The Brexity old miser Brexiteezer Scrooge has been visited by Zac Goldsmith and warned of a visitation by three spirits who will seek to save his soul. To go back and read the first part of “A Brexity Christmas Carol” please click here .
Scrooge went to bed and set his alarm for 7am. Just because the lazy foreigners he employed wanted to waste a perfectly good working day, he wasn’t going to let an opportunity for a bit of quiet work in a deserted office pass him by.
He was quite sure now that the incident with Zac Goldsmith was some strange hallucination; a flight of fancy brought about by a rogue piece of meat infected with some sort of foreign bacteria. Nonetheless, he felt a certain sense of unease as he lay in his bed, still wrapped in his dressing gown and wearing one of the promotional floppy St. George’s flag hats his pub had given away to its customers during England’s characteristically imperious display in the European football championships. He was unable to sleep and kept turning anxiously to watch as the big digital clock display beside his bed flickered inexorably toward 1am. When the hour came, Scrooge breathed out.
“There,” he whispered to himself, “nothing happened, did it?”
“Nothing at all,” replied a familiar-sounding voice. And there, standing by the open window, through which a bitter gust of wind was billowing into the room, stood Victoria Wood.
Scrooge jumped from his bed in terror. “What?! How did you…”
“Well don’t look so surprised,” Wood interrupted, “Zac Goldsmith told you I’d be coming, didn’t he?”
“You know Zac Goldsmith would actually be faintly shagable if he weren’t such a self-absorbed, jumped-up little prick. Anyway, come on Misery Guts. We’re going.”
“Going?” Scrooge replied, “going where?”
“The past,” she replied.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, your past to be precise,” and she gestured towards the window.
“But Spirit, I cannot go out there. I am but mortal, and liable to fall.”
“Then take my hand,” Wood said, not unkindly and, as Scrooge placed his hand in hers, he found they were no longer in his draughty bedroom, but in a school room. The walls were bare, the individual desks wooden and rickety.
“I know this place,” Scrooge murmured, as he watched a class of children working silently on a grammar exercise, just as children in a school should and just as they had started to again thanks to that brilliant Mr. Gove. “They seem unsurprised by our presence.”
“They can’t see us,” Victoria Wood replied.
“This is my school,” Scrooge said as it suddenly come flooding back to him.
“You remember it?”
“Remember it? Oh, but Spirit, I could walk these corridors blindfold. But it’s impossible. It was sold off by Margaret Thatcher in the 80s. I built one of my pubs on the old playing field.”
“This is 1952,” Wood said, “Margaret Roberts hasn’t even entered parliament yet.”
The bell sounded and the children filed out into the playground, but one boy stayed behind, keen to finish his work.
“That boy, Spirit,” Scrooge said in wonderment, “that’s me! And that’s my old teacher, Captain Archer.”
“A soldier, wasn’t he?”
“Most men of his age were. He’d fought in both world wars. A hero.”
Captain Archer stood beside Scrooge’s younger self, stiff as a board but smiling kindly.
“Don’t you want to go and play with the other children, Scrooge?” the teacher asked.
The boy shook his head awkwardly, “I want to get this finished,” he replied.
“Is there a problem with some of the other boys?” Archer asked.
Scrooge watched himself and felt a stirring of emotion he rarely felt at his age. “Such a lonely child.” He murmured.
“He’s only seven years old and he lives in an austere world,” Victoria Wood said, “but it’s going to get better. The NHS is only a few years old. From here onward, Britain enters a whole new phase of its history as it emerges from the carnage of two world wars. Social attitudes will relax and a whole new attitude to society will spread throughout the country, demanding support for the vulnerable and security for everyone in old age. The bullying you were suffering then would never be tolerated in schools now. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to get away with most of the jokes I told in 1952.”
Scrooge grunted, “you forgot to mention the uncontrolled mass immigration making us feel like foreigners in our own country.” He looked over to the portrait of Winston Churchill behind Captain Archer’s desk, “he’d never have let it come to this.”
“I don’t know about that,” Victoria Wood replied, “in 1946 he made a speech in Zurich calling for a United States of Europe. Across the channel now, the first countries are making plans to form the European Coal and Steel Community, the organisation that will one day become the EU. Our Prime Minister Mr Churchill is very supportive. The whole continent is scarred by war. For these people a united Europe is a utopian dream, not an unwanted burden.”
Scrooge looked back over to his younger self, avoiding his teacher’s questions about his plans for Christmas. He’d had enough.
“Show me a happier Christmas, spirit.”
“Gladly,” Victoria Wood replied and took Scrooge’s hand again.
An instant later they found themselves outside a large red-brick building in an industrial part of a large city. Everywhere he looked there were passers-by with big hair, flared trousers and garments striped or chequered with inadvisable combinations of orange and brown. The building in front of him was festooned with Christmas decorations and from within the sound of “Merry Christmas Everybody” was audible. Following Victoria Wood into the building, Scrooge realised where he was. This was Fezziwig’s Brewery.
“This is Fezziwig’s Christmas Party! This is the year I became the regional manager” Scrooge said excitedly and quickly spotted himself, thirty years old and still with a full head of thick black hair. “Why oh why, when I still had so much hair on my head, did I insist on that awful mullet?” he asked Victoria Wood in wonderment, and then something else caught his eye: it was his old employer. “And there’s dear old Fezziwig himself! Bless his heart- it’s Fezziwig alive again!”
“It’s 1975,” Victoria Wood replied. “Britain has just voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EEC.”
“Yes,” Scrooge replied, “I voted to remain myself. But we just wanted a trading and customs union, not all these damn regulations.”
“It was always perfectly clear about its aims. These are hard times for Britain: our empire has disintegrated and we’re struggling to understand our place in a changed world. After frequent power cuts, a three-day week and rolling strikes, European commentators have started referring to us as the ‘sick man of Europe.’ But all of that will slowly start to change.”
“That’s quite enough work for today, folks,” Fezziwig called out to his staff. “These aren’t the easiest times for a business this size but the brewery has had a pretty good year all-in-all and it’s time to celebrate!”
“Such a gentle soul,” Scrooge remarked. “Too gentle for the world we live in now. Fezziwig’s Brewery went bust in the noughties and all its branches got turned into high-end flats and trendy gastropubs.”
Scrooge’s younger self was deep in conversation with a young woman.
“Belle,” the name caught in Scrooge’s throat.
“She was French, wasn’t she?” Wood asked him.
“She was. Such a beautiful, funny…oh Spirit, show me no more.”
But in an instant the party and the brewery had disappeared. In its place was Albert Square in central Manchester. Decorations adorned an impressive Christmas tree in the centre of the square and Scrooge’s younger self was sitting with Belle, both warmly wrapped up in hats, scarves and gloves.
“It’s a job with the Guardian,” Belle was saying, “it’s an opportunity I really want to take. Can’t you start your own business from Manchester?” Her breath was visible in the cold December air.
“No,” Scrooge’s younger self replied, “It must be in London. Our projected profits would be 25% greater.”
“Bloody London,” the elder Scrooge growled, “bloody Guardian.”
“Then I don’t know what else to say,” Belle said softly.
“We said we’d get married,” the younger Scrooge replied, “And get a mortgage on a property. We always said that.”
“We said that when we were both poor, and contented to be so until we found a means to combine our happiness and good fortune. But you are a man changed, Brexiteezer.”
“But I’ve found a wonderful semi-detached house in Whetstone,” the younger Scrooge protested. “It has a long lease, a garage and a half-convincing mock-Tudor frontage.”
“I’m sorry, Brexiteezer, it’s over.”
“Take me home, Spirit!” Scrooge exclaimed, realising he had tears in his eyes, “Why do you delight in tormenting me?”
But he was already back in his bedroom. Victoria Wood had gone and he was alone once again.
Click here to read the third part of the story: “The Second Spirit.”