Joseph D’Lacey: A Christmas Donkey

As part of our 12 Days of Christmas, we’re bringing you some of your favourite authors talking about what Christmas is to them…in whatever form they like! We’re also bringing you their books at only £1!

Today is the turn of Joseph D’Lacey, author of The Black Dawn novels, Black Feathers and the forthcoming The Book of the Crowman!

Here’s how to take advantage of our seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at

2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket

3. Add the magic word ‘tinsel’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box

4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Happy reading!

At fifteen, I had spots, a permanent erection and couldn’t do anything with my hair. Every attempt at self-discovery resulted in humiliation. But resembling a stick insect with toilet brush for a head never stopped me from trying to look cool.

That Christmas, I wanted the latest style: a donkey jacket. Did I say wanted? What I mean is, my life depended on it. For those not au fait with catwalk minutiae, a donkey jacket is an item of navy blue felt work-wear with a leather panel sewn across the upper back and shoulders.

What did I need this labourer’s coat for, you may ask. Was I, perhaps, involved in construction work or highway maintenance?

You ignorant heathen.

I needed it for skiing; a non-waterproof jacket with no zip, no hood and no elastication at the waist is essential for downhill descents from 8,500 feet. And, of course, I knew I’d be the only lad on the slopes in such daring couture…

Christmas day, 1984: Wham!

Also, I got the donkey jacket.

I put it on. Touched the leather. Caressed the buttons. Pouted in front of the mirror. Did it again with my shades on. Whatever the word for awesome was back then, I was it.

Cut to:

The Weisshorn; a forbidding, windswept peak looming over a quaint ski resort in Switzerland. Ripped, skin-tight jeans? Check. Raybans? Check. Pack of Camels? Check. Hair like copper turnings? Check. But that was no problem because I had a hat.

Most importantly, I had the donkey jacket.

It was snowing and a layer of powder already clung to me. I took the chair-lift up to the main slopes, smoking ostentatiously and generally owning the entire world. By the time I’d skied down to the first drag-lift the wind had knifed through the donkey jacket and my snow-dampened jeans had set like a thin layer of concrete. I couldn’t feel my face or hands.

I waddled into the queue, trying to suppress the chill-shudders arising from the very core of me.

The T-bar is a bit like a snow escalator; a series of inverted T-shaped frames drag skiers to the top of the slope. The bars are spaced at intervals of about ten metres on a giant spool of cable. To get on, all you have to do is ski-waddle into position before the next T-bar swings into place, catch the shaft and slip one half of the T under your bum. The drag line plays out and the ascent begins.

It’s all very simple.

In theory.

But if there was ever a venue where a shy youth would feel paranoid and awkward, the queue for the T-bar is such a place. Crucially, would I be able to avoid sharing the ride? If not, would I get a loud, opinionated German or a scathing, dismissive Parisian? Worse, a vivacious Italian girl I’d be too terrified to speak to? Most unthinkable of all, would I miss the T-bar as it came round and keep everyone waiting?

The queue narrowed. My stomach fluttered. I approached the front.

My turn and I slid into place without a single wobble. Even better, no one wanted to get on with me – I had the T-bar to myself! Slight problem, though; the T had only partially engaged my skinny buttocks, hovering around that dubious territory where some gentlemen choose to wear their trousers these days. But that was okay. At least I hadn’t buggered myself with the tip and fallen over in front of everyone

The drag line payed out, yanked when it reached its limit and I was away up the mountain. I had the gear. I had the look. I was a man, at one with the piste. I transferred my ski poles to one hand and fumbled for a cigarette. I even managed to light it.

The T-bar slipped.

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