A Little Fiction – A Boxing Day Tale

photo of santa claus sleeping
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

‘…Always the same these days,’ said the old man randomly stabbing the buttons on the remote control. ‘Reality TV and repeats. Whatever happened to Morecambe and Wise? Whatever happened to Only Fools and Horses? Whatever happened to Val Doonican?’ He switched off the set as the latest X-Factor winner made his final ever TV appearance before returning to his life of flipping burgers and performing in the local Working Man’s Club on a Saturday evening – a valid life, with which he would have been perfectly happy, if only some idiot had not told him he could be a star.

‘Here,’ said Mrs Claus. ‘I was watching that.’ With a glare, Santa turned the TV back on. ‘Moan, moan, moan,’ continued the old woman, even as the seasonal Celebrity-Something-Or-Other burst into noisome life. ‘That’s all you do these days, moan, moan, moan. I’ll be happy when December comes about again: get you out of my hair.’
‘Yes, well,’ said Santa, stroking his beard agitatedly. ‘I’ve been thinking about that. I think I might retire. I’m tired. This is no job for an old man.’
Mrs Claus stared at him for a very long time whilst she considered spending even more time with him than she currently did. ‘What do you mean, no job for an old man? Who else is going to do it? It has to be an old man.’
‘Could be a woman.’
‘Not according to all of the literature.’
‘Literature can be modified,’ S.C. muttered, darkly.
‘Besides,’ ploughed on the old lady, ignoring the truth in her husband’s argument ‘You only really work one day a year – it’s a long day I’ll grant you, but other than have a few kids to sit on your lap through December, what else do you do?’
‘Elves don’t look after themselves, you know,’ he snapped. ‘Elves do not forward plan. Leave it to the elves and we’d have, come Christmas Eve, nothing more than dolls and wooden forts. And’ he continued, a steely glint entering his eye ‘Kids do not sit on my knee anymore. Not allowed. If I can drag the little bleeders away from their mobile phones for a minute, they pull my beard, wipe KFC down my coat and kick me in the shin before asking me for a vaping kit.’
‘What you need is a good sleep,’ soothed Mrs C. ‘Why not go to bed? Don’t worry about setting an alarm; I’ll wake you in March.’
‘Why March? What’s happening in March?’
‘Just a few promotional shots. Nothing taxing. Maybe a video or two. Few minutes work; nothing more.’
‘Promotional shots?’ he spluttered. ‘Promotional shots? Why do I need promotional shots? There’s only one of me. I’ve got more people on my books than I can handle already.’
‘Never hurts to advertise,’ she said, placing a small glass of sherry at his side. ‘Here, drink this.’
The old man eyed the drink. ‘Sherry?’ he coughed. ‘Sherry? Have you any idea how many glasses of sherry I drank last night? You’ll be offering me a mince pie next.’ He glared into the fire. ‘I’ll tell them in the morning,’ he said at last. ‘I’ll tell them I’m packing it in; that I’ve had enough.’
‘Tell who?’
‘Well… I’ve no idea. I’ll find someone.’
‘And what about the children?’
‘They won’t even notice, as long as they still get all of their stuff, they won’t care who brings it. The magic has gone already. They’ll never know.’ Despite himself, he drained the sherry in a single gulp. ‘I’m off to bed,’ he said.
‘Fine,’ said Mrs Claus. ‘No problem. Just before you do, though, can you read this so that I can reply.’
‘What is it?’
‘It’s a letter. It came down the chimney earlier while you were out talking to the reindeer.’
‘A letter? My God, they start earlier and earlier with their demands, don’t they? Can you read it to me? I don’t know what I’ve done with my glasses.’
Mrs Claus unfolded the single sheet of paper and, having cleared her throat, she read. ‘‘Dear Santa. Thank you for everything. I hope you get some rest today. I love you X.’ Carefully she refolded the letter, ‘Shall I burn it?’ she asked.

Santa coughed slightly and rubbed gently at what might just have been a little itch in the corner of his eye. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Give it to me. I’ll reply now and then I suppose I’d better go and get some sleep. I’ve got a busy December next year…’

Christmas Dinner

xmas dinner
Photo by Amelie & Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash

The highlight of Christmas Day in the UK (after the seasonal TV ‘special’ Stars In Their Eyes, featuring pets of the rich and famous, and Susan Boyle singing a novelty version of ‘We Three Kings’ especially written for her by Richard Stilgoe) is the Great British Christmas Dinner, and it is this repast upon which this piece will focus as, to be brutally honest, I simply do not know what is eaten elsewhere in the world, although I would be delighted to hear, should anyone wish to fill me in.

The traditional Christmas Dinner contains sufficient calories to see the average Blue Whale through the winter, but it does not usually begin with any form of appetizer as most celebrants are already stuffed to the gills with candied fruit, chocolate covered nuts, mince pies, sausage rolls, buck’s fizz, cream sherry, glacé cherries and eggnog by the time they sit to eat. It is entirely normal for over-imbibed members of the family to have to be woken in order to be brought to the table, whereupon they immediately fall asleep in the chestnut stuffing and dribble gently into the gravy.

At this early stage, instead of eating, the Christmas crackers are usually pulled. The ‘crack’ associated with these sparkly seasonal tubes will inevitably make the babies scream and the elderly momentarily lose control of their bladders. Disagreements over the ‘prizes’ in the crackers, and whose flew where, may persist well into the New Year. The wise host will have a carrier bag full of crap with which to pacify the dissatisfied. The contents of the cracker usually consists of a paper crown which splits into two as soon as you attempt to put it on your head; a plastic novelty that flies across the room, ricochets from head and ornament before settling somewhere unseen, where it remains lost until a week later when it is sucked up with 3cwt of pine-needles and a half-eaten coffee-cream which jams the Hoover, having smeared itself over a six foot strip of mushroom shagpile. Finally, there is a joke, written, I believe, by a robot in Taiwan, which proves beyond doubt that there will never be an AI comedian. Never-the-less, it is not considered good manners to begin the meal until everybody has had the opportunity to read out their joke – even if a packing malfunction at the factory has resulted in everybody having the same one.

The traditional ‘bird’ of Christmas Dinner is, I think the goose, but this has now been firmly superseded by the turkey, due largely to its greater post-Christmas adaptability in sandwich, curry and rissole. Henry the Eighth, it is said, was the first person to eat Christmas turkey in the UK and, looking at some of the sandwiches in the shops around this time of the year, the same bird is still doing the rounds. It is traditional to concur, when taking one’s first mouthful, that it is a bit dry and ask for more gravy. As a non-meat eater, I will traditionally be asked at this point if I would like some ham.
Christmas Dinner is, in effect, a standard Sunday Roast with knobs on, separated from ‘the normal’ by volume and accoutrement:
• Brussel Sprouts are, for many people, a once-a-year veg. Traditionally boiled for approximately three weeks before the day and hidden under the table during the meal.
• Bread Sauce – follows the English tradition of taking something relatively bland and stodgy and transforming it into something even blander and stodgier.
• Pigs in Blankets – pork sausage wrapped in bacon (so, more correctly Pigs in Pig, I would argue) presents the UK diner with the unique opportunity to accompany a meal with the sensation of inadvertently driving a cocktail stick through the hard palate and into the nasal cavity.
• Cranberry Sauce – this is most un-British, like having gravy on your pudding. Tolerated only on this one day of the year. For the rest of the year such gastronomic eccentricities are left to the French.
• Wine, both red and white may be served. Grandma, robbed of her mug of tea, will reluctantly agree to have a glass of port and lemonade (‘More lemonade than port, please. Well, perhaps just a splash more port…’), before falling to sleep and coughing her false teeth into the mash.

After the meal has been eaten, the plates have been cleared and the worst of it mopped off grandad’s shirt, comes the Christmas Pudding: the densest duff since Cnut. The glistening globe is placed, steaming, in the centre of the table before being doused in brandy and set alight, to shrieks of admiration from everyone around the table, except for grandma who has woken to find her hairpiece is on fire. The brandy soaked pudding is usually served with brandy butter, brandy sauce and brandy – or perhaps that’s just our house. In the past, the pudding would contain a silver sixpence, which the lucky finder would use to get their teeth fixed.

Only the hardiest of souls, and those desperate to avoid the washing up, will attempt to tackle the cheese and biscuits after all of this. Those wishing to have a cigar will be sent to the bottom of the garden as the smell makes Auntie Vera nauseous. Unfortunately, the bottom of the garden contains a compost heap that makes the smokers nauseous.

When the traditional moaning about who always gets landed with the washing up has subsided everyone settles down for an afternoon doze.

The first to wake opens the window and lets it out.