Christmas cons but once a year

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The Independent Online
Yesterday I brought you the first half of a check-list of all the things that will have to happen before Christmas. It is a bit like an Advent calendar, really: you have to tick off the boxes one by one, and when they are all ticked off, bingo! It's Christmas.

Here is the second half of the check-list. Good luck! Just remember every evening to check if anything on the list has happened today. They don't have to happen in this order, any order will do. Good luck!

q You are in town one day when an ambulance passes very slowly, playing a highly distorted siren noise you have never heard before.

q To your horror, you suddenly register that it is not an ambulance at all.

q It is a municipal van that is playing highly distorted carolrecordings.

q A tall, dark man calls at your door. He says: "Happy Christmas, squire. It's the dustmen."

q You say: "What's the dustmen?"

q He says: "We're the binmen, sir, come to wish you the compliments of the season and see if you want anything done ..."

q You suddenly realise that he has an outstretched hand and you realise what he wants, so you stuff a tenner in it and he goes away smiling and waving.

q Your partner says: "Did you keep the Guardian Christmas quiz in yesterday's paper?"

q You say: "Look, we have kept that quiz every year for 10 years, and the only time we ever tried it we couldn't answer a single bloody question!"

q Your partner says: "Did you remember to take the lawn mower in for servicing?"

q You say: "Plenty of time, plenty of time. Three months till spring."

q She says: "So you didn't take advantage of that 50 per cent discount offer voucher I got you from the garden servicing place?"

q But you know better than to answer trick questions like that.

q What you have to do is ask trick questions of your own.

q Like: "Did you remember to order the turkey?"

q At which point she asks a trick question, like: "Have you tested the Christmas tree lights to make sure they're working? We don't want a repetition of last year."

q The postman brings a parcel, a large one from Canada.

q Delighted at this distraction, you open it and find it contains three nightdresses.

q You say: "What the ...?"

q Your partner says: "God, you never learn, do you? You never open people's Christmas presents before Christmas!"

q You say: "Well, how was I to know it was a present ...?"

q She says: "Have you ever stopped to wonder why big parcels from in- laws in Canada only arrive just before Christmas and birthdays?"

q There is a loud knock at the door.

q Delighted by this distraction, you open it and find yourself facing a tall, thin man who says: "Compliments of the season, sir, it's the dustmen."

q "Hold on," you say, "you lot came last week!"

q "I'm afraid to say, sir," he says, "there's a ruthless gang of fake dustmen going round pretending to be us and getting all our Christmas boxes."

q Heartstricken, you give him a tenner.

q Later, you discover that it was the first lot, last week, who were actually genuine.

q Your partner asks another trick question: "Have you booked for the pantomime yet?"

q Smugly, you say: "Yes, last week, actually."

q It will not be until Boxing Day that you discover you have booked six seats for the wrong panto.

q You have booked for the local glitzy one with six minor TV performers, lots of identical songs and a terrible script.

q She wanted you to buy tickets for the arty, traditional one in the next town.

q Oh, dear.

q You buy a new pocket diary.

q It is not until you get it home that you realise you have picked up, in error, the Schoolgirls Pocket Diary.

q There is a knock at your door. It is a party of shepherds. They say: "Compliments of the season, sir, we're shepherds and ..."

q Furiously, you drive them off, saying: "I know your game, you con artists! You won't get a penny out of me!"

q A day or two later, an angel knocks at the door and starts saying: "Blessed art thou, Mary, for thou shalt bring forth a son and his name ..."

q You tell the angel to get stuffed.

q When you tell your partner about the shepherds and the angel, she looks thoughtful and says: "It's none of my business, but if three wise men knock at the door in the near future, I should be very nice to them ..."

Tomorrow: what to do if a man from King Herod comes to the door and asks about young babies in the neighbourhood.

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