Friday, 25 December 2009

Faithful Friends

One of the tallest towers in Homeward is the Clock Tower. On every side of it there is a different clock face. The one facing my bedroom has an image of myself gilded with gold. Its trunk measures the minutes and an upraised arm measures the hours. A team of dwarves keep the clock in working order - but on Christmas Eve they had all been out celebrating and were fast asleep amidst a warm glow of light.

As the clock struck twelve, and Christmas Eve turned into Christmas Morning, Beaver Hateman and I stared up at the Big Tree and the twinkling stars beyond.

"I got to admit Unc - your adaptation of 'A Christmas Carol' went down a storm!" laughed Hateman.

"We muddled through," I replied "I must admit, although it pains me to say so, your various ad-libs did have the audience in fits of laughter - even if it did turn my drama into more of a pantomime!"

Although sworn enemies, Beaver and I always have a truce at Christmas. This year in particular we even have kindred emotions. For, Beaver's brother Sigismund is off on a trip faraway in search of new Scob Fish grounds and my brother Rudolph has gone - on another mystical expedition I know not where.

In the distance we could hear the inhabitants of Homeward and Badfort singing carols.

"Long may they sing on under the stars!" I remarked.

"On that we can agree, Unc" countered Beaver as the strains of his ain folk singing "The Red Flag', to the tune of the carol "O Tannenbaum", could be heard on the wind.

As we stared up into the night sky, we could see thousands of stars shimmering in the firmament.

"It never ends, the universe just keeps going, and so must we, light and darkness poised in eternal balance." I mused.

"No, not forever, one day the light of socialism will surely vanquish the darkness of capitalism!" laughed Beaver - deliberately misconstruing my meaning.

I raised my glass for a toast "To absent friends” I declared.

"Yes, Unc - to absent friends!"

"Merry Christmas, Rudolph, Merry Christmas, wherever you are." I murmured.

I thought of the Happy Christmases we had had together. An elephant and his memories on, Christmas day.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Uncle's Christmas Carol - Final Rehearsal

Having rescued the Badfort Crowd from their snow bound dwelling, it was now possible for us to perform the final rehearsal of my play for Christmas – my adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Not unreasonably, I think you will agree, I expected at least some gratitude for my act of charity. As you can see, however, Beaver Hateman was his usual disagreeable self.

Act Five The End of It

Uncle: I am home! I have learnt the lessons of the spirits to carry on teaching the virtues of good citizenship and caring capitalism! I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits but, as is tradition, I shall have the grandest Christmas Party for my tenants!

Narrator: At this point, The Old Monkey entered Uncle’s bedchamber carrying a large bucket of cocoa and a small stocking.

The Old Monkey: Happy Christmas, Sir – I trust you slept well?

Uncle: What's today?

The Old Monkey: Pardon?

Uncle: What's today. My fine monkeyservant?

The Old Monkey: Today? Well. Today is Christmas Day, of course!

Uncle: It's Christmas Day? I haven't missed it. The spirits did it all in one night. They can do anything they like. I had a most interesting dream, Old Monkey. The after effects of an over consumption of bananas, I fear. However, it had has confirmed, much to my embarrassment, that I must indeed be the greatest benefactor the world has ever known.

The Old Monkey: Well of course, Sir, we all know that to be true.

Uncle: How are the preparations for my party going? – it must be the most lavish I have ever held!

The Old Monkey: I am sure it will be, Sir, every year you surpass yourself! Everything is running to clockwork as usual!

Uncle: The turkey – is it twice as big as me?

The Old Monkey: Most certainly, Sir!

Narrator: Uncle dressed and made his way through the streets of Homeward - on his way to visit Bob Scratchit, followed by the Old Monkey carrying a large turkey. As he passed by, the citizens of Homeward shouted greetings and thanks for the wonderful party to come. Suddenly The King of the Badgers appeared before him.

The King of the Badgers: My dear friend! I am so glad to see you! I wondered…I know it is difficult at this time of year, with all your charitable donations…but I find myself somewhat embarrassed financially…would there be any chance of a temporary input of funds?

Uncle: Of course, no badger shall suffer this Christmas! I will happily give you…

Narrator: Uncle whispered in the Kings ear, so as not to embarrass him amongst the crowd.

The King of the Badgers: That much? A gift for me?

Uncle: Not a penny less.

The King of the Badgers: My dear Uncle – you are as bounteous as ever!

Narrator: Uncle arrives at Bob Scratchit’s house and Little Liz opens the door. Pointing to the huge turkey, that the Old Monkey can barely carry, he declares…

Uncle: Happy Christmas Little Liz! Tell your poor father that I have brought him a turkey!

Little Liz: Don’t need it! Beaver Hateman has already brought us one! Even bigger! …and a cask of Scob Fish!...and a dozen barrels of Black Tom!.....Sling your hook! We don’t need your capitalist blackmail!

Hateman: Yeah! Unc they don’t need your handouts! Their gifts are being provided for by the generosity of the workers of the glorious Peoples Republic of Badfort…they will not be bribed into subservience by your corrupt blandishments!

Uncle: Stop right there! That is not in the script! You are just making it up as you go along! this the thanks I get for rescuing you from the frozen shambles of your abode? I should have just left you there - having a miserable Christmas huddled around the fire!...

Hateman: Put a sock in it Unc! You know full well that you would have a right boring Xmas without us here to liven things up a bit…crikey, do you really think people enjoy your tedious old plays?

Uncle: How dare you!

Well, I think you have heard enough – I know what you are thinking. So great is my magnanimity, at this special time of year, that I will even put up with the horrendous behaviour of The Badfort Crowd. It makes me rather embarrassed to admit it, but yes – you are right. I am far too generous. It is always said of me, that I know how to keep Christmas well, if any elephant alive possesses the knowledge.

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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The weather outside is frightful

As always at this time of year, at Homeward, the snows come. But the weather is even more fierce than usual. It has snowed everyday and huge drifts of snow surround Homeward - as much as thirty feet deep in places. The roads and railways leading in and out of my castle are impassable.

Apparently, the King of the Badgers is short of funds again and cannot afford to send out the gritters or snow ploughs. Too embarrassed to ask me for a loan knowing that I have so many calls on my generosity during the festive season.

The inhabitants of Homeward are well provisioned though; as usual I have gathered a great stock of food for Christmas.

The Badfort Crowd had been forced ever higher to escape the snowdrifts that have burst through the shabby windows of Badfort. It reachs just below the walls of their fortress and they are all crammed into the tiny turrets. They have been reduced to dismantling sections to burn, in order to keep themselves warm, as blizzards rage around their sadly reduced home.

It is a catastrophe! However much it pains me to say so, I need the Badfort Crowd if my adaptation of 'A Christmas Carol' is to go ahead at my annual Christmas Party.

We have only one rehearsal to go!

I have told Cowgill to prepare his tunnelling machine.

The tunnelling machine is a clever device invented by Cowgill, that has many round circular blades at the front which cut through the earth at remarkable speed. It had last been used to thwart an attempt by the Badfort Crowd to raid my Treasury.

How ironic that I am now using it to rescue Beaver Hateman!

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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Uncle's Christmas Carol - Fourth Rehearsal

The performance of my adaptation of 'A Christmas Carol' was to be the centrepiece of my Christmas party but the rehearsals are a shambles!

Act Four The Last of the Spirits

Narrator: The bell struck twelve. Uncle, lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

Uncle: Oh it’s you Hootman! You’re supposed to be the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?

Narrator: The Spirit inclined its head. That is the only answer he receives.

Uncle: Lead on! The night is waning fast. Lead on, Spirit!

Narrator: Uncle held onto the wispy shadow of its sackcloth dress, and they passed forward through time. They found themselves in the Homeward Art Gallery, far in the future. The Old Monkey stands looking at the great painting of Uncle opening the Dwarfs Drinking Fountains, silently weeping.

The Old Monkey: Oh, Uncle, woe is me, for you are will we continue without your great wisdom to lead us?....gone….

Uncle: Spectre, am I ...dead?

The Old Monkey:….gone…. packed your trunk and trundled off to the jungle, off you rode with a trumpety trump trump trump trump

Uncle: I went back to the jungle?

Narrator: The Old Monkey is oblivious to Uncle and the spectre and continues talking to himself.

The Old Monkey: Who could blame you, Sir,…the dwarfs are such an ungrateful bunch…Look at everything that you have done for the citizens of Homeward and yet they always find something to moan about. Your responsibilities were as vast as your domain and who could begrudge you early retirement with a massive pension package. I just wish that you had taken me with you. I am sure you would have, if you had foreseen what was to befall your beloved Homeward….

Uncle: What’s he on about, spirit?

Narrator: The spectre draws him towards the window and Uncle beholds a truly chilling scene...The Badfort Crowd, armed with clubs and duck bombs, weave their way through the snow covered streets banging on the shop doors and demanding money. They hold a placard inscribed with the legend "Free at Last!" and decorated with an extremely unflattering portrait of Uncle! Hitmouse is intoxicated, sitting on many barrels of Black Tom.

Uncle: What are the Badfort Crowd doing?, carousing the streets of Homeward!

Hateman: Ding Dong Uncles gone! Yo-ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out. Barrels of Black Tom for everyone!

The Old Monkey: Oh, thank goodness dear Uncle is not here to see this! The Badfort Crowd have taken over his home! I knew those elections were a mistake – the dwarfs were taken in by the sham promises of Mister Hateman!

Hateman: Oi , Come on you capitalist pigs – time to pay your Christmas tax. We kno you is racking it in as usual! Time for a bit of redistribution! We need money for the new People’s Palace! 24 hour gambling and drinking! This is wot the people want! A singing competition every night!

Shopkeeper: Anti-market anarchist! No taxation without representation! Ouch!

Hateman: Sorry, I had to hit you – you are an exploiter of the proletariat!

Uncle: (very emotional): Spectre, are these the shadows of things that will be...or are they the shadows of things that may be only?

Narrator: The spirit appeared really annoyed – clearly not wishing to admit the truth….

Uncle: Ha! So I can change these events! In reality they are just your own wishful thinking. Well let me tell you, the Badfort Crowd will never take control of Homeward. I would never betray the trust of the citizens of Homeward!

I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.

I shall never retire, for I know my duty - to serve my people and protect Homeward from the forces of anarchy. To teach the virtues of good citizenship and caring capitalism!

Hateman: Bah, you Humbug! Profiting from the labour of others, more like!

Uncle: That is not in the script! I’m tired - we will resume rehearsals on another day!

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Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Uncle's Christmas Carol - Third Rehearsal

This play is just not coming together, our rehearsal of Act Three has just been a disaster!

Act Three: The Second of the Three Spirits

Narrator: Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, Uncle awaited the appearance of the second spirit. Yet now, as the clock finished striking...Nothing.

Uncle: Where’s he got to then? I do so hate to be kept waiting…

Narrator: As Uncle lay upon his bed, the very core and centre of a blaze of ruddy light seemed to come from the adjoining room. He got up softly and shuffled in his purple slippers to the door. The moment Uncle’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed.

It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were hung with living green, the crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy. A mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. Upon this couch, there sat a giant mass of quivering blue jelly with small glittering eyes and a large slippery mouth. It held a glowing torch, high up, to shed its light on Uncle, as he came peeping round the door.

Jellytussle: Come in!, Come in! and know me better, elephant!

Uncle: Jellytussle? Has Beaver sent you over to spoil my Christmas Eve?

Jellytussle: No, I am the Ghost of Christmas Present!

Uncle: Oh right, yes, of course – I thought Gubbins was going to play that part.

Jellytussle: Well, you’ve got me instead.

Uncle: Well, this is a splendid feast, you have laid on for me!

Jellytussle: Yeah! But you paid for it all! We nicked the money from the piggy bank by your bed! Yum – this ham is delicious!

Uncle: Well, I suppose one should lay on light refreshments – but you could at least wait for the interval.

Jellytussle: Is it O.K. if I take some of this home with me ? – All my fellow brothers and comrades in the Badfort Revolutionary Front could do with a good Xmas nosh up.

Uncle: I suppose, as it is Christmas, yes. But, can we get on with the play please? Spirit, conduct me where you will. I went forth last night and we learnt many lessons on the importance of entrepreneurship and good citizenship. I am sure that that we will learn many useful life lessons tonight!

Jellytussle: Touch my robe!

Narrator: The room, the fire, the ruddy glow, the hour of night, all disappeared and they stood in the streets of Badgertown on Christmas morning, where the badgers made a rough, but brisk and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their burrows.

Uncle: Why, there is Beaver Hateman, carrying a placard with ‘Anarchy Now!” writ large upon it. What manner of mischief is he up to?

Postbadger: Hi Mister Hateman, a Merry Xmas to you!

Hateman: Yeah, but merrier for the fat tyrant in his castle! – look mate, all those Christmas cards you have to deliver – is the King of the Badgers paying you any more for his “Royal” mail? No, of course not! Protest! Revolt! Sabotage! They couldn’t have Christmas without you!

Postbadger: (doubtfully) I couldn’t do that - the King has promised us an extra half crown!

Uncle: What a good example of citizenship!

Jellytussle: Exploitation, more like!

Uncle: No! that’s not in the script – your supposed to say what a wonderful example of the Christmas spirit!

Narrator: The Ghost of Christmas Present and Uncle follow Hateman into a General store.

Shopkeeper: Merry Christmas, Beaver!

Hateman: The good thing about Christmas is all the trade you are going to lose over the two days you capitalist pig!

Shopkeeper: I sell so much before Christmas that it takes me two days to count all the extra money! Can I interest you in this electronic ‘Uncle’ doll? They are the merchandising hit of the year!

Hateman: Bah Humbug!

Narrator: As Hateman shuffles out, he hides a large casket of ham under his sackcloth!

Uncle: He has just stolen from that shop!

Jellytussle: I didn’t see nuffink!

Hateman: Yah Boo Unc – the shopkeeper can’t hear you – your not really here remember!

Uncle: Disgraceful, you have just ad-libbed al that! Where next spirit?

Narrator: They went on, invisible, as they had been before, into the suburbs of the town.

Uncle: That's Bob Scratchit's house.

Jellytussle: Yeah, Sigismund didn’t need a costume he just dyed his sackcloth blue!

Uncle: But I gave you lot £150 for costumes! – I suppose you have spent it all on Black Tom?

Mrs Scratchit: (to her children) What has ever got your precious father then? And your sister, Little Liz!

Narrator: In comes Bob, the father, his threadbare sackcloth darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Little Liz upon his shoulder. Alas for Little Liz, she bears a little crutch and her limbs are supported by a skewer!

Mrs Scratchit: How was she at church?

Bob Scratchit: She stuck a skewer in the vicar! She told me that she hoped the people saw her in church because then we could stand outside with a begging bowl !

Mrs Scratchit: Oh bless her!

Bob Scratchit: It worked too! I reckon we got about £50 outta them suckers!
It’s O.K. Little Liz you can take the irons off now!

Little Liz: Thank Gawd for that – they really make my bloomin’ legs itch!

Bob Scratchit: Unc was there – he’s always a big softy at Christmas – Little Liz hobbled around a bit and he was soon blubbin’ and handed over a gold sovereign! Mind you he made sure everyone saw and did his usual boastin’ speech about the importance of filanthropy!

Uncle: This all wrong – I did not write that and that’s not a little girl – that’s Hitmouse!

Jellytussle: We couldn’t bribe any kids to do it so he said he would dress up as a lickle girl.

Uncle: Well he makes a very ugly little girl!

Hitmouse: Shut yer face, Unc!

Uncle: Can we please get back to the story as written?

Bob Scratchit: A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. Unc! I’ll give you Unc, the Founder of the Feast!

Little Liz: Yeah! The old sucker!

Mrs. Cratchit: The Founder of the Feast indeed! I wish I had him here. I’d give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, lording it over the proletariat all the time!

Little Liz: Yeah! Lets sing a song

Under a spreading Chestnut tree,
the village tyrant stands;
Uncle, the bicycle thief,
With large and sinewy hands,
And the muscles of his waving trunk,
As strong as iron bands!

Uncle: Enough! No more rehearsal today! You are turning this play into a travesty!

Jellytussle: Don’t you want to know if Little Liz lives?

Uncle: Lives? I tell you what is going to happen to Little Liz….I am going to give her a good kicking up!

And that, a dear reader is what I did. Hitmouse went flying over the ramparts of Homeward…..a well deserved Christmas gift from me!

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Sunday, 13 December 2009

Uncle's Christmas Carol - Second Rehearsal

The first rehearsal of my dramatic adaptation of 'A Christmas Carol' did not go particularly well. The Badfort Crowd persistently deviated from my script.

I cannot say that the second day has gone any better.

Act Two: The First of the Three Spirits

Exterior: The Entrance to the Great Hall of Homeward

Narrator: Uncle, returned home tired, as always, from a hard days labour. For his domain is vast and the responsibilities great. He makes his way up the steps but is suddenly transfixed by the giant knocker on the door. The knocker is fashioned in the likeness of Uncle himself but for an instance is transformed into the ugly visage of Hootman!

Hootman: Oi ! you can’t say that about me!

Uncle: Oh please hush, Hootman, and let the narrator continue the tale!

Narrator: It had a dismal light about it - like a Scob Fish in a dark pond. Its livid colour made it horrible. As Uncle looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was his knocker again.

Uncle: “Pooh, pooh! To many bananas for lunch!”

Narrator: Uncle sat by the fire drinking his usual bed-time drink, a bucket of cocoa, prepared, as always, with great care by the Old Monkey.

As Uncle warmed himself by the fire, all the bells of Homeward started to ring and he heard the clanking of chains.

Uncle then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.

Uncle: Oh drat – don’t tell me the ghosts have escaped from the Haunted Tower!

Narrator: Suddenly, a spectral figure came through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. The golden chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail.

Uncle: I know him; Hootman! -You are fettered, Tell me why?

Hootman: They are the chains I was bound in by capitalist exploitation. They portray the worker's connection to the capitalist. Conditions can improve for the worker through higher wages or a better working environment and can extend the chain. The worker may be happier and less stressed, but none the less he is still a slave to the capitalist. Your workers know that if they stick by you, the capitalist pachyderm, and follow your rules they will have the means to provide for themselves!

Uncle: This is Badfort propaganda and nonsense – it is not what I wrote! Please stick to the script about being a naughty rather than nice capitalist!

Hootman: O.K. Unc, whatever! - I forged these chains in life by my acts of greed. Three spirits will haunt you. Expect the first to-morrow, when the bell tolls One.

Uncle: Righto! I look forward to meeting them all!

Narrator: With that, the spirit of Hootman vanished into the darkness... leaving Uncle once again...alone in his room. Uncle soon nodded off but was awakened as the clock suddenly struck one o’clock.

The curtains of his bed were drawn aside and Uncle found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them.

It was a strange figure—like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium.

Uncle: Is that you Noddy Ninety? Wearing a white sheet?

Noddy Ninety: Yep, its me, Sir, only I am a ghost you see?

Uncle: Are you the Spirit whose coming was foretold to me?

Noddy Ninety: Yep, I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Uncle: Long Past?

Noddy Ninety: Nope. Your past.

Uncle: Fascinating, I am sure that this will be most enjoyable!

Noddy Ninety: Rise! and walk with me!

Narrator: Uncle rose: but finding that the Spirit made towards the window, clasped his robe in supplication.

Uncle: I am a rather well-built elephant – and I am no Dumbo so I cannot fly.

Noddy Ninety: Don’t worry I have borrowed your helicopter from Cowgill.

Narrator: Uncle and the Spirit fly off in the helicopter across land and back through time. They soon land on an open jungle road, with banana trees on either hand. Homeward had entirely vanished. Not a vestige of it was to be seen. The darkness and the mist had vanished with it, for it was a clear, hot, summer day.

Uncle: I was bred in this place. I was a calve here!

Noddy Ninety: You recollect the way?

Uncle: Remember it! I could walk it blindfold. This is the way to my old school.

Narrator: Uncle and the spirit soon arrive at a treetop schoolroom.

Noddy Ninety: The school is not quite deserted, A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still. He never goes home for Christmas.

Uncle: No, I always used to go to help out at the homeless shelter at Christmas – at a tender age I realised the importance of charity and good citizenship! Also, the Christmas holiday was a chance to get some extra work done, more time for reading and study. The only way to rise above my humble beginnings was by applying myself. Life is a golden opportunity and one must keep one’s nose to the grindstone.

Noddy Ninety: Yes, you are an example to us all, Sir.

Hateman: Pass the sick bag – this is just blatant propaganda!

Uncle: Be quiet Hateman! You are not in this scene!

Noddy Ninety: Let us see another Christmas!

Narrator: Uncle and the Spirit fly off in the helicopter again, but now travel forward again through time. They arrive in a snow covered quadrangle surrounded by ivy clad buildings

Uncle: My goodness! It is my old University!

Noddy Ninety: Indeed! And there you are – running as fast as the wind, your trunk filled with books!

Uncle: Oh, I must be very late!... for an exam I expect ? Oh dear, I know what you are going to show me!

Noddy Ninety: Yes, I am afraid so. An incident you would rather have been forgotten. You have spotted the bicycle leaning against the wall, if you just borrowed it you could get to your exam on time. You look around you, no one would see, after all, it would do no harm? You will return it to the exact same spot. You get on it and peddle away, but what is happening? It is buckling under your weight!

Hateman: Stop thief! Stop thief!

Uncle: Enough Hateman! That is not in the script! No one shouted “Stop Thief!” at all.

Hateman: I bloomin’ well would have if I’d been there!

Uncle: Oh Spirit, why have you shown me this ignominious act of mine?

Noddy Ninety: I have shown you this as a moral lesson to us all – even the great and the good may have at one time performed some act of which they are ashamed. However, it is always possible to make amends as you did….

Uncle: Oh yes, when I became rich and famous I sent a cheque for £2,000 to the owner of the bicycle. I also sent him six hundred casks of herrings, a thousand kegs of Turkish Delight and fifty-thousand first-grade cheeses!

Hateman: Yeah! And you made sure everyone knew about it!

Uncle: Be quiet Hateman! You are spoiling a poignant moment!

Narrator: Uncle and the Spirit fly off in the helicopter again, forward through time again. They are now in the busy thoroughfares of a city, where shadowy dwarfs pass and repass; where shadowy trains and trams battle for the way, and all the strife and tumult of a real city are. Tall skyscrapers loom above. It is plain enough, by the dressing of the shops, that here too, it is Christmas time again; but it is evening, and the streets are lighted up. A party is in full swing in a small apartment at the very top of one of the towers.

Noddy Ninety: Today is the day that you became a man of business.

Uncle: Why, it’s the Old Monkey! Bless his heart!

Noddy Ninety: That’s right! Your first Christmas at Homeward!

Young Old Monkey: What a splendid feast you have laid on, Sir!

Young Uncle: One must do one’s best!

A Young Dwarf: Bah humbug! – I have nothing to look forward to this Christmas! I have no home to go to. Got home this evening and found some great big hulking bloke in a sackcloth squatting in my flat! He told me to sling me hook – he said that somefink called the Badfort Revolutionary Front had commandeered it for the proletariat!

Young Uncle: That is terrible! You must inform the owner of Homeward, Wizard Blenkinsop, he is a very decent chap you know!

Young Old Monkey: Yes, but he is getting old, Sir, not so good at keeping track of the goings on in his vast domain.

Young Uncle: Don’t worry, Mister Dwarf, you can stay here for as long as you like – shall we say 6d a week rent?

A Young Dwarf: Oh splendid, how very kind of you Mister…?

Young Uncle: Just call me Uncle – one must do one’s best to help those in need and show good citizenship!

Noddy Ninety: Your first rental income!

Uncle: Yes, I have to admit it brings a small tear to my eye.

Narrator: The party continues, more dances, and there is a game of spigots, and songs, and then cake, and then a great piece of Roast, and a great piece of Boiled Ham, and mince-pies, and plenty of Koolvat.

Hateman: I must admit you know how to lay on a Christmas feast, Unc!

Uncle: Shush, you are not in this bit Beaver!

Narrator: Young Uncle and young Old Monkey talk in the corner…

Young Uncle: One day, Old Monkey, I shall own this castle and there will be no more trouble from the Badfort Crowd!

Young Old Monkey: If anyone can set the world to rights it will be you, Sir!

Hateman: hah, hah, hah

Noddy Ninety: Better get home then – you have another ghost to meet!

Uncle: I am really looking forward to it!

Narrator: They travel forward through time, back to the present and Uncle is left alone and exhausted in his bedchamber.

Well, that is where I decided to end our rehearsal for the day. I had had enough of the Badfort Crowd's interjections.

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Monday, 7 December 2009

Uncle's Christmas Carol - First Rehearsal

As you know, every year I write a play to be performed at my Christmas party.

This year I have written an adaptation of the story, by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

Now, Dickens is a renowned writer - although not in the same league as the great playwright Sir Ernest Wiseman, of course.

However, there are a number of aspects to the story that have always troubled me. To me, it seems somewhat over-critical of the role of an entrepreneur in society. It fails to highlight the gainful employment that Mister Scooge offers to his clerks, for instance.

In rewriting it for the stage, therefore, I have taken the opportunity to make a number of improvements to the text. The character of Scrooge has been replaced with myself and I humbly hope that I might set a better example to the populace of Homeward.

There is a long standing custom that Hateman and his tribe are invited to Homeward for the Christmas festivities. I even decided that they could take some of the roles in this little theatrical. Sigismund Hateman is playing a major role - that of Bob Scratchit. I am beginning to regret this. We had our first rehearsal today and as you can see they have a tendency to deviate from the script as written:


EXTERIOR: A street in Homeward.

Narrator: It is Christmas Eve and one of the worst winter mornings that Homeward has ever known. A thick later of snow carpets the drawbridge, the frozen moat and the streets of Homeward. Uncle is on his way to his office.

Beaver Hateman: There goes Mr Humbug of Homeward!

Hitmouse: Old Unc, he loves his money cos he finks it makes him all-powerful!

Beaver Hateman: Yeah he is notorious for his under-handed deeds. Charging extortionate rents for his dark and draughty apartments!

A Small Dwarf: I beg to differ! Why my apartment is lovely – fully centrally heated and only 6d a week!

Hitmouse sticks a skewer in the dwarfs leg and he squeals in pain and runs away.

Hitmouse: Huh! typical example of the proletariat - tugging his forelock to Unc! He is exploited and clings tightly to his right to remain in that state!

Uncle: You are ad-libbing – please stick to my script!

INTERIOR: Uncle’s Office

Uncle: Good morning, Old Monkey.

Old Monkey: Good morning, Sir. May I introduce a new worker we have taken on? His name is Bob Scratchit.

A rather lumpen figure in a blue sackcloth suit shuffles forward, scratching under his armpit.

Bob Scratchit: Mornin’ Unc!

Old Monkey: You really must learn some better manners if you are to continue working here – Mister Uncle if you please!

Bob Scratchit: (in a snide voice) Sorry, Mister Uncle.

He shuffles back to his desk scratching his bottom.

Uncle: (sotto voice) Does he have to scratch like that all the time?

Old Monkey: I fear so, Sir.

Uncle: Make a note to give him some of Gleamhound’s itching powder as a Xmas present. All his preparations work backwards so that should cure the problem.

Old Monkey: Alonzo S Whitebeard is waiting to see you, Sir.

Narrator: Alonzo is a great miser. He has a silver sixpence as big as a millstone. It’s two feet thick, and almost six feet high. At night he sits and looks at it.

Uncle: Oh dear, what does that old skinflint want.

The Old Monkey ushers in Whitebeard, who is in tears.

Old Monkey: I believe Mister Whitebeard wishes to complain about Christmas, Sir!

Alonzo: Sir, I want you to cancel this ridiculous annual event – it is costing me a fortune and it’s a load of humbug!

Uncle: What right have you to be dismal? You're rich enough.

Alonzo: Not for very long at this rate – all these bloomin’ people expecting to be given presents and eating me out of house and home!

Uncle: Christmas is a time for goodwill and charity. In that spirit, here is a giant hamper of food – as for presents, there is no need for extravagance. It is the thought that counts.

Alonzo: Oh thank you, Sir for your wise words. You are not only a shrewd businessman but a kind one to boot! I have had a brilliant thought! I have a box full of unsold diaries from last year that I got cheap. They only need all the dates altering and then they would make perfect gifts.

Narrator: As Alonzo staggered away under the weight of the huge hamper, the King of the Badgers paid a call on Uncle.

Old Monkey: The King of the Badgers is here to see you, Sir.

Uncle: Oh dear, I imagine that he will be needing to borrow some money, again!

Old Monkey: I fear so, Sir.

Enter the King of the Badgers:

King of the Badgers: Uncle, good fellow, a Merry Christmas to you!

Uncle: Uh, Yes, indeed.

King of the Badgers: A wonderful time of year, but as you know a somewhat expensive time. One’s subjects do expect one to make a bit of an effort – parties, gifts and such like!
I find myself somewhat embarrassed for funds and I wondered it might be at all possible for you to arrange a small loan? Of a temporary nature, of course!

Uncle: Like the last one you mean?

King of Badgers: Well, I thought you might put it on the slate so to speak?

Uncle: I shall be more than happy to make a gift to the Badgertown Home for Fallen Badgers – say, a thousand hampers?

King of the Badgers: (plaintively) Well, er, that is very kind, Sir, but a bit of ready cash would be rather useful, too?

Uncle: I have a suggestion. As you know, I gave rather a lot of money to you to help prop up the Badgertown Rock Bank. I am somewhat perturbed that they, apparently, intend to pay themselves a rather large bonus this year – despite the fact that I have not been repaid. I suggest that you charge them a large windfall tax on these bonuses, thereby enlarging your coffers considerably!

King of the Badgers: Oh what a splendid idea, Sir! Thank you, so much, for sharing your inestimable wisdom!

Narrator: The King of the Badgers went on his way basking in the generosity of the great elephant. Now, it is customary on Christmas Eve for well-meaning gentleman to call upon businesses to collect donations for the poor and homeless. Here are Hateman and Hitmouse - attempting to raise money for a so-called good cause!

Hateman and Hitmouse burst through the door with a begging bowl:

Hateman: Oi Unc, enough of your propaganda! some of us is endeavouring to raise a fund for the poor and homeless of Badfort – what can we put you down for?

Uncle: Nothing – and that stuff about propaganda is not in my script!

Hateman: Nothing! You old skinflint – you would have us all in the poorhouse you miserable capitalist!

Uncle: I know exactly how the money will be spent – barrels of Black Tom for your so-called People’s Palace! I have no intention of making a bunch of anarchists merry this Christmas!

Hateman: Have a heart – it is Christmas!

Uncle: As usual you are invited to my annual party – but Christmas is no excuse to pick an elephant’s pocket!

Hateman: I can’t fink of a better time – Christmas, nowt but a celebration of consumerism! What more fitting illustration of the Marxist theory of surplus value, which in the capitalist system is generated by labour!

Uncle: That is not in the script!!!

Hateman: Wot, not in your piece of blatant self-aggrandisement you mean!

Uncle: Enough! We will resume rehearsals next week! And I expect you to stick to the script and stop all this ad-libbing!

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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

National Treasure

For some people, achieving national treasure status might seem the pinnacle of their career.

However, I consider myself to still be in my prime - I have a great many things yet to achieve.

That is why I turned down a lucrative advertising contract for the series of British Marks & Spencer Christmas adverts - full of 'National Treasures'.

It seems that they were not happy with Mister Stephen Fry's pronunciation of the word 'mince' and were hoping to substitute myself.

"He is a good friend of mine and there is no way that I would involve myself in such shenanigans!" I told them "besides, I am not even British!".

"But everyone in Britain adores you!" came the reply. "It seems to me that hero's are two a penny in your country - unlike here at Homeward where I have truly earned the respect of my fellows!" was my somewhat waspish response.

I have, of course, agreed to appear in the Cheapman's Store Christmas campaign. After all he is my very good friend and fellow entrepreneur.

The campaign is based on the theme of the objects that make Christmas what it is...all I had to say is "a dozen large hams and a bucket of cocoa"

The next day a lorry load of hams and a large vat of cocoa were delivered to my very door! very kind of Cheapman.

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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Importance of being a Celebrity

It has become an annual tradition for me, at the request of the King of the Badgers, to switch on the Christmas lights of Badgertown.

This has not been the case this year.

No, this year the citizens of Badgertown have turned their backs on celibritydom.

They mounted a campaign for an ordinary member of the public to perform this honoured task.

They chose Nigel Badger, who works at the DIY shop Burrowbase, to do the job. Apparently, because of his "friendly manner and excellent customer service" at the store.

"He's such a pleasant chap that people queue up to be served by him," said Barry Badger, treasurer of the town's Christmas Lights Committee.

Now, and I hope this does not sound like sour grapes on my part, but did he really inspire the crowds as I would have?

Far be it for me to disparage the efforts of a humble plebeian, for were my own origins not of the humblest kind?, however, surely "Oh, don't they look pretty" is hardly the standard of speech designed to inspire the crowd?

Of course, I am somewhat upset - I do always rather look forward to turning on the lights, to mark the start of yuletide festivities, and I was rather taken aback at the ingratitude of the folk of Badgertown. Particularly as, it is me who always pays for the lights.

The fact that I had spent many hours writing my speech is neither here nor there - I am most saddened because it is the content of the speech that is so important.

Here is an opportunity, particularly in a time of recession, to extoll the populace to got out and spend, and thus save the economy.

Not to say, considerably increase the coffers of the King of the Badgers with the additional tax revenue in his time of sorest means. I was hoping not to be asked for another loan so close to Christmas.

Instead of my thoughtful and erudite speech, designed to engender civic pride and the need to dig deep, we get a lot of vacuous populisms and chants of "Nigel, Nigel"!

When will people realise that celebrities are celebrities for good reason and elevating ordinary folk to this exalted position will end in tears?

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