When Fraser had something planned for after work he stood down from guard duty right at the first of the twelve chimes from the clock tower up the street. On a quieter day, or when he was in a contemplative mood he would stand and wait for all dozen bells to sound before moving. Today there just happened to be a half-dozen carolers passing by just when noon struck. They had paused to look at him as they were passing and were just in the process of deciding whether they should sing for him as he stood there when the bells started.


Fraser felt himself representing his country in front of this audience and decided to make a show of standing down from guard duty. As the gongs sounded he slowly unclenched his hands and brought them from behind his back to hang straight and ceremoniously by his sides. Only then did he bring his two feet together and remain at attention for a few beats. The carolers were impressed and watched with appreciation as took slow, solemn deliberate steps from the Consulate doorway to Francesca's car waiting at the curb. If he happened to hear one of the women say "lucky girl", he didn't let on.


Fraser tossed his hat onto the dashboard in front of the shotgun seat as Francesca drove off.


"Ray's gone to get Aunt Rosa and Uncle Pepe," she explained as they drove.


"Thank you kindly for picking me up," Fraser told her, automatically.


"I can't believe Thatcher made you work Christmas Day. That's so mean." Francesca went on.


Fraser defended his boss. "She didn't make me work, Francesca. I volunteered. The weather is mild and there are lots of passersby on Christmas. I thought it would be appropriate."


"Mild, he calls this mild," she muttered, good-naturedly.


They drove along in silence for a few minutes.


"You sure are dedicated to your work, Fraszh," she said finally.


"I consider it an honour to represent my country," he told her.


Francesca swiveled to look at him and see if he was serious. He was. She started thinking and thought so hard about the Mountie and his attitudes that she paid no attention to the live man beside her as the drove the rest of the way to the Vecchio house where Christmas lunch was waiting.




After lunch the Vecchio clan, assorted relatives and a Mountie gathered in the living room to sing carols together. Fraser played the piano while the Vecchios and their extended family belted out their tunes in loud good fellowship of the season and the lunchtime wine. Fraser knew every carol and hymn, of course, and sang along with them in his fine tenor voice.


Aunt Rosa demanded a solo from the Mountie but he resisted. Finally he was persuaded to sing "Adeste Fideles" as a duet with Francesca on the condition that she do the descant in the last verse.


When they had done, Francesca announced that she wanted to sing a special song for their Canadian friend.


"I made this up myself while we were driving," she declared, "Well, only the words. The tune is 'The Little Drummer Boy'".


She sang:


Come they told me

Pah rum pum pum pum

A silent man to see

Pah rum pum pum pum

He cannot move or say

Pah rum pum pum pum

A single word today

Pah rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum

Mountie standing guard

Pah rum pum pum pum

Motionless, mum.


In this unsung state

Pah rum pum pum pum

You serve who stand and wait.

Pah rum pum pum pum

“We stand on guard for thee”

Pah rum pum pum pum

Your anthem’s words must be.

Pah rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum

Someone honours you.

Pah rum pum pum pum

Motionless, mum.


Fraser didn't think anybody noticed the tiny traces of tears in his eyes as he listened, but, uncharacteristically, he was wrong.

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