It was the night before Christmas and was the first one I had not spent with my family. Instead I had been rostered on as Fire Picket on my Royal Air Force station. A fellow airman and I had been granted leave to go to the cinema in the nearby village and as we returned to camp along a country lane the frost was the hardest I had ever known. The silence was intense, broken only by the heels of our boots. Above, the stars sparkled in the clear sky. It was the Christmas Eve of fiction. And it was cold. Even with the collar of my greatcoat turned up the tops of my ears were burning with the cold.

We had stopped talking, each in his private world. I was thinking of my family — they would soon be getting ready to go to midnight communion. But, then my thoughts changed. Here I was in the depths of the country rather than in busy London and the silence and the stars seemed to suggest a world waiting for a momentous event.

And, of course, the world waits for that event every Christmas Eve but, sadly, the event has been downgraded year after year so that in each succeeding year the effect becomes less and less. Peace on earth and goodwill to all men cannot compete with personal greed and winning at all cost.

And, we are the losers no matter how many possessions we gain.

I wish I could walk up that country lane again as I did all those years ago and remember the feelings that were engendered then. I wish I could remember the beliefs and aspirations I had in those far off days of youth.

Maybe I should put my mind to it and perhaps I will feel again the thrill of the momentous event that we celebrate every year. And perhaps I shall recall what life is really about.