throat.
The Tailor (a patron saint for freelancers everywhere), tired, poor and under pressure to complete an important commission for Christmas Day – a sumptuous cherry-red waistcoat to be worn by the Mayor of Gloucester on his wedding morning – is laid low by illness and the mendaciousness of his bad cat, Simpkin, who hides the last piece, or twist, of silk thread required to complete the tailor’s task. “No More Twist,” which the Tailor mutters repeatedly in his delirious sleep, is a phrase I find myself coming out with when I feel at a low ebb, or when I think about the consequences of a No Deal Brexit.
The Tailor is saved by a flurry of mice, who strive – secretly, magnificently – to complete the task, and the relenting of Simpkin, who turns out not to be so bad after all. It’s snowy, magical and IT WILL WARM THE COCKLES OF YOUR HEART, as my beloved mum used to say.
First published by Frederick Warne & Co, 1903
Chosen by Catherine Taylor. Catherine is a critic, editor and writer. A former publisher and deputy director of English PEN, she is writing a memoir of Sheffield, is part of the team behind the new Brixton Review of Books, a judge on the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses and co-host of its monthly podcast.
You can read Catherine’s full Personal Anthology here