Fa-la-la-la-la: Mistletoe and Rhyme

From 'Christmas Week in the Commons' to 'The Annual Account of St Nicholas'
Click to follow
The Independent Online



The bells of prating adverts ring,
Department stores are lit again,
Consumers bite and gouge and fight
To throw their money down the drain,
While many are prepared to kill
In order that they spread goodwill.

The holly in the garden's scorched
By 10-foot flames the gales had fanned
From last year's wrappings neighbour torched
When garden fire got out of hand.
Best not repeat what firemen say
On being called out on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses thud
With Christmas karaoke noise,
The pavement's dashed with glass and blood
As rucks go off with fuelled-up boys,
While doormen posted for the day
Alert the pubs two streets away.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Will now extend their trading times
So certain staff may never leave
Until they hear the midnight chimes,
Not even those acrylic elves,
Disgruntled and still stacking shelves.

And sullen son dragged out by Dad
Recites a list scrawled out by Mum
As weighty as The Iliad,
Reflecting on the feast to come,
And muses that they may as well
Have booked themselves in a hotel.

And this is true, so once again
We leave them joyous as can be,
Blaspheming in the teeming rain
While wrestling with a Christmas tree,
Which will not fit the car they bring
Till sawn, then lashed to roof with string.

Based on 'Christmas' by Sir John Betjeman

Christmas Week in the Commons

It was Question Time in the Commons.
The incumbents were locked in a row
On the matter of free education
And the state of the nation now.
The good, the bad and the boring
Were roasting Prime Minister Blair
While an ambient backwash of snoring
Coasted the scorn in the air.

The heat-seeking pertinent questions
Glanced off the PM's intent
While the lowing byre of members
Baa-ed and moo-ed their dissent,
When a voice like broken crystal
Cracked and clearly old
Rang like a shot from a pistol:
"If I may be so bold...

This education business.
I should like to have my say.
I've sat all these years on the benches
And I'm due to retire today."
A venerable old backbencher
Whom hardly a one could recall
Having secured their attention
Gazed steady-eyed at them all.

"These top-up fees and the charges
That you levy on our young
D'you think that providing a ladder
Where they pay for the cost of each rung
Is the way to encourage climbing
To the pinnacle of a profession
Or is it just the myopia
Of a cynical, blinkered obsession?

Do you reckon they'll all flock in numbers
For the privilege of getting in debt
While the rest of them train to be plumbers
Or settle for what they can get?
The right to a free education
Is worth more than the sum of its parts
Since its tendrils are all interlacing
Through the sciences and all the arts.

Obstruct this right - not a privilege -
And the ignorant won't volunteer
To wade through your myriad bullshit
For the sake of some distant career.
And those with unfocused ambitions
Who have yet to discover their way
Won't take a step on the footpath
If the price is a sum they can't pay.

You see, I myself was a tradesman
And came into politics late,
Though had it not been for my teachers
Who helped me to barge through the gate
I wouldn't have entered these portals
Or ever discovered my station.
May I repeat: Education
Education. Education."

Now the old chap became breathless,
Spent with the service of years
Whilst all around in the chamber
The cheering assaulted his ears:
"Merry Christmas! A philistine future
Be assured of a strenuous haul
As you struggle to tack in a suture
On this terrible wound to us all."

Based on 'Christmas Day in the Workhouse' by George R Sims

The Grinch Who Raised the Interest Rate

Every Cred down in Credville liked Christmas a lot
But the Grinch who looked after the Budget did not
The Grinch cautioned prudence approaching the season
Since most of the Creds were in debt beyond reason
He then said the rates were much lower than oughta
So first thing November, he raised them a quarter
"The next month is Christmas," he said with a frown
"And we have to act now, to get borrowing down.
Then early next year they'll go up again maybe,"
He cooed while he looked gooey-eyed to his baby.
"We're hanged if we do and we're hanged if we don't
With council tax rocketing, like it they won't.
But house prices showing no slowdown as yet
And every Cred well over six grand in debt.
If credit crunch comes we'll be stuffed at election
So rates must be moved in an upward direction."

The Creds who had borrowed and spent it all madly
Studied their financial supplements sadly
Examining mortgage rates closely in detail
Which worried the sectors whose business was retail
Knowing they'd now have to boost advertising
Prior to a pre-Christmas round of downsizing
They advertised gadgets, computers and games
Pop compilations with all the big names
Holidays, cars, and superfluous stuff
Since Creds never know when enough is enough
And drunk on the season will not heed the warning
Until they wake up with a headache next morning.

The Grinch smiled grimly, outlining a plan
To whack on a quarter-point, first thing in Jan
A move which he knew would leave some in the lurch
And rightly, go down like a fart in a church
But the Grinch was determined and getting up steam
Intent on preserving the New Labour dream
Avoiding such nightmares as blighted the Tories
Negative equity, similar glories
Mortgage defaults and a Marshalsea culture
Waiting to pounce on the Creds like a vulture
The Creds down in Credville held Christmas regardless
Facing a year of being cashless or cardless
And even the Creds who were feeling the pinch
Said: "Sod it, it's Christmas. And bugger the Grinch."
And so down in Credville the folly went on
Till all of the credit and money was gone
The Grinch took the flak for it, as was expected
Hedging his bets that he'd still get elected.

Based on 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' by Dr Seuss

Ring Out Wild Bells

Ring out wild bells to crowded sky
The stars no longer seen at nights
Replaced by winking aircraft lights
As cut-price winter breaks skate by.
Ring out the old, ring in the new
But keep the public in the dark
And if no weapons in Iraq
Hang on, we're bound to find a few.
Ring out the warnings, chide the sick
And tell the public, plain as that
We smoke too much. We're all too fat
But hey, we're cool! Arise Sir Mick.
Ring out the bad old public stuff
Create new private suzerains
For prisons, hospitals and trains
It's what we need when times are tough.
Bring out the stick and change the law
The world is full of fear and threat
We may be strapped but don't forget
There's always cash to fight a war.
Now wring your hands at kids in bars
And wonder how they pass exams
Then mither over traffic jams
But keep on flogging booze and cars.
Ring in the new, don't get upset
New year, new hope - let's hope it's true
We have a lot of work to do
The world remains the old world yet.

Based on part of 'In Memoriam' by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Marmion 2003

Heap on more wood, the wind is chill
Turn up the heating as you will
We'll keep the Christmas merry still
And if there's anything you lack
Just take the car to town and back
No point in waiting for the bus
It's other drivers and not us
Who clog the festive bypass there
Pumping exhaust fumes in the air
Even the estuary man
With fairy lights upon white van
Rejoices when he sees it all
And toasts St Ella by the Mall
In lager which will help him brawl
And slurs his estuary drawl.
Let's eavesdrop while he's on the pull
Made brave by vodka and Red Bull:

"O, and if this global warming's here
We'll keep the tan topped up all year
So just ignore that killjoy green
Can always hire a snow machine
And never mind about the Earth
Just think how much your house is worth?
On Christmas Eve the bells are rung
But late. Your shout. The night is young
The guv won't sling us out till one.
A line of Chas? S'gotta be done.
I'll have it if you've got some spare
The third trap in? The karzi, yeah?
No hang on, mate. It's bloody gone
I must have lost it earlier on."

For life is hard, the ancients write:
A sparrow flying through the night
Flits briefly through the feasting Hall
Then blinded, hits a beam or wall.
Well, so the Saxon scriptures say
Or something like that, anyway.

Based on part of 'Marmion' by Sir Walter Scott

The Annual Account of St Nicholas

'Twas the night before Christmas and on the M1
The traffic was slow with the rush-hour begun
Most of the A-roads were down to a crawl
While the M25 had no movement at all.
Well, that was two years ago - never again.
So last year we tried to deliver by train
The transport on offer is prey to restriction
We've all read that best-selling great work of fiction
"The Railway Timetable" - witty, amusing
And fun - if it isn't your firm they're abusing.
I'd toyed with the concept of charter planes too
But charges prevailing, it just wouldn't do
It left me the choice of go slow or no go
And this, in a season of ice, flood and snow.

Now, as head of a Christmas delivery co.
Toy Distribution Is Us - Ho ho ho,
The last year's débâcle went so far off plan
That some kiddies didn't get presents till Jan.
You'd think in an age so enamoured of science
The business of getting the goods to the clients
Would be easy, efficient and, crucially, fast
But it isn't and so I've examined our past.

A sleigh and eight reindeer? A wild card, I grant you.
The shareholders laughed. You can understand, can't you?
But once I'd gone through all the archived statistics
It calmed down their jitters about the logistics
So Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
And Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
Are now re-recruited in line with predictions
That grey-power workers would buck old restrictions
And as for the sleigh economics - no question
It's silent and clean and gives zero congestion
The air-traffic chiefs have examined my case
And posted a seasonal permit in place.

So on with the coat and the hood and the beard
If modernists claim that the concept is weird
We pledge to deliver before Feast of Stephen
Though precipitation be deep, crisp and even
Sherry, mince pies and red nose notwithstanding
The sub-arctic deer sector boom is expanding
With business on target and endgame in sight
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Based on 'An Account of a Visit from St Nicholas' by Major Henry Livingstone Jr (often wrongly attributed to Clement Clarke Moore)