Alan’s Lesswilling Chronicles
written by: Jan Sargeant
And a happy bloody Covid Christmas to you too. I’ve had every jab going, I’ve been boosted more times than Britt Eckland’s had Botox so how in God’s earth can I come down with Covid in the middle of Carols from Kings? It was a tickle in the throat during Bleak Midwinter but by the time we got to the first Noel, I was gargling with a Lemsip and shoving a poker up my left nostril. I wouldn’t mind but I’d been saving It’s a Wonderful Life till Christmas Eve this year. Normally I’ve watched it by now at least once. An angel got his wings without my help this year. I’m thinking maybe Argos or Curry’s would have been good in Bedford Falls.
We’ve just been too busy with the festive Walkz’n’talkz. I never appreciated how much difference it can make if you stick an elf on your leaflets, offer a mince pie with the flask of tea instead of a Custard Cream and stick a sprig of holly in your bobble hat. James is a genius with promotion, I must say. I drew the line at dressing up as a Christmas character though. I’ve never seen a grinch for one thing and wearing a set of antlers and a red nose isn’t my idea of warm winter clothes. I’m not even fond of overly festive jumpers myself. Those were all Rose’s ideas, by the way. Barbara wanted us to introduce a more religious element, go back to the true meaning of it and all that, but we couldn’t find a donkey. Well, we could but have you any idea how much they charge to hire one? And you’d have to have someone walking behind it picking up any little gifts it deposited. Barbara drew the line at manure manager, she said. Did enough shit shovelling when she’d worked in HR. Octopus said it wouldn’t be inclusive either, because Christianity only offers one version of Christmas and she and her wife preferred to celebrate Alban Arthuan like the ancient Celts. Willy only comes to board meetings once in a while but he was there that night and he said all religion was just opium for the people and we should focus our energies on Christmas bunnies. When Rose asked if he didn’t mean Easter bunnies, he said rabbits were just as relevant at Christmas time, and we should throw off the shackles of mindless orthodoxy. He’d had a few glasses of port by that point though so we didn’t minute it. We don’t minute much Willy says actually; he’s a better sleeping partner.
I hadn’t realised they were quite so radical at The Telegraph; he was less extreme when he read the Guardian. Anyway, that’s when I said that as Chairman I was moving on to the next item on the agenda. The ladies all objected to my use of Chairman, as I knew they would, but as I told them, I was also the Chief Executive of the company and I’d decided to adopt a top down management approach. There’s no reason on God’s earth, I said, why we shouldn’t use the term Chairman, and anyone who mentioned the word patriarchy would be shot. That lightened the atmosphere a bit. James said he would refill the glasses while Rose, Barbara and Octopus started discussing druid festivals and their relevance in 21st century England. Willy said he’d have one more for the road and would we be having any nibbles tonight, only he’d missed having his tea because he’d been icing his Christmas cake; he said trying to recreate the 1973 Sunderland FA cup win in fondant icing had been particularly tricky. Barbara said that didn’t sound a very festive theme and Willy told her perhaps not but it had been one of his proudest moments to be there cheering them on. They’d put on some sausage stotties down the pub where they’d watched the game. He hadn’t actually been to Wembley of course – he’d been a socialist worker at the time.
Octopus rang earlier and said her brother, the GP, had told her you didn’t need to insulate yourself anymore with Covid; the government had decided free will was cheaper than furlough and besides the vaccines meant it was no worse than a bad cold. Although, she said, her brother was still holed up on the Covid version of Anthrax Island with all the other GPs and that was why you couldn’t see one any more. Octopus reckons “Ask my GP” is a virtual reality game designed to ensure no patient ever sees a doctor. The fewer patients seen, the bigger the prize. The GP who has seen the fewest patients by the end of the year gets a year’s subscription to Private Practice Practicalities for Pissed About GPs.
Anyway, Octopus said that in view of that, our planned party was still happening on Boxing Day. She’d also arranged for someone to call over with Christmas dinner on a warm plate today and did I prefer brandy sauce or brandy butter with my pudding. Thinking back to my experiences as a child with the fire brigade, I said some Birds custard was fine, minus the brandy. She reminded me that I was meant to be culpeing every diem or whatever and that included brandy on Christmas Day. So I went for brandy sauce and decided to watch The Good Life Christmas special to get in the mood. I’d just got to the point where Margot was getting them to measure the tree when the phone rang. It was the ex on her mobile.
I’d not spoken with her since that last time she’d rung to suggest a reconciliation. After listening for five seconds to her telling me how much she used to love Christmas with me, I decided to use my best impression of the speaking clock and put the phone down, then unplugged it fast. I’m not sure if the speaking clock still exists but it seemed kinder than telling her to piss off, especially on Christmas Day. I’m not a heartless man. Then I got back to the last few minutes watching the Leadbetters bring in the cow as the Christmas present – and thinking for the fortysomething year what did happen to that cow because you never saw it again. Bit like my ex, I decided, if I could be that lucky.
And it was just as the announcer was telling me next up was that Christmas classic, The Snowman, the doorbell rang three times as Octopus had said it would to let me know it was my Christmas dinner. So I paused The Snowman, went into the hall, opened the door, to find two arms held out, each with a huge basket at the end. A voice told me to hurry up and make way for the festivities before his bloody arms atrophied. It wasn’t a promising start to a Christmas dinner but it wasn’t the worst either, I reckoned. The first Christmas with the ex had been less than auspicious when she insisted on goose and I wanted turkey. Mother called goose the meat of panto lovers who preferred fat and scrap bones to real meat. I’m not sure she’d ever tasted it, mind. She hated mushrooms on principle and refused to have them in the house. Said they grew in shit and no mushroom would ever reveal her lack of housekeeping skills to the world.
So anyway, there he was, a bloke with baskets, removing his coat and telling me the contents of the first basket would need heating up if we weren’t quick and that the Chablis in the second basket would need chilling although the Bollinger was already swiggable, and we could start with that. There was a fine claret in there, a Barolo with a considerable nose and a long finish, and a very fine port. I said it was jolly good of him but who was he? Well, Humphrey, he told me, Humphrey Fields, brother of Octopus. Had once been a Mollusc but changed his name by deed poll when he became a GP. Humphrey had more gravitas. So I said Merry Christmas, it must have been a long trip from Anthrax Island and if he started warming the plates, I’d pour the Bollinger and what was Bollinger by the way? A glass or a mug? He said a mug did it for him every time with Bollinger. It must be like green tea, I thought.
Cheers. Merry Christmas. Go pull a cracker but pass me the tissues over first.
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