Christmas falls awkward this year went up the cry. Every year both Christmas and the cry were the same. Whichever day Christmas fell on it was always awkward. This worked in with most peoples general attitude to the season, an attitude which meant that if it was up to them the whole festivity would be abandoned. But as it was out of their hands, whether it was on a Monday, a Wednesday or a Sunday it made no difference. They would simply have to make the best of a bad job.
‘So are you ready for Christmas? ‘ Don Duckworth asked Alex Alexander, who didn’t have a drink in him yet. And Alex Alexander thought that this was an irresponsible question to ask in the season of cheer and goodwill to all men when a man didn’t have a proper drink inside him. To Alex Alexander this was a question which was definitely below the festive belt. ‘So what are you doing?’ Don persisted.
‘Nothing,’ Alex answered.
‘Nothing?’ Don wasn’t so sure nothing was allowed, what with him suffering the full brunt of his family and all.
‘Well, just family, you know,’ Alex said.
‘I do know,’ Don Duckworth didn’t need Alex to go into any more details on that particular front. Then after a little reflection Don said, ‘but you don’t have any family Alex.’ It was an old routine the two of them went through around every shortest day of the year.
‘As I said, I’m not doing anything,’ Alex said once again and felt it was time for a Yosemite Sam, a semi lethal drink they’d invented for each other a couple of years back.
It was the time of year when a lot of effort, more than double the effort was put into getting small children to look in wonder at the sheer shininess of everything, and it was important at this time of year for parents to believe in their small children as they looked in wonder at the sheer shininess of everything. It was even more important at this time of year when those parents gazed into the eyes of the little children and saw reflected back sheer wonderment and a belief in Santa, because there was no reason Santa shouldn’t exist in the eyes of those little children.
But underneath all the red and the green there wasn’t much left of the Spirit of Christmas, and it was a demonstrable fact hardly anyone spoke Western Aramaic any more. But despite this Alex Alexander and Don Duckworth redoubled their efforts and doubly believed, as they helped themselves to another couple of tumblers of double Yosemite Sam’s that it was nothing to do with them.
The Yosemite Sam was an ingenious drink whose main ingredients were supplied by the acme corporation. When the alcohol technology was unpacked from the large brown boxes it came in and assembled it allowed a fully grown adult to overtake the largest flightless bird the West Riding was able to put in the ring.
When drinking a Yosemite Sam, it was often a question of whether a person was stubborn enough to get to the bottom of the glass. And when Alex Alexander was in Yule tide mood he was exactly the kind of guy to get there.
Alex did actually have one family commitment, but he was well down his brothers list of people who had to be put up with, and the first date he had been offered for seeing his nephews was January 6th. Alex never bought his two nephews presents because he could never think what ginger haired identical twins could possibly want. Every kind of garish wrapping paper he thought of paled and disappointed under the shadow of their ginger tops. He went over the brief telephone conversation he’d had with his brother.
‘What about the sixth?’ his brother had said.
‘The sixth. O.K. I’ll be there,’ Alex said looking at his diary, full of a big blank nothing continuing on from Christmas Eve through to the end of the year until it spilled out onto the emergency pages telling him he needed to get a new diary.
But the 6th was still a long way off as Alex messed around in the pleasurable prelude to the holidays, which to him was what Christmas was all about, that stolen time, before the long drawn out disappointment of Christmas with its vague millennial threat began.
There was always some end of the world scheduled somewhere for the end of the year when people had the holidays to fit such a thing in. If it wasn’t December 31st at 11.43 a.m in the Arndale centre, it was 11.12 a.m. December 26th in St Paul et Valmalle, France.
Despite Alex’s usual disgruntlement with life he had managed to have a reasonably successful year for someone whose only qualification was an Art degree from Sheffield Hallam University concentrating on ceramics, what the Americans would call ‘Majoring’ in ceramics. The qualification was something Alex believed he could say, hand on heart had been no use to him, and more importantly had been of no use to anyone else. Quickly adding everything up and with a satisfied sigh he reckoned he’d made seven pounds seventy.
Maybe there was time for another Yosemite Sam, but as Don was looking ragged round the edges and seemed to Alex a little out of focus, perhaps it was best they called it a night and the year.
‘See you in January’ said Don, not needing to read the tell tale signs.
‘If you survive,’ said Alex.
Once back home Alex checked through the mail on the doormat. The HMRC had sent him his Christmas card which he put straight in the bin without opening. He really must do something about his plan to move abroad, and sooner rather than later.
He changed into his pyjamas, attached the saline drip and catheter, got into his ample double bed with a duvet of generous tog to keep his body heat healthily high for over a week during this cooler time of the year. Down on the floor piled by the bedside were books that covered most of his interests in case he should break surface to breath during his silent running. He took a last look round at Two Thousand and Twelve. Through long conscious experience, and indeed long experience of consciousness, he had come to the conclusion the more a day got slept through the better it became. He then took a couple of Rupinhol, switched the bedside light off and woke up smiling on New Year’s Day.
Alex got up and gently waltzed into the complacency of a Viennese ‘Musik Verein’ morning. He put his daily record of last year’s travesty away, and uncorked the New Year vintage. The new diary had a suitably claret coloured cover with 2013 written on the front in case he forgot. He wrote the single appointment he had from his old diary into his new one in red pen for early on the 6th. ‘Brothers- the twins,’ and added an exclamation mark, then he added another one. Strictly speaking Christmas didn’t finish until the 6th, so he wouldn’t have to lie to people if they asked him if he’d been with family over Christmas. He didn’t like lying unless he had to, which was all the time.
The three kings arrived on the 6th, or was it the evening of the fifth. He couldn’t remember and it didn’t matter because the festival wasn’t celebrated locally, just marked by an idea the Christmas decorations should be taken down. He looked into the full length bedroom mirror and said out loud, ‘Some Melchior you are.’
He knew his brother hadn’t invited him over for his good looks, and his brother’s wife, whose name he had forgotten didn’t even like having him in the house, a sentiment Alex shared.
He knew he was going round to give the parents a break from the ginger twins. Their desperation to escape the continuous music hall double act, if only for a few hours during the holidays was such that even he got an invite over.
Alex didn’t like his brother and only kept in contact with him in case he needed a kidney, but he got on with the twins, and really couldn’t see why everyone else had such a problem with them.
When the twins were with Alex they seemed to recognise a kindred spirit, someone who was rather like them, and so eased up on antics they knew would fail to have any effect. They were the kind of kids, as their parents quickly bundled them out of the house onto the steps in Andean mountain garb on a crisp January morning, who liked car boot sales, which was just as well, as that was where Alex was taking them.
‘Let’s try having an Epiphany on Epiphany,’ Alex suggested, straight away making sure they didn’t know what he was talking about and so keeping them on the back foot. The twins liked wondering what Uncle Alex meant, and were happy enough with the possibility of whatever it was. In the car they remained alert and interested rather than the gruesome twosome of reputation, remaining quietly content with the strangely coloured golf balls and the artificial leg keeping them company on the back seat.
Alex pressed play on a tried and tested child calmer, full of the tintinnabulation of gongs and a prepared piano which washed over and oscillated around their binary system and put the pair in a holding position.
Out of the car the twins trotted along into the low slung arena of the car boot sale. ‘Look at that funny pot said one, or else the other. The twins when they were heavily disguised as each other were always difficult to tell apart. Alex went over and looked closely at the pot until the gleam in his eyes suggested he had just come up with the plot for the Mikado in 1885, because there winking at him surrounded by all the usual rubbish
was a ‘Hans Coper’, which meant nothing to most people but to him, Ceramics, Sheffield Hallam, Class of 84, was worth about a hundred thousand pounds.
‘How much do you want for the pot? Alex asked the stall holder.
‘Here you are,’ Alex said handing over a pound coin for the lump of fired clay. It was close enough to an Epiphany on Epiphany for him, and he turned towards Tweedle dum, unless it was Tweedle dee, and talking to both of them anyway said, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’
‘Christmas is over Uncle Alex,’ they chimed.
‘Well how about we try and imagine it’s only just begun,’ he reasoned.