On the morning of Christmas Eve, the bells of St Dunstan’s sounded their jolly clangour across London.
The shops of the Strand were lavish in their profusion of pies, puddings, currants, raisins, spices, candied peel and sugar mice. Hansom cabs clattered down the cobbles of gas-lit streets, and ladies in poke bonnets, mantled against the cold, purchased sturdy wooden toys for their adorable, curly-headed offspring.
At No 32 Eaton Square, Mr Edwin Cheeryble came down to breakfast. A log fire blazed in the grate. Beneath their burnished domes, the chafing dishes revealed an array of sausage, bacon, kippers and kedgeree. All was well with the world.
“We have received a Christmas card,” said his brother, Charles, buttering toast. “It is from young Mr Nickleby.” He passed it across the table. On the front of the card were the words, “Happy Christmas, Knobhead.”
“I may be old-fashioned,” said Edwin, “but I cannot help feeling this new style of greeting-card lacks a certain, ah, Christian generosity.” He rose and put the card upon the pianoforte, alongside two other cards that bore the messages, “Merry Christmas, you stupid wanker” and “Take your nauseating Christmas cheer and shove it up your arse.”
Edwin examined them. “The one from Mr Smike is, I suppose, understandable, since he is an uneducated fellow,” he said. “But I confess, to receive such a card from Miss Madeline Bray took me by surprise.”
“We must move with the times,” said Charles, filling his mouth with a forkful of smoked bacon. “There is now a fashion for sending seasonal missives full of genial insult, and one must try to join in.”
“I simply cannot see,” replied his brother, “that much geniality is conveyed by the words, ‘Get pissed, you old shagbags’, no matter how delightfully informal is one’s relationship with nephew Frank. And I was disappointed to receive, from the fragrant Miss La Creevy, a card containing the injunction, ‘’Tis the season to get arseholed, falalalalah lalalala’. The sentiment it conveys, of universal convivium, is certainly appropriate for this happy time of year, yet I feel the sentence lacks any sense of spiritual awe at the birth of the Redeemer.”
“I expect it is part of a new secularist tendency,” said Charles. “I blame this Darwin fellow. There are all kinds of ideas about these days that I never heard before. And words, too. Like that card we received from Tim, our industrious clerk, that read: ‘On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me – Chlamydia!’ I confess, I have no idea what the word means. Is it something to do with chrism, the holy oil? Or frankincense?”
“I have no idea, brother,” said Edwin. “Perhaps you should write to the card manufacturer for enlightenment. His name is on the back of all these Christmas missives. Here it is – the Ebeneezer Scrooge Greetings Company.”
Perhaps mistletoe does this to you
I was driving home with the Christmas tree at the weekend when I spotted a stall on Portobello Road selling mistletoe. Not just tiny sprigs, but a whole shrub of the Druidic snogberries. I went over and asked the (extremely pretty) girl in the furry parka and woolly mittens to cut me a branch. She did so and held it out for my inspection.
“Now,” she said, “Would you like to have a go on it?” Whaaaat? I looked into her face (did I mention she was very pretty?) with a wild surmise. Could she mean…? Was it standard practice to throw in a kiss along with the twig? She took my silence for evidence of deafness. “Would you,” she repeated more slowly, “like me to tie a bow on it?”
All kinds of trouble can result from a second’s mishearing. Andrew Mitchell MP would surely agree. Merry Christmas.