Cassandra Shore grew up in Liverpool’s south end. She
took her name from the Cast Iron Shore on the banks of
the Mersey, where the sand is stained red from the rust
of dead ships. It’s known locally as the ‘Cazzie’. So is
she. She is a storyteller, poet and songwriter.
Don’t mock the
magic of the Winter Solstice, especially when too many
cocktails and a bionic woman are involved.
-- Cassandra Shore
Girlhood dreams come true in Cassandra Shore's The
By Maureen Bowden
It was Friday, twenty-first of December, the last
working day before Christmas. We celebrated in The
Grapes at lunchtime, and trooped back to the office
At four o’clock, Marianne, our inebriated manager, said,
“Go home, everyone, and Happy Holiday.” At least, I
think that’s what she said. It was hard to tell. She
fled to the bathroom to throw up, and we were out the
I’d had a Malibu or six too many, but I trotted
into town to pick up a few last-minute gifts, pushing
the spectre of my credit card bill to the back of my
mind. The darkening sky heralded the longest night of
the year. The Christmas tree in the city centre, the
street decorations, and the smell of hot mince pies on
the evening air swamped me with childhood memories.
It was 1978, I was five years old, and I wanted a bionic
woman doll for Christmas. My TV screen idol, Jaime
Sommers, could hear the baddies’ plots with her bionic
ear, give them a good kicking with her bionic legs and
drag them off to jail with her bionic arm.
My dad took me to the Christmas grotto at Blackler’s
department store. We were crushed into a cage elevator,
and rock walls rose around us as the cage fell deep
below street level. We emerged into a cave where Santa
Claus sat on a rock. He lifted me onto his knee. “What’s
your name, dear?”
I skipped the pleasantries. “I’m Paula and I want a
bionic woman for Christmas.”
He winked at my dad. “Don’t we all?” In my innocence, I
took the wink to be a good sign, so I was optimistic
when he handed me my present. I tore the wrapping off as
soon as we returned home and found an insipid Sindy
doll, with not a bionic bit in sight. I stopped
believing in Santa Claus.
I dragged myself out of the recollection of childhood
disillusionment and back to the present. Blackler’s was
now long gone. Wetherspoon’s stood on the spot, or it
had last time I’d looked. My feet led me to the
location, on the corner of Elliot Street, and I found
myself confronting, not the chain champion of the
hospitality industry, but the old department store,
where my faith in all things magical had been shattered.
Had it been re-opened or was it a product of an excess
of Malibu? With the confidence of the semi-sloshed I
walked inside and approached the entrance to the grotto.
An obese, middle-aged elf said, “How many children?”
“None,” I said. “Just me.”
“No charge for adults.” He ushered me into the elevator.
My ears popped and a rush of cold air hit my face as we
plunged into the earth. The cliff face passed by the
outside of the cage. Veins of quartz glinted between the
rock layers. I didn’t recall the fakery being as
realistic as this. I stepped out into a high-domed,
underground cavern. Blackler’s must have a hell of a
cellar, I thought. I ran my fingers over the surface of
a stalagmite. It didn’t feel like polystyrene.
A shadowed figure sat in a niche gouged out of the
cavern wall. “Come along. I have a busy weekend ahead.”
His hair and beard were as white as the fur that lined
his red cloak and hood. A gift-wrapped box lay at his
feet. “Paula, isn’t it?”
I approached him, swearing to stick to pineapple
juice in future. “I know you’re an illusion but, as long
as I’m here I’ll take my present and you can show me the
“Illusion, am I? Don’t mock the magic of the winter
solstice, my dear.” He handed me the parcel. “The
store’s closed. You can take the fire exit. Follow me.”
He led me to a staircase carved into the rock. A
reindeer trotted out of the shadows. “This is Blitzen.
Climb aboard.” I straddled the impossible beast’s back
and, as we galloped up to the surface, my head spun, and
my eyes lost focus.
When my brain groped its way back to a semblance of
consciousness, I was sitting on the pavement outside
Wetherspoon’s, with a humdinger of a headache and a
gift-wrapped parcel beside me in the gutter. I tore off
the cartoon snowman paper and stared at the
cellophane-covered box. Jaime Sommers stared back at me:
twelve inches of seventies’ TV glamour, blond hair
flowing around her plastic shoulders. A layer of
synthetic skin covered her legs, right arm and right
ear, waiting to be drawn back by a child’s hand,
revealing the robotics beneath. A bionic woman,
thirty-eight years old, never taken out of her box,
would fetch enough at a toy collectors’ fair to pay off
my Christmas credit card bill and more. Or I could keep
her, of course. After all, she was my Christmas present.
Sober up, I told myself. She must have fallen out of
someone’s shopping bag. A voice in my head said, “Don’t
mock the magic of the winter solstice.”
A couple of drunks fell out of Wetherspoon’s, singing,
“Treetopsh glishen an’ chil’ren lishen, t’ hear….”, and
I heard sleigh bells above my head. I looked up. It may
have been only an odd cloud formation, but I thought I
saw a hooded figure driving a reindeer-drawn chariot,
silhouetted across the face of the rising moon.