Christmas at Spillwords - Alan’s Lesswilling Chronicles - Christmas special Part II, a monologue by Jan Sargeant at

Alan’s Lesswilling Chronicles – Christmas Special II

Alan’s Lesswilling Chronicles

Christmas Special

Part II

written by: Jan Sargeant


How in God’s earth can you have so much washing up after just one meal for two beggars’ belief. No pans even. Mainly glassware. It seems Bollinger is a kind of champagne best served in a mug but we’d needed fresh glasses for the others. Personally, I’d have stuck with the mug and saved on the Persil, but he was a guest and he’d brought the meal. Turkey, stuffing balls, pigs in duvets, nothing that required the fire brigade, and even a couple of crackers each. Wearing a daft hat doesn’t come naturally to me and you can only have so many magnifying glasses and cheap pens but these were a bit different. The jokes were still crap but handcrafted gins from Wales and malts from Scotland are a bit of a step up from Aldi’s, even I have to admit.

They were a big step up from the ones Mother used to buy from Woolworths, although one year, she said we were having something called Whimsies which turned out to be a collection of little pot creatures. By Christmas night, we had a small strange menagerie of six smiling from the fireplace. Dad told me they’d not last the night. Sure enough, after the third bottle of Lambrusco, Mother was using them as target practice for my new William Tell Kiddy Crossbow. What stayed intact that night didn’t make it past Boxing Day when her aim was better. Before breakfast, anyway; probably because of the gin, not the cornflakes themselves. Mother smashed the last two with a hammer, and said it was back to Woollies cheapest next year.

Mother didn’t much like shopping but when I was five, she decided to take me to see the Christmas window display in Newcastle – said it was a special treat for a special boy and it could well have been. Unfortunately, she was waylaid by a bottle of gin in the station buffet when we arrived and we never made it to the shop in Northumberland Street. Didn’t even make it outside Newcastle Station. We barely made it back to Durham. Wouldn’t have done if it hadn’t been for the Newcastle police who insisted on giving us a lift home. Dad said he’d never been so ashamed as when we arrived outside in the Panda but mother assured him it could be worse. And over the years, she was right. I got to play in the back that night with a truncheon though while mother sang her version of The Laughing Policeman. At five years old, a truncheon was better than looking at a shop window. I’ve never been back to Newcastle though. The Micra wouldn’t make it that far. Not in a day. Not and back again.

Nowadays it’s the battle of the John Lewis and M&S Christmas ads, isn’t it. James calls them Soft focus festive wet dreams with voiceovers. I’m not sure what wet dreams actually are but I sort of imagine they’re a bit like mixing It’s a Wonderful Life with bread sauce. Bloody stupid idea but not as daft as Aldi’s Kevin carrot. What’s a carrot got to do with Christmas, I ask you. Now, a sprout, I could understand. Sammy Sprout, I’d have gone for that personally. Sally Sprout even. An entire family of sprouts. But that’s Aldi for you. They don’t do soft focus wet dreams.

So there we were washing up and discussing the contents of a tin of Celebrations. I’d read there’d been some research and they were going to get rid of Bounty bars because thirty odd percent of people had said they’d be disappointed if that was all they had left in the box, and a bigger percentage said it would cause a family argument. Now, I’m no statistical genius but what doesn’t cause a family argument on Christmas Day? It’s that one day every year when goodwill to all men is quickly replaced by the desire to kill someone in the near vicinity. Mother once hit dad over the head with a plastic angel because he’d had the last of the Woolies chocolate liqueurs. When he reminded her she didn’t actually like them, she hit him again. Its wing fell off then but it was when she went to pick up the Christmas tree that he ran and hid in the garden. Mother said it was time for a Quality Street before the greedy bastard had those too and took them to bed with a bottle of Lambrusco. Dad slept in my bed with me and the truncheon that night.

Research into chocolate bars, I ask you. More money than sense these university people. Humphrey said there’s a fortune to be had from grants if you knew how to bid for them. I told him I wouldn’t know where to begin and he said he’d have a look round and see if there was anything going that might help Walkz’n’talkz. Some sort of sociological, anthropological based investigation using qualitative methodology – meant bugger all to me but I said I’d always fancied being a HdP – PhD, Humphrey said, unless I meant ADHD in which case he could prescribe Ritalin. By that point, I had a few too many letters swirling round and suggested we watch the Doctor Who special. Daleks were at it again but the Tardis was having a bad day and told Earth the doctor could only be reached through Ask my GP. I think I might have dropped off at some point though and I might have dreamed that bit. Humphrey wasn’t much help. He said he had been resting his eyes too.

We were down to the Barolo and Die Hard 2 when the doorbell rang. Humphrey said it must be Carol singers but who goes carol singing at gone ten on Christmas night, especially in Lesswilling. No, I said, it was probably a late Curry’s delivery intended for the day before. But even as I opened the door, I sort of knew. The bloody ex. She was holding her chest with one hand, the other was splayed against the wall. It was a dramatic pose, and it fooled Humphrey who had come to see who it was. It was all dear lady, and Alan, a small brandy, and patting her arm. She raised a tearful face and Humphrey was just about to usher her into the house when I told him hell would freeze over before she stepped over my doorstep. I looked at the four suitcases at her feet, asked if she were going somewhere nice on holiday, then closed the door firmly.

I think Humphrey was quite shocked. It was Christmas Day, he said, goodwill to all, and a lady in distress was a lady in distress. I told him she was no lady, and not to be fooled. This was a woman who had menopause lasting well over 18 years and whose buttocks had been a feature of my dinette wall until very recently. I’m not sure that he wasn’t impressed by that bit so I added that I hadn’t been present at the time. The ex chipped in through the letter box at that point about how much she regretted everything that had happened. It had been a folly, she said; a mistake of operatic proportions. I could see the potential here for missing the last part of Die Hard 2 so I shouted Merry Christmas and went back to the living room to find John McClane doing something clever with a plane,a trail of fuel and a lighter. If only it were that easy to deal with ex-wives, I remember thinking. Divorce wasn’t quite absolute enough in itself.

I only noticed Humphrey hadn’t returned after about 30 minutes. He was sitting in the hallway still talking through the letterbox to the ex and it was clear that she was going nowhere near Morewilling that night. I know when a tactical retreat is needed nowadays and the law of pragmatics always prevails according to Octopus. So I opened the door, told her she could sleep on the couch that night but she could bring her own bags inside. After all, I told her, you carried the buggers out yourself just over a year ago.

Humphrey of course decided he would carry them inside for what he called the dear lady, but then he stopped and held up a hand. He’d decided, he announced, that this damsel in distress deserved something better than to sleep on a couch on Christmas night and that there was another spare bed where he was staying that night. Which, he then told me, was next bloody door. James was spending the night round with his new friend, number 69, and had agreed Humphrey should stay there rather than a hotel. Well, that floored me. She was just so grateful, she said. She could understand my reluctance to let her sleep there, she said, but a soft bed would be so much better than a couch for her back. And she was feeling so very tired …… already. Humphrey agreed it had been a very long day. I saw the writing on the wall. There would be no need for a blanket on the couch tonight. Humphrey was about to be gutted, trussed and stuffed like a Christmas turkey. Spatchcock, I suddenly thought. I’d seen Rose prepare one of those once and I wished I hadn’t. Poor Humphrey.

It didn’t take them long to leave. I did wonder whether to ring James and ask if there were any wet paint on any of his walls just in case of bumprints but I decided he’d not appreciate being disturbed so late. So I opened the port, cut a slice of Christmas cake and settled down to watch The Great Escape, thinking how that summed up the past year and a bit for me. Along with Terminator. Hasty last ventures, Alan, I said raising my glass. Hasty last ventures. It was something that sounded like that anyway. I had a sudden memory of Mother standing in the kitchen at the sink. She was washing up and gazing into the garden. She looked round at me and waved the sponge in my direction. Alan,” she said, “ never forget life’s like teatime. It takes longer to get the bloody food on the plate than to eat it and then there’s hours of cleaning and washing up.” I sort of understood her point but considering we’d had a tin of Heinz baked beans a l’orange that teatime, there was only one pan and two plates. The orange was still on the table. She ran off with Ernie a few weeks later and it was still on the table. I hate the sight of oranges even now. Satsumas, on the other hand, are essential at Christmas. The vitamin C must be good for Covid so I had two. Hasty last ventures.




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