Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

Seasonal stories of portly penguins, tasteless gifts, missing mistletoe and festive rage

Share

Monday, Monday, ba-da ba-da-da-da, so good to me, ba-da ba-da-da-da ... Ah, there you are, good to see you, I was just giving that old Mamas and Papas number a bit of a topical workout. Great song. They wrote lyrics you could understand then, didn't they? Anyway, how's it all going? I'm feeling pretty chirpy because I've just spotted my first "Teacher tells children there's no Santa" story. I have. Dallas, last Monday. And then, of course, on the same day, there was what we close Claus watchers have come to call the Weisbaden Incident, which could prove to have significant implications for jurisprudence.

Now I cannot condone violence at any time, for any reason, and I am aware that provocation is a defence only to a charge of murder, but I wonder, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, whether you could really find it in yourselves, especially at this season of goodwill, to convict the two men waiting patiently for their train home after a hard day's shopping, minding their own business, troubling nobody, who were approached by a department store Santa asking them to "tell Santa what you want for Christmas" .

I agree that seizing his sack and beating him over the head with it was an over-reaction, and that the damage to his hand was unacceptable, but which one of us can honestly say, our hand on our heart, that the red and white mist would not have similarly descended upon us, faster than you can roast a chestnut, deck a hall, or crush a sleigh bell with a sledge hammer?

And while the teacher in Dallas must be wholeheartedly condemned, I should mention that she was a music teacher, a fine and sensitive body of people for whom this wonderful time of the year is especially testing, particularly if they have to hear the "Little Drummer Boy" one more time, pa rum pa pum-pum.

Heartwarming tale

Still, I wouldn't like to give you an impression of unfestiveness. Ho, no, no. And to prove it, I should like to pass on a tale that has always warmed my heart, to do with a school nativity play in Liverpool. The first wise man solemnly presented his gift: "I bring you gold". The second wise man solemnly presented his gift: "I bring you myrrh." The third wise man solemnly presented his gift: " 'Ere y'are, Frank sent dis." Ah, yes, happy days. I'm also very fond of that great old carol, " Christmas for Cowboys" ("It's tall in the saddle we spend Christmas Day").

Mistletoe. There's something else that conjures up a warm seasonal glow, unless you're young, attractive and have uncles. Mysteriously, though, I see, it's been disappearing all round Britain. This might be signalling a dramatic change of approach by the CIA, but I doubt it. More likely druids. I've been expecting something like this ever since we got an Archbishop of Canterbury called Rowan. We'll wake up on Christmas Day and there'll be druidical music on the radio between appeals to keep calm and get the bedsheets on. Actually, though, druidical music is quite fun. They've come on a bit, you know. "Iceni Queen", for example, is a top number, sung to the Abba hit, "Dancing Queen", ("Iceni Queen, strong and lean"). Another is "Silbury Hill", based on the old Fats Domino number: "I found my thrill ... on Silbury Hill". My favourite, though, has to be, "Only Yew".

Suits you

Other seasonal stuff: well, penguins at a Japanese zoo have been put on an exercise regime to combat the weight they tend to gain at this time of year. So far it's a brisk walk, but you know what the Japanese are like, soon it could be press-ups, star jumps and running machines, not to mention the pole vault. Pole vault. They live at the South Pole, penguins. Suit yourself. Which reminds me of the Garrison Keillor joke: First penguin: "You look as if you're wearing a dinner suit." Second Penguin: "Who says I'm not?" All right, all right, what do you get when you cross a penguin with a gorilla? Search me, but, whatever you do, don't try to adjust its bow tie. Oi!

Roo the day

Kangaroos, now, and one has been run over and killed in Wisconsin. It's the second one found in the state this year, but no one's jumping to conclusions, although I note that there is a Kangaroo Lake up in Door County, just a hop away. Coincidence? I'm making inquiries of Mr Plzak, the County Forester. Meanwhile, I am able to tell you that the Wisconsin state animal is the beaver, the state fish is the muskellunge, and the state dance is the polka, which is interesting, as most states either haven't got one or have rather boringly plumped for the square dance.

Presents? How about a personalised action figure of yourself? Well, just send photos and £240, and Herobuilders, an American firm, will make a 12-inch musclebound version of you. They will. Think of all the people you could send that to! For another £50 or so, they'll even add a voice which says, "Hey, Barbie! I want to play in your dream house." No? All right, then, the Clark County Coroner in Las Vegas sells souvenir T-shirts bearing the legend, "Cashed out in Las Vegas", and a £5 plastic jawbone business card holder. Marvellous. Have a good one!

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
King Abdullah made Saudi Arabia prosperous but had absolute disregard for what liberal Westerners would view as basic human rights  

The media cannot ignore tricky questions when someone dies - but it must stick to the facts

Will Gore
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us