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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sir Reginald's Christmas Carol

Sir Reginald’s Christmas Carol

You’ll want all day tomorrow, then?” thundered Sir Reginald to his one legged tattooed manservant Phillips.  “So you can get up to some shady dealings with that cut throat crew you roamed the seven seas with on the good ship Nancy?  Spending all day in some shady dock side tavern cooking up your villainies.”

Phillips had despaired of ever getting Sir Reginald to understand that he was given to seasickness and his previous trade had been as a gentleman’s hairdresser in Poole and had never been to sea in his life Not even as far as taking a trip round the Brownsea Island on a motor launch much as less as a pirate.

Clump whirr clump whirr clump whirr.  Phillips continued propelling his master’s bath chair along the cliff top path beneath the pines on this darkening Christmas Eve afternoon.   “”If it’s convenient I would like this evening as well.”

“What!  What!! What!!!”  Sir Reginald was now incandescent with rage.  “The whole of Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.  That’s the sort of anarchy that brought about the downfall of the Empire.  Good God man, have you absolutely no principals at all. I never took a day off in my whole life. We need to fight Communism in all its forms, especially Christmas.”

Phillips, thought that for once in his life he would like to be there when his nephews and nieces were opening their presents and his widowed sister had put a great deal of pressure on him to abandon Sir Reginald for once.

“Perhaps if I am not there, you will not be reminded of Christmas.  I may inadvertently whistle a festive tune.”

“Harrumph.” harrumphed Sir Reginald.

“I will leave everything laid out for you.  There is a fine stilton on the sideboard and vintage port that I have already decanted.”

At the mention of stilton Sir Reginald was somewhat mollified.  He could, perhaps manage an evening and a day with a wheel of Stilton.

“Very well.  But it’ll come off this week’s wages.  I don’t want to be paying to foster your criminal socialist lifestyle.  If I had an ounce of sense I’d report you to the customs and excise forthwith.  I must be going soft.”

As they rounded a corner they came upon a party of small children.  Sir Reginald waved his stick at them.  But instead of fleeing in disorder as they should have done they took the stick waving as some sort of signal and they began to sing.  Their small piping voices filling the afternoon air.

Silent night, holy night

All is calm all is bright

When they had finished Sir Reginald pointed to one of the urchins. His thin clothes were patched and ragged. “You.  Yes, you boy. What have you got to be so cheerful about?”

“Why Sir.” Piped the lad,”It’s Christmas Eve Sir.  We all comes from the orphanage on the other side of town.  Matron can’t afford a turkey nor nuffink but she says if we’re good today we can have spaghetti for dinner tomorrow.  Proper spaghetti out of a tin.  We are collecting for children who are worse off than we are.  Spare us a penny, Sir.”

“A penny!  A penny.  Do you think I’m made of money?”

“Sorry Sir.  We can see you are old and crippled yourself on account of you aving to be pushed about in a bath chair and so on so you must be deserving of charity yourself.”

“Of course I’m deserving.  I didn’t slave away all those years in the service of the king and country to find myself in this state.”

“Well we even’t collected no money as yet but you can share our bag of sweeties that Matron gave us before we come out.”  And so saying a grubby hand holding a paper bag was thrust under Sir Reginald’s nose.  And Sir Reginald, being Sir Reginald took two and popped them in his mouth.  The urchins tumbled past him and made off down the path.  He could hear their voices calling to him in the afternoon air. “A Merry Christmas Sir.” “A merry Christmas.”And “Proper spaghetti from a tin.” Sir Reginald grimaced.  What was this he was sucking?  “A humbug.  Bah.  Christmas.”

And just when he thought he was safe who should encounter on the path but another bath chair going in the contrary direction.  Sir Reginald’s heart sank.  It was the well known suffragist Dame Celia Vole and her constant companion Miss Pymm  a tall angular female of indeterminate years.  She, surprisingly athletic beneath her shapeless grey smock. 

“Out of my way.”  Yelled Sir Reginald.  “My right of way.  Coming through.”

“Good afternoon, Sir Reginald.  And a merry Christmas to you.  Would you like to contribute to the fund for poor refugees?”  and Miss Pymm brandished a tin at him.

“Is that all Christmas has become?  A penny here and a penny there?  You’d bleed me dry if you could.   Christmas has lost all true meaning and just become an excuse for  Money grabbing and swindling.  When will we be able to return to the true spirit of Christmas and leave people like me alone?”

“Come come Sir Reginald.  You know the donation of a small gift would give you a feeling of warm satisfaction.”

“The only thing that would give me any satisfaction would be loading all your refugees into a boat and throwing you in with them and setting you off to sail to somewhere where you can’t bother me any more.”

“It strikes me you have a great deal to learn about Christmas. You must be eligible for a visit from the three spirits.”

“You Madam appear to have gone utterly ga-ga.  I can’t make any sense out of your communistic blathering.”

“ You know, Dickens...  Christmas Carol...”

“I haven’t got the faintest idea what you’re talking about.”

“Surely even you...Three ghosts visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve and teach him a valuable lesson about the season.  ”

“You mean like the damnable interfering Social Services. And who pays for those?  It’s that socialist town council wasting my hard earned money.”

“Never mind.”  Says Dame Cecila Vole. “A Merry Christmas anyway.”

Back at Grand Marine Court, Sir Reginald was preparing for bed.  He had on his long striped nightshirt and his betasselled night cap.  He seemed almost gleeful as he scooped another plateful of the stilton and poured himself a generous measure of the twinkling ruby port wine.  Tonight there was no Phillips to look disapprovingly at his over indulgence.  No, he was content. He settled back in his arm chair and dozed off.  He was rudely shaken awake by a sudden knocking at the door.

“What the Dickens,” he muttered.  Where was Phillips when you needed him?  Nevertheless he turned the handle and there stood a small boy.  He looked suspiciously like the orphan from the West Cliff.  The lad was holding a steaming bowl of spaghetti.  “I am the ghost of Christmas pasta.”  He twirled rapidly with his fork. “long pasta.”

“A ghost eh?  Shouldn’t be allowed. I’ll have the pest control officer here in the morning.”

“I have come to show you your past life and tell you where you went wrong.”

Now the one thing Sir Reginald did not want shown him was his past.  There might be too many questions about his tax affairs and how he came to be awarded quite so many medals and honours for his services to India when the furthest East he ever got was Walthamstow.

“No.  Not interested Sonny.  Sling your hook” and he slammed the door and he settled back in his armchair, his heart hammering with fear that they might at last have caught up with him.

Barely had he closed his eyes when then there was another knock on the door.

“Now what.” He fumed leaping up.  There stood the same urchin as before.  “Persistent little devil aren’t you?”

“Please Sir I am the ghost of Christmas present.”

“You said just now you were the ghost of Christmas past.”

“Cutbacks Sir.  I’m doubling up tonight.  Let me show you what is happening in the Phillips household.”  And there they were apparently hovering in mid air in a modest council flat in Poole.  There propped against the fireplace a wooden leg, sad and forlorn.  The children gathered round the table looking at the frugal meal set before them. Their eyes were tear stained  and their cheeks were hollow from their weeping. “Poor Tiny Tim” said the woman, evidently the Phillips sister.  They all started wailing anew.  “Never mind children” said Phillips, “I’ll buy you a new guinea pig when I can afford it.”

The widow’s lips quivered “That skinflint Master of yours.  If he paid you enough we could have guinea pig every Sunday.”

Phillips, balancing on one leg raised his glass and said “God bless us every one.”

“Damn his eyes, the ungrateful wretch.  I’ll dock him two weeks wages for that.” and he aimed a kick at the ghost of Christmas Present who left as quickly as he had come.

As before he had barely closed his eyes when there came a third knock.

Damn the damnable Communists.  He bellowed and flung the door wide.  “I suppose you’re the third apparition.  Perhaps after you’ve done your party piece you can leave me alone.

“I see the future.  A coffin with your name on it.  And people dancing.  They are dancing on your grave.”

“That’s excellent news.  I’m going to be buried at sea. If that’s all of you perhaps I can get a proper night’s sleep.” And his sleep was indeed long and untroubled.

The next afternoon, when Phillips stumped back in he found his master in surprisingly good spirits.

“Did you have a good day, Sir?”

“No I damn well, did not.  I had the most terrible dreams last night.  I was visited by strange apparitions that showed me scenes from my life in the past and future.  I feel wretched today.”

“I’m sorry to hear that Sir.”

At least what that old trout Vole said has come true.  My dreams have taught me a valuable lesson.”

“Oh, may I enquire what that is?”

“Not to eat so much bloody cheese before I go to bed.”