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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Merry Christmas, Sir Reginald

It is bitterly cold on the West Cliff tonight. The gardens are deserted. The moon is obscured by thick rolling clouds. The street lamps cast only frail pools of light on the paths. Where is Sir Reginald? Surely it's time for him to be out and about on his evening constitutional raging against the Communists at the Council for the feebleness of the lighting? Or will tonight's fulmination be for the waste of tax payers money engendered by having street lighting at all?

Click whirr. Click whirr. Ah here he is now in his bath chair propelled with vigour by his one legged manservant Phillips. Sir Reginald is wrapped warmly in his tartan blanket against the chill whilst Phillips, his sleeves rolled up to display his tattooed arms has a film of sweat across his brow. 
    “Faster, Man. Faster. Can you not see that I am in imminent danger of dying from hypothermia here?”

A single flake of white flutters down through the street light's rays. “What! What was that?” demands Sir Reginald.
    “It was a snowflake, I believe Sir.” answers Phillips and, as if to prove his belief the first is followed by a second and a third.
    “Snow! We want none of that here. This is Bournemouth not Siberia.”
    “Snow is a thing of great beauty.”
    “Beauty! Pshaw! Your idea of beauty is very much at odds with mine, Sirrah. An idea of beauty that could only have come from the twisted hell hole of the 'tween decks mess of that pirate ship I rescued you from.”
The truth is that Phillips has never ventured further on the high seas than a Sunday cruise around Poole Harbour as a child but he lets it pass.
    “Under the lens, each snowflake is a thing of great wonder. While no two are exactly the same, they ll exhibit the astonishing uniformity of having six sides.”
Sir Reginald likes uniformity. He likes regularity and order in all things. “Six sides, you say?”
    “Yes Sir. Every one of them. All different but, at the same time, all the same.”
Sir Reginald is about to begin extolling the virtues of regularity and order when out of the whirling white comes a disturbing sight. It is the bath chair of his nemesis Dame Amelia Vole leading member of the Women’s International Socialist and Suffrage movement. She is, in turn propelled by her companion Miss Pymm a tall angular female of indeterminate years but who is surprisingly athletic beneath her shapeless grey smock.
    “Get out of my way you... you harridan.” rages Sir Reginald. But Dame Amelia fails to respond and as they draw level she smiles and says “And a Merry Christmas to you.”
    “What! What did you say?”
    “I wished you the season's greeting. I said 'A Merry Christmas to you.'”
    “You dare wish me a Merry Christmas?”
    “I do. A merry Christmas. There, I've done it again.”
    “Christmas Balderdash.” He would have liked to say ' Christmas humbug' but he has in the back of his mind that that has been used somewhere already.
   “I suppose you do not keep Christmas, then?”
   “I'll thank you to keep your impertinent suppositions to your self.”
   “Not even a plate of good plum duff? I wager you don't keep any of The good old British traditions.”
   “Of course we keep all the traditions. All the British ones.” Sir Reginald has only a perfunctory knowledge of what the traditions of Christmas are. He knows they can be dangerously subversive but this woman has just wagered him
   “We do. Every one of them. We keep every one of them .” Then he remembers with a lurch that one of the traditions is that of generals feeding dinner to their troops. He cringes at the terrifying prospect of having to wheel himself backwards and forwards through the unholy melee in the dining room whilst Phillips sits there gloating at him and devouring all the plum duff. He would be seen. There would be members of the Club present sniggering through their fingers. The thought is insufferable.“Not precisely every one.” Then he remembers with growing horror the tradition of exchanging of gifts and he shudders even more. “Times change.”
“I'll wager you don't even decorate with holly.”
He brightens. “Ah yes, holly.” He remembers that holly can be got from holly bushes and is free.   “We keep the holly tradition.” And his demeanour is so pathetic all of a sudden that Phillips steps forward with his clasp knife at the ready.
   “If I may venture to say,” interjects the one-legged manservant. “That is just what we were doing out here. Collecting holly.” And he swiftly removes a couple of low branches from an overhanging bush.
  ”And mistletoe?” persists the old woman.
  “Yes. Mistletoe, of course.” But despite the certainty in his master's voice, this time Phillips can contribute nothing.
  “Mistletoe, Miss Pymm.” barks the old woman and The angular companion produces a bunch which she holds out over the heads of the warring pair. Dame Amelia leans forward and kisses Sir Reginald on the cheek
  “What! What! Madam I will have you prosecuted for common assault.”
  “Forward, Miss Pymm,” chuckles the venerable dame and the angular companion trundles her charge off into the swirling maelstrom of the snowstorm.
  “And battery” mumbles Sir Reginald. “Assault and battery. You are my witness, Phillips”

As the subdued pair return to Grand Marine Court he churns with the damnable confusion that now besets him. Christmas. He hates Christmas. Vile old women that attempt lewd acts in public. Snowflakes, at once regular yet individual. A manservant, an ex-pirate with a dangerous looking clasp knife who would gladly slit his throat as cheerfully as he gathered evergreens and to whom tomorrow he will have to bring plates of plum duff.
  “Damn Christmas,” he ejaculates. “Damn and blast it to hell.”
There is a pause as the two men survey the scene before going in..
  “I may not be having dinner tomorrow. Lost me damn appetite.”
  “There will be plum duff in the dining room. You do so enjoy that, Sir.”
  “Yes yes I do.”
There is a long pause.
  “It will not be necessary for you to serve at table tomorrow, Sir.”
  “No. Of course not.” and with a small cough almost lost in the blizzard. “Thank you.”
  “You will manage a small serving of plum duff, I'm sure. If I bring it to you.”
Silently Sir Reginald watches the snow smoothing out the imperfections of the world and touches his cheek where it burns from the wind.
  “If I may venture to wish you A merry Christmas Sir,” says Phillips as though from a great distance.
  “Yes. Yes. You may. And the same to you. Now get me in out of this damn cold.”

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