This is the third part of “A Brexity Christmas Carol.” To start the story from Part 1, click here.
To read Part 2, click here.
Scrooge ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face. Just a dream, he assured himself. Just a very lucid, vivid dream. He wandered downstairs and decided to make himself a coffee. He sensed that further sleep would not come to him and if it did he feared the apparitions his fevered subconscious would send his way.
He turned the kitchen light on, reached for a jar of Nescafe and filled the kettle. He’d never seen the problem with instant coffee. He thought it ironic that so many of his younger employees moaned about not being able to afford their own home, but seemed perfectly comfortable guzzling expensive coffee all day. He decided to turn on the radio. He wanted to inject a bit of reality into this strange night his imagination had rendered with such fear and trepidation.
“Well it’s just coming up to 2am and I’m here to take you through the night.” A comforting Irish voice said as Scrooge stirred his coffee and opened the fridge to get the milk. “You’re listening to Terry’s Christmas Present.”
“Hang on,” Scrooge thought, “I know that voice… but it can’t be.” And then he realised the voice was no longer on the radio, it was coming from the front room. “Come on through, Brexiteezer,” the voice said, “come in and know me better, man.”
Scrooge grabbed his coffee and walked anxiously into the front room where, sat behind an enormous feast, Terry Wogan sat beaming.
“I’ve ordered a curry. I thought you might be hungry,” Wogan said with a broad smile.
Realising he was actually a little peckish, Scrooge tore off a fragment of naan bread and scooped up some chicken bhuna.
“And you are the Spirit of the Christmas Present?” he asked timidly.
“I suppose I am,” Wogan replied. “Here, grab my tie.”
Scrooge looked at the tie that Wogan had proffered. Its design comprised a big patchwork of European flags.
“It was a gift given to all the TV commentators at the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest.” Wogan explained. And as Scrooge placed his hand on the garment, he found himself transported once again, this time into the home of Bożena Kratchowicz.
Bożena’s husband Janek was cooking in the kitchen. The smell was delicious.
The front door opened and Bożena herself came in, pushing a wheelchair in which her daughter Lena, tiny for her six years, was sitting.
“I didn’t know Bożena Kratchowicz had a daughter with a disability,” Scrooge said.
“Did you ever ask?” Wogan replied.
Little Lena’s brother and sisters ran over and helped her to the dining table. Bożena helped her husband to serve the meal. “You should have seen her in Sunday School, Janek. You would have been so proud of her. She ends up sitting on her own all too often and has so much time to think. In fact she says the strangest things. She told me on the way home she was glad the other children could see her because it would help them think about the Christmas story- about a child who would grow up to help the lame to walk and the blind to see.”
Janek emerged from the kitchen with the meal’s main event: an enormous carp.
“Carp at Christmas?” Scrooge screwed his nose up.
“It’s a tradition in Poland,” Wogan replied, “I learnt that from one of my Eurovision pals.”
“It’s a wonderful feast, Papa,” exclaimed the Kratchowicz’s eldest daughter.
Janek shrugged, “Mama did all the shopping, and we couldn’t have afforded it without all the hard work she does at Featherspoons.”
“And that reminds me,” Bożena said, I want to raise a toast to my employer, the founder of the feast, Brexiteezer Scrooge.
Janek almost spat out his first mouthful of carp. “Founder of the feast?! That miserable old sod? He should be paying you double what you earn for all the work you do.”
“Well I think it’s a very nice idea,” Little Lena said. “He may be a bit unfair sometimes but that probably just means deep down in his heart, he’s very sad. I hope he has a very Merry Christmas. I say God bless us, everyone.”
Janek looked over at his daughter, his eyes glistening. “You’re right,” he said, choking slightly on his words and he raised a glass: “to Mr Scrooge. The founder of the feast.”
“Mr Scrooge,” the children all mumbled and they continued their meal.
“Tell me, Spirit,” Scrooge took Wogan aside, “what are Lena’s prospects? I mean, will she be able to grow up and…you know…live a full life?”
Wogan sighed. “She relies heavily on the NHS. If the UK goes through even more serious turmoil, the services she needs will be hit. Not only that, they don’t even know for sure they’ll be able to stay here after Brexit. They’re not British citizens and no one is guaranteeing their status.”
“And will the Polish health system be just as well-equipped to manage her condition?”
“Does it matter? She’ll take the strain off the NHS, won’t she?”
“But Spirit, you don’t think the little girl will die?”
“I am the Spirit of Christmas Present. I show you what is, not what will be. But I see the shadow of an empty wheelchair. Of a desolate house where laughter has been replaced with silence.”
“What can we do?” Scrooge asked.
“Well if she’s going to die, she’d better hurry up and do it. And reduce the world’s already out-of-control population.”
“Spirit, no. I didn’t mean…” But before Scrooge could get his words out the scene around him had changed again.
Now he found himself in the Ranelagh, in Bounds Green, North London. Of nowhere else could it be better said that it was the very beating heart of Lefty-Liberal Remoanerdom. Throughout the pub, packed tables of teachers, social workers, theatre technicians, academics, journalists and software designers drank and laughed raucously. It was exactly the sort of trendy modern gastropub Scrooge hated; the sort that had put old Fezziwig out of business. At one table he recognised his tedious Remoaner nephew, Phil. He was sitting with a group of smug, cheerful thirty-somethings and he had a rizzla stuck to his forehead. Something was written on it but Scrooge couldn’t see what. Phil had clearly imbibed generous helpings of some trendy craft beer. To Scrooge craft beer was just real ale that had been trapped in a Shoreditch fridge by some twat called Nathan.
“Ok, ok,” Phil was saying, “Am I a man?”
His friends nodded.
“Am I famous?”
“Semi-famous,” one friend replied, “you’re well-known in certain circles.”
“Am I someone we know personally?” Phil asked.
“He’s known to some of us,” was the answer, “And certainly to you.”
Phil thought about it for a moment, “Am I a kind person?”
There was a howl of laughter and a loud clamour of “No!”
A knowing smile crossed Phil’s face and he asked one last question: “Am I a happy person?”
There was another howl of laughter.
“As miserable as a twenty-five-year-old virgin listening to Radiohead on Clacton Pier in February,” one replied.
“As ecstatic as a Spurs fan on St. Totteringham’s Day,” said a smug gooner in a rollneck.
“I know,” Phil replied. “Semi-famous but not, by the sounds of it particularly popular. Well-off, one can presume, but still as miserable as sin. I must be my Uncle Scrooge!”
“Yes,” his friends chorused and Phil tore the rizzla from his forehead, looked at it and laughed triumphantly.
“Tell me, Spirit,” Scrooge implored, “Can the course of these events be changed at all?”
Terry Wogan shrugged, “I keep telling you. I am the ghost of Christmas Present. I don’t see the future. And I grow old.”
At that moment Scrooge realised for the first time that two children, a boy and a girl, were cowering behind Wogan.
“Spirit, are they yours?”
“They are humanity’s,” Wogan replied, “The girl is poverty and the boy is ignorance. It is they that have brought the world to where it is at Christmas in 2016. Fear them both but particularly fear the boy. An appealing lie is often preferable to an inconvenient truth and many, including you, would choose ignorance over what, deep down, you know to be the case.”
Looking at the children, Scrooge realised with horror that the girl had the face of Theresa May and the boy had the face of Nigel Farage. But, before he could make sense of this, both the children and Wogan were gone.
Check out timparamour.com tomorrow for the penultimate part of the story: The Last of the Spirits.