Miles Kington: Season's bleatings from Ace Heating Engineers and friends

Seasonal scenes from the breakfast table...
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No 1: Opening of the first card

He: Good God!

She: What, dear?

He: We've had a greeting card!

She: In November?... Who's it from?

He: J & H. Ace Heating Engineers of Swindon.

She: How very sweet, considering we don't even know them. Is it signed?

He: Yes, by Terry.

She: Terry?

He: Terry. Also Lee, Tracey, Alan, Susie, Fanny, Bill, Wayne...

She: Doesn't ring a bell.

No 2: Days later. Opening of the second card

She: That's sweet.

He: What's sweet?

She: Someone has sent us a picture of a magpie on a snowy fence.

He: What an extraordinary thing to do. Is there any reason given?

She: Yes, there is an explanatory message, of sorts. "Happy Christmas and compliments of the season. Love, Irene and Bob."

He: What on earth can that mean? Do they say what is happy about Christmas? Or what these compliments are?

She: No. Absolutely no attempt at explanation at all.

He: All a bit post-modernist for me. If I get a moment, I'll drop them a line and find out what they're driving at.

No 3: Another day, another card

He: Good Lord. Someone has sent us a poem today.

She: A poem? Whatever next. What does it say?

He: "As Christmas time approaches,

We only wish to say,

Happy coach and horses and a merry reindeer sleigh!"

She: That's totally meaningless. Is it modern verse?

He: I don't know. It comes from Uncle Arthur and Amy. They're usually so sensible. I'll get in touch with them, asking them what they're playing at.

She: That's a bit confrontational.

He: I'll get my secretary to do it.

She: That's a bit impersonal.

He: Leave it to me.

No 4: Irene and Bob's explanation

He: Ah! Do you remember I dropped a note to Irene and Bob asking them what this Happy Christmas lark was all about? They've got back to me on it.

She: Do they explain?

He: Some story about a baby being born in the Middle East of refugee parents with nowhere to live.

She: Oh. Charity appeal, is it?

He: Shouldn't think so. Apparently it all happened about 2,000 years ago.

She: Well, it should have sorted itself out by now then, one way or another. By the way, I've been thinking about Terry.

He: Terry?

She: And Lee and Tracey, and Alan and Susie, and all that lot. Who sent us that card? Were they by any chance the heating people we met on holiday in Ibiza? At that party where the man drank a whole flowerpot full of sherry without pausing?

He: No. They weren't heating people. They were estate agents from Dorking. And at least two of them were called Doug.

She: Oh...

He: Ha! We've got another one from Uncle Arthur and Amy!

She: Another what?

He: Poem. Listen...

"We're sorry you were puzzled

By our friendly little rhyme.

So we'll leave you off our Xmas list,

Next year, come Christmas time."

She: Sweet.

He: And here's a card signed just from Ron.

She: We don't know anyone called Ron.

He: Tom, then.

She: We know a Tom, but he never sends cards.

He: Boy, then.

She: Nobody ever calls themselves Boy.

He: Tog. Bor. Tor. Rot. Lod. Rod

She: Rod!... Who's Rod?

He: Lot. Sod. Hal. Don. Tod. Lol

More cautionary scenes from the breakfast table as and when necessary