Friday, December 08, 2006

The Steamed Sixpence

The red basket was open and inside were the apple blobs of Christmas time. The basket was warm slightly and also slightly damp so that when you pressed your hand into it, it felt wet slightly, a little warm. The apples were not, of course, crisp. The apples were soft and warm and you’d have to be a bedwetter or somesuch to eat and, moreover, enjoy them.

Red baskets and apples are all that remain. The children have fled. Crisp air, cobbled stones, a stretch of cobbles that hold, just, the stout legs of the sturdy market tables. There’s a church steeple, a counting house, a gallery, a courtyard, a small pub, an ostler’s wrestle, a bank, an Ann Bonney whop, an abandoned keep. And now, at last, a policeman. Who goes there?

Yes, Christmas time. You could tell by the lights and the general glad tidings that filled the air and played about even the sternest of faces. Christmas shopping fatigue? asked the sign that also directed the shoppers upstairs to some traditional Christmas grub. From the window looking down on to the expanse of shopping centre approach, the lights just visible through the quickly descending dusk. Maybe also a catch of snowflake - you could tell by the breath cutting into the air. No wonder they stamped their feet in a kind of rouse, in a kind of cheer.

Red baskets and apples, mere dots in the background. Pixels, as they say. Background pixels to the foreground Christmas drama of full plum pudding, turkey, all the trimmings. A steaming platter of traditional Christmas grub. No wonder that Father Christmas, visible and cold from the back pantry window, was licking his cherry red lips. No wonder that the little cherubims, five in total, were leaping up and down in their Sunday best all hoping for a stir of the gravy. No wonder mum was so serene and collected, pissed probably. And no wonder dad looked so maniacally twisted, the carving knife raised above his head with the baby Jesus in a picture on the wall just behind him - his baby head at the point of the knife. If this father could calm himself for a moment, could see what we see, he would be fair ashamed. At Christmas time and all.

It’s Christmas time so look, Victorians. With their top hats, big coats, merry furs, parnell gloves, woolly boots and what, cravats, scarves? Victorians are on the march and it’s just delightful that there’s snow on the ground, we need a bit of crisp and crunch. The brazier blazing away with roast chestnuts, jacket potatoes and red-faced kids is just the thing for this authentic Victorian Christmas. Mince pies and sherry, Mr Fezziwig and a whole afternoon of laughter and dancing. A tear, a song, the smallest bird and the biggest appreciation. Plum pudding and a sprig of holly pressed deep into your heart.

Deep into your heart.

And by the hearth, an old clock ticking, the mantelpiece groaning beneath the weight of plate, filled, as it is, with a merry feast of mince pies, brandy shavings, a glass of milk, twelve carrots, a corcupine rose, eight needles of grass, a small bottle of whiskey, two clams of chicken, a selection of the finest cheeses, a note. A handwritten note addressed to Santa himself and written in mother’s dear, slow hand:

Dear Santa

Oh what we wish for this year is somehow a relief from the misery that has dogged us throughout this year in the form of death rays and special bullets that can, in a moment, pierce our previously impenetrable skin and explode our already broken hearts. Who designed these fiendish splatters of death? We would love to know. And that, I suppose, is our first Christmas request. Our second Christmas request, while I’m on the subject, is a selection box each. Cadbury’s. Our third is, well, forgive me, slightly more risqué. That is, I would like some sexy new underwear or lingerie or whatever. Red in colour, perhaps. Maybe blue. I’ll leave it up to you. For the kids I direct your attention to the letters you must have received sometime during the earlier part of this month. Oh what lovely kids who want so little and give so much (in truth, they make me sick – but don’t tell them nor my husband). Talking of whom: for my husband I would like – or, rather, he would like – one of those new Ronco flapper things that selects, as if by magic, the record you want. Also, while I’m in that kind of area, I wouldn’t say no (hint, hint) to one of those button popping things that presses buttons on to your clothes without the need for needle and thread. I tell you Santa, even with my super speed I find the sewing on of buttons one of life’s more tedious tasks. Goodness knows how the rest of the women of Britain cope. I take my hat off to them all. And to you, Santa Baby, I remain, in pieces or as a whole, your abiding life-long servant and fan. PS: Please give the carrots to your beautiful and hardworking reindeer – the rest, of course, is for you. Eat up Santa, you fat buffoon!

In the corner the tree and from the tree, you know, the usual dangle of the usual baubles, lights and thingies. It is a forlorn tree, one might say, and a tree that has seen much better days. Its needles, rising up in a pile from the floor, are now high enough to swallow the tree whole. If only, the tree thinks, that slovenly bint would get the fucking Hoover out and give it a bash. Then, thinks the tree once more, my Christmas might be bearable. Unlikely, says a bauble who, somehow, has the power to read the minds of trees. The black hearted villain. And at Christmas time too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent stuff, as I read I became aware that my image of Xmas has shifted from some kind of warped Victoriana to being one of drunkenness in over crowded pubs with natty decorations and every 10th person on a santa's hat.


10:20 AM  
Blogger Shannon Forbush said...

Marvellous, marvellous. I like the details, the flow of emotions. Lovely ending too.

11:38 AM  

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