10: A Christmas Gloom-Laden

Stave I

Humbug, I say!

It was Christmas Eve, early morning and Gloom-Laden was trudging through the snow on his way to work. His tousled hair collecting snowflakes.

Although wrapped for the inclement weather, he shivered every so often. For the fourth time now, as he walked, he nearly slipped over, looking to the casual observer as though he was doing some sort of drunken breakdance.

“Bloody snow,” he exclaimed.

Around him were all the usual glitter of Christmas decorations in shop windows, the lights above him although not lit, showed preparation for the season. People hurrying as best they could through the chilly and icy conditions, some with easy some like Gloom-Laden with odd stop for a touch of break-dancing…
Gloom-Laden hated Christmas, he hated snow and he wasn’t all that keen on break-dancing either. To be perfectly honest, Gloom-Laden wasn’t all that keen on many things. Most things made the poor chap depressed, and those that didn’t tended to upset him…

But Christmas it was and Gloom-Laden was trying to get through it as best he could…

Children around the shopping precinct on one of their many inexplicably long holidays from school, played with others in snowball fights.

Gloom-Laden slipped past (almost literally) them, and onwards to work.

It was a bad day. A very bad day. Not least after the phone call he received last night.

“Mr Gloom-Laden?” asked a female voice he recognised.

“Mrs Blameworthy, long time since I’ve had the pleasure,” said Gloom-Laden.

Yes, I’m sure, but enough of that sort of talk over the phone…I’ve some very bad news to tell you…”

“I already know it’s Christmas!” exclaimed Gloom-Laden with a sigh.

“It’s going to be a very unhappy Christmas…”

“It usually is,” sighed Gloom-Laden.

“No really bad. Blameworthy has died.”

Gloom-Laden’s mouth turned down even more at the corners. That certainly was a shock.

“He met his unfortunate end while undertaking research for a forthcoming book on unspoiled pubs of England…a dedicated man was my Blameworthy…Anyway he was making his way to the ‘Cock in Hand’, a fully intact Victorian Gin Palace in South West London, when he crossed the busy six lane carriageway with a copy of the Good Beer Guide in one hand and England’s 1000 best Churches in the other when he became distracted and was struck violently between the shoulder blades by a runaway horse-drawn dray belonging to Thronk’s Brewery of Cheam. His foul-mouthed outburst spooked the two massive shire horses even further, causing shed their load of forty-four firkins of Fuggle’s Finest Flagship strong ale, this swept him off his feet and he sailed on a tidal wave of ale, into the gutter directly outside the pub. As he staggered into the road, dripping with four hundred gallons of ale, he was hit full in the chest by a huge, wooden hogshead of Entire Butt Imperial Russian Stout. Blameworthy – arms outstretched – never had a chance. He was crushed hopelessly onto the road surface like an ant.”

Gloom-Laden said nothing for a full minute. It wasn’t so much the news of the death of a friend that caused the silence but the calm (and rather long, it must be said) way in which Mrs Blameworthy reported it.

“Well,” said Gloom-Laden.

There were mixed feelings perambulating in his rather intelligent noggin.

“Lucky bugger…” he mumbled.

“What?” snapped Mrs Blameworthy.

“Uh, nothing, nothing, it just made me shudder,” recovered Gloom-Laden.

“Well, I’d just thought I’d let you know,” said Mrs Blameworthy and promptly hung up.

And so Gloom-Laden was on his way to work, his heart heavier with misery than ever…

Within ten yards of his place of work, a voice called out to him.

“Gloom-Laden!”

Gloom-Laden turned, a little too quick so break-danced a second or two, then saw his friend Tolerant.

“Oh it’s you.”

“Isn’t this lovely?” exclaimed Tolerant, happily.

Gloom-Laden was hard pushed to know what around him at that precise moment was ‘lovely’. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen something he’d describe as lovely.

“What?” Gloom-Laden retorted.

“The snow!” insisted Tolerant.

“Huh.”

Tolerant smiled, he knew Gloom-Laden of old. “The snow and it’s Christmas…”

“Humbug!”

“Humbug?” queried Tolerant, “how can you say such a thing at this time of year?”

“Humbug I say and humbug I mean!” insisted Gloom-Laden.

“But it’s Christmas!”

“And?”

“Well…”

But the explanation waited as a member of the Salvation Army stopped to speak of them.

“Collecting for the poor and homeless,” said the woman.

Tolerant took out his wallet and gave generously. The woman smiled at Gloom-Laden. It had little, if any, effect.

“Waste my money on the poor and homeless, you are joking. It’s people like you that keep them the way they are. Make them work for a living, earn the money and then they might not be poor and homeless…”

Tolerant felt a little sorry for him. “Be fare, Gloom-Laden, the woman’s only trying to help…”

“And that’s the trouble. If you help the bloody poor then they don’t help themselves. Humbug to them as well!”

With that, Gloom-Laden retreated into work.

Tolerant followed shortly afterwards and Tolerant re-opened the conversation.

“I don’t know how you can be so miserable at a time like this…”

Gloom-Laden mentioned about his telephone call from Mrs Blameworthy. Tolerant was visibly shocked. He was at a loss for words…

The death of his friend served to abate any further attempts by Tolerant to try to persuade him about the joys of Christmas!

Stave II

Gloom-Laden arrived home a little after 8pm and shut the door behind him with a resounding thump. He sighed as he hung up his coat. He made himself tea, surfed the internet to check upon his savings accounts, where he’d squirrelled away money, then decided to relax for the evening. He treated himself to the rather good Stilton cheese he’d tucked away, with a rather excellent port to wash it down.

Half-way through his enjoyment he heard another noise coming from the kitchen…

Gloom-Laden froze for a second or two, still holding the bottle of Port, ready to pour another measure.

What was that noise? It sounded familiar…

Behind him, the living room door flew open and then the sounds grew louder. He felt too much fear to turn around. Was this a burglar? Was this a thief that had come to rob him?

Thump, thump, thud and then the rattling of what sounded like glasses. Gloom-Laden placed the port bottle back on the small table beside him. He managed to move his head a little as the noise drew level with him and what he saw nearly caused him to faint. A ghostly figure walked a little past him, pushing a large beer-barrel – the cause of the thump as every so often he dropped it upon the floor. From his position he caught sight of the white figure first at waist level, which solved the mystery of the rattling glasses; for around the figure’s waist were fixed several pint pots which clashed with each other every time the figure moved.

What sort of devil was this, he wondered.

And it was then Gloom-Laden moved his eyes to gaze upon the pale, ghostly face and was shocked further to see the features of Blameworthy, his old drinking partner!

“What? What? WHAT?” was all Gloom-Laden could say…Then. “I must be drunk and seeing things.”

“No, no you’re not…” the ghostly Blameworthy paused. “…well, yes, you’re pissed, but you’re not seeing things. It is me, Blameworthy, come to give you a warning,” said the ghostly figure of Blameworthy, with a wail.

“But, Blameworthy, old chap, you’re dead. Mrs Blameworthy told me so…”

“And so I am,” he continued to wail.

“How did you get into my house!” demanded Gloom-Laden.

The ghostly Blameworthy frowned. “Like all ghosts…walked through the bloody walls. Never mind about that,” he said irritably, then returned to the wailing. “I’m here to deliver a warning…”

“I’m not sure I like the idea of you coming and going just as you please in my house! I mean, what if you suddenly walked through the bathroom wall while I was in the bath. Or my bedroom while I was…”

Blameworthy held up his hand suddenly, a look of disgust crossing his ghostly features. “Stop it, stop it! It’s bloody bad enough being dead and doomed to be like this for all eternity, let alone having those sort of images flying around my head…Let’s get back to the warning, alright!”

“If we must…”

The ghostly Blameworthy sighed. “I haven’t got long, can I get on…”

“Why are you carrying a beer-barrel and those pint pots around your waist?” asked Gloom-Laden.

“I’ll come to that, it’s part of the warning!!” cried an exasperated Blameworthy.

“Well get on with it. I want to go to bed!”

Clearing his throat Blameworthy re-attuned his voice to wailing pitch.

“It was my love of beer, my mean pursuit of pubs to the exclusion of all else. Being mean to others by making them travel great distances to pubs, at the same time pretending they were close by. Putting them through walking assault courses to get to the little gems I’d sorted out. It was the pursuit of beer and pubs that led to my death. And so I’m cursed to carry a beer barrel and the pint pots around my waist for all eternity…each day they get heavier….”

“Pint pots and a barrel of beer…” muttered Gloom-Laden.

Blameworthy flicked something into the air and caught it in his mouth. “And an endless supply of pork scratching’s…not all bad, eh?”

“I don’t see what that has to do with me?” sighed Gloom-Laden.

“Because your obsessiveness with depression and despair along with your meanness will be your undoing. You too will be cursed to end your days like me, walking eternity, burdened with your life time sins…”

“You’re not actually making a lot of sense…”

“You will understand,” Blameworthy wailed.

Gloom-Laden’s frown deepened as he sighed. “Could we leave out the wailing bit. It’s getting to be annoying.

“Part and parcel, Gloom-Laden…” Blameworthy paused, thought for a few seconds. “Where was I? Ah, yes, you will understand…tonight you are to be visited by two spirits…”

“Um…”

It was Blameworthy’s turn to be irritated. “What?”

“Well, something tells me I should be visited by three spirits…”

Blameworthy threw another port scratching into his mouth, scrunched then once he’d swallowed, replied: “Normally, yes, but they’re had this spirit election and the new blokes in charge have announced thirty-three per cent cuts across the board…”

“You’re joking!”

“No, this new lot’s meaner. They’re even making me pay higher duty on the beer I haven’t got…say it’s for the good of my health; work that one out!”

“Now I know you can’t be serious…”

But before he could say anymore, Blameworthy wailed above Gloom-Laden’s voice: “My time is up. When the clock strikes mid-night you will be visited the first spirit….”

Blameworthy walked towards the door, Gloom-Laden reached for the port, then looked back to see Blameworthy was gone!!

Gloom-Laden swigged some more of his port. Perhaps he was drunk, perhaps he was hallucinating.

Finally, with a jerk, Gloom-Laden sat bolt upright. Had he just dropped off? Or had he been asleep for some time and now just woken up? He looked at clock. It was just after 1pm. Blameworthy or whatever that was who came before him was obviously wrong as neither spirit had visited him…

No, the Blameworthy visit was just a dream. His lips moved a millimetre upwards from their droop, the nearest he came to a smile. He got up from his chair and decided it was time for bed. As he crossed the floor he saw something on the floor. A beer mat, with Dolman’s XXX Old Toe Curler; a strong ale that Blameworthy was fond of.

He swallowed hard. Surely not, but the evidence was there. He never had that beer here. Blameworthy had to have been here.

Stave III

It was 1am when Gloom-Laden went to bed but for some reason, a while later, he was sure he woke to the town hall clock striking 12 midnight! Surely that wasn’t possible!

Had he slept for nearly twenty-four hours and wasted part of his holiday?

He looked at the clock beside his bed and saw that it was indeed mid-night…

He got out of bed and went to the window. There were few people about, few lights on but then visibility wasn’t great with the fog outside…

From behind him he felt a chill in his otherwise warm room. He turned and there was the spirit Blameworthy warned him of.

“Oh God,” muttered Gloom-Laden.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past and Present…” said the ghost, with an obligatory wail.

Gloom-Laden wasn’t accustomed to Woo-Wooing in his bedroom at midnight in his bedroom; or indeed, truth to be told at any time.

He set eyes upon a shadowy figure. It was dressed in black, a robe with a large hood, which swept down to where the feet would be.

The spirit repeated his introduction. “I said I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past & Present…”

Gloom-Laden sighed. “Surely that should just be Christmas Past?”

The ghost sighed. “The cuts… had to take on another job, but don’t get me started on that…anyway, I’m the ghost of Christmas Past and Present…”

“So you said. And?”

“What?”

“I said, and?”

“And what?” said the Ghost.

“Precisely. You’ve just claimed to be the Ghost of Christmas Past & Present…”

From beneath the cowl the skull became a little visible.

“Claim? Claim? I don’t claim anything….” It began only to be interrupted by Gloom-Laden.

“Yes you do, you said you’re the Ghost of Christmas Past & Present.”

“Yes, CPP to my friends. Anyway, I don’t bloody claim it, I am.”

“Got any identification?”

“What d’you mean have I got any identification. Look at me!”

The figure spread his arms and made a particular point of highlighting the skull face, while resting most of his weight on one leg..

“How do I know you’re not some idiot playing a joke?” responded Gloom-Laden.

The spirit paused as he digested the remark. In all the hundreds of years since he started the job no-one had said that to him before.

“Playing a joke? Playing a joke? I don’t do jokes!”

Gloom-Laden sighed with uncharacteristic sympathy. “No, I know what you mean. They’re supposed to make you feel good, provoke a laugh. Lots of it about this time of year, everybody grinning, acting really cheerful. Can’t stand jokes myself or Christmas…”

“Precisely!” exclaimed the Ghost.

“Glad you agree.”

“What? No, I don’t agree.”

“Changed your mind, have you?”

“No, I didn’t agree in the first place.”

“You did, you said ‘precisely’ in response to my decrying the futility of Christmas…”

“No, no, that wasn’t what I meant. I mean you act miserable…”

“No act, I can assure you, I really am depressed, miserable and don’t consider life worth living!”

The Ghost sighed. “You’re mean with money…”

“Well I’m certainly not going to waste it on other people to make them happy when it does not do the same for me! Not going to give you any just dressing up silly…even if you are playing a joke. Student, are you?”

The ghost frowned. “I’m not playing a joke. I mean do I look like someone playing a joke?”

Gloom-Laden shrugged. “To me you do. Not a very funny joke, mind you…Then again I’ve never understood student humour…”

“I’m not playing a bloody joke!! And for your information I’m not a student either.”

“Educationally lacking are you? Never mind, university education’s overrated anyway…Look at the idiots it produces, only got to take a good look at the politicians we have got to see evidence of that… Not that primary education is anything particularly spectacular either…Or higher education…or any state education…”

“Shut up!!”

“Why?”

“Because we’re getting away from the point. You were told I was coming, weren’t you.”

“Yes, but then, people keep going on about Christmas is coming as though nobody has ever thought it is, despite the fact that it happens this time every bloody year! God, it’s so tedious! Then we get all this ‘isn’t everyone wonderful and how I’ve always like you…’ ‘Oh and have a piece of paper with snow, glitter, rose-cheeked children on it, or snowmen’ just to prove how nice I am, along with big smiles and wishing you a happy Christmas in a supposedly sincere, caring way, when for most of the year I couldn’t give a toss whether you’re dead or alive’….”

CPP (to his friends) was frozen to the spot, his sockets wide, not quite able to take it all in. Where was the fear, where was the regret. He’d got out of his grave this evening with a funny feeling; something had told him it wasn’t going to be his day. He’d felt it in his bones of which, of course, there were numerous…although he’d left those back at the grave…

“…then there’s all this aren’t you my best friend…” continued Gloom-Laden, “…let’s all go out for a meal together, put on silly hats, have our halves of Shandy or single glasses of sherry and act silly and out of character just because it’s Christmas! Not that anyone really thinks about the alleged true meaning of Christmas; where lots of people believe some really, really nice chap was born; a bloke whose only wish in life was to see peace on earth and everyone being nice to each other….Look where that got the poor sod? Nailed to a bloody cross, that’s what being nice, cheerful and decent gets you…”

“You think that’s all down to Christmas?” asked CPP.

“That and life in general. It’s all depression and misery.”

“What about man basic goodness,” asked CPP.

“Huh,” Gloom-Laden exclaimed, pulling the sheets up around his throat. “You don’t get out much…Doesn’t exist, all false…”

CPP sighed as he realised they were getting off the subject. It wasn’t going to be easy this year, the bad feeling was really haunting him, so to speak.

“Anyway,” he said, trying to get things back on track, “come with me…”

“Out in the bloody cold, you must be joking! I’m warm enough where I am!”

CPP insisted: “You have to come with me…”

“Who says?”

“What,” replied CPP, unsure.

“Who says I have to go with you; on what authority?”

CPP hesitated. This wasn’t at all like all the training courses he attended…

“But I must show you Christmases past.”

“Show me here, if you must, not that I’m interested mind you. After all, what’s the point of bringing up the past? We’re living in the present…”

“To show you how happy you were, how Christmas brought joy, the good will to all men…’n that…” trailed off CPP, as he saw Gloom-Laden’s morose expression become even more morose. “It will show you the path to happiness, kindness and generosity, good will to all men…”

“How?” said an unconvinced Gloom-Laden.

“Well, by showing you the way you were once happy, to show how you’ve lost your way…”

“Maybe it’s a paradox, have you thought of that?”

“What?” asked CPP, slowly getting quite irritable.

“Maybe I like being miserable, maybe I’m happy when I’m miserable…”

“You can’t be happy being miserable…that’s a contradiction..”

“Or a paradox.”

“No, it’s bloody contradiction!!”

“Same thing!”

“No it isn’t…”

“Look it up in a dictionary. Paradox, contradiction, absurdity, irony…” went on Gloom-Laden.

“Ok, ok, let’s just say the words mean the same…”

“They do…”

“Alright, they do…” said CPP, trying is best to hold back anger and irritation, “it’s my job to…”

“Jobs.”

“What?”

“Jobs. Remember the cuts. Only two of you now.”

“I know, me and Christmas Future…”

“Christmas Future and I,” corrected Gloom-Laden.

CPP said through gritted teeth: “Both of us to make you mend your ways.”

“Bit unfair, though.”

“What is?” asked a puzzled CPP.

“The cuts. How is it that you ended up with two jobs and old Christmas Future kept his old job with no extra responsibility…?”

CPP thought for a few moments. “Well. Past and present are closer than the Future. Felt it was a better division of labour that way…”

“Not fair as far as I can see. You get two jobs and old future gets one….”

“Well, we all have to do our bit…”

“Only your bit is a lot larger bit than Christmas Future…”

CPP frowned, thought about it. “Well, you could put it that way. But the hours are the same…”

Gloom-Laden raised his eyebrows. “It gets worse. Not only two jobs but you’re expected to do them in a shorter time. They saw you coming, didn’t they…”

“What d’you mean,” said CPP through narrowed eyes, a spark igniting in his brain.

“Well, not only did they dump two jobs on you, make you do the job in a shorter time but they’ve even convinced you to be happy about it. You’re bosses would do well where I work…”

CPP stroked his chin. “Hmm. I suppose I do have to work a lot harder than old Future….”

“And let’ s be very honest here. Who is it that goes first, lays the groundwork that makes it easier for Christmas Future…if you ask me then your friend has got it rather easy. He was let off extra duties, and carries on as normal…”

CPP nods slowly. “Never really got on with the boss, you see. Always felt he didn’t appreciate me…”

“Well he’s certainly proved that by the way he’s treated you. I feel depressed thinking about it, God knows how I’d feel if it happened to me….”

CPP sat down on the edge of the bed, head in hands. “You know, I never thought about it before, but I’ve never been appreciated. No matter how hard I work, whatever I do, never get much thanks for it…the boss hates me, really hates me….”

Stave IV

It was twenty-five minutes later than a rather depressed CPP left Gloom-Laden alone. Gloom-Laden was feeling tired. It was gone 3am and he fell asleep with very little trouble.

It was what seemed like minutes later that he was awoken by another figure in the room. Tiredly, he looked at the clock to see it was mid-night again. He sighed, beginning to feel as if he was experiencing his own version of Groundhog Day.

He wasn’t surprised to see another spirit, one looking a little older than the previous one he’d managed to send away..

Christmas Future looked at the rather podgy man in the bed. He wasn’t all that happy at the depressed and bitter way young CPP spoke to him when they crossed over shifts.

Christmas Future wasn’t a happy at all and believed the reason behind it was the clever sod in the bed. Just let the little bugger get clever with him, oh yes, he’d know what suffering was all about if he tried that!

Christmas Future – who was decidedly against diminutives of title or name – knew exactly how he was going to open up his session…

“I suppose you’re Christmas Future? Ok, get on with it!” asserted a fed up Gloom-Laden.

The spirit signalled for Gloom-Laden to follow.

“Oh no, not in this cold…”

Christmas Future pointed a spindly finger at his gown more firmly.

“No!” insisted Gloom-Laden.

Gloom-Laden paid little attention to the glaring eyes of Christmas Future, not impressed by this new ghost’s taller, darker look, or it’s silence.

One of the things which had always been in the job spec for Christmas Future was the brooding, enigmatic silence, which usually helped increase the fear and anticipation laid down by CPP. But it didn’t quite get the obedience required when faced with this bespectacled depressive.

“I’m not really going with you anyway, it’s all bogus, so just do the illusion here…”

Keeping his thin-lipped mouth as tightly shut as possible, he pointed an angry finger at the wall. A picture formed which to Gloom-Laden almost felt he could step into it.

It showed a darkened house. There was a man talking to another man, one had on an overall. A logo with the sub-message of ‘House Clearances’.

“Nothing much worth anything in ‘ere, mate. Burn the bloody lot, I would. Even the cheese in the fridge is rotten…”

“Stilton, actually…usually looks mouldy.”

“Yeah, I know, but Stilton don’t wear fur coats, do it?”

The man grimaced. “What about his wine collection. He was always boating about it…”

“Nothing there, mate, empty bottles…drank it as soon as he bought it. Some old betting slips, a few books…”

“Ah,” said the other man. “He was fond of books, very well read. Any first editions?”

“Not even a 101 edition. Worthless paperbacks.”

“So nothing here of value, nothing to mark him out?”

“Well, no, you’d think no one had lived here…although…”

“Yes…” the other man said, anxiously.

“Well I did find a beer mat…”

“A beer mat?”

“Yeah. Dolman’s XXX Old Toe Curler. Give you five quid for it. My mate collects beer mats. It’s an early version…”

“ A fiver?”

“Might get him to pay a tenner…”

“Hmm. All those years and a tenner. I knew he was a tight-ass but…”

The picture began to fade…

Gloom-Laden frowned. “So, what this shows me is that I lived a life and had nothing left when I died, nothing to connect me to the house or to the fact that I’d ever lived? And that anyone who inherits my estate will get very little…” frowned Gloom-Laden.

The ghost inclined his head as he bowed slightly.

“Hmm,” said Gloom-Laden rubbing his chin. “Seems the perfect way to go. Why should any other bugger have the benefit of anything I have worked hard for? Get it, spend it and enjoy but never bloody share it….”

It wasn’t the reaction Christmas Future was expecting.

In an irritated sweep of his hand the picture changed to that of a dark and dank graveyard…

Slowly, amongst all the gravestones the picture seemed to focus on one…an unkempt, rotting gravestone. Gloom-Laden squinted through his thick glasses, his expression soured even more.

“Can you go in a bit closer, can’t see that.”

With a suppressed sigh the ghost of Christmas future pointed his figure irritably. It would’ve been better if they’d gone there, like he wanted to in the first place.

The picture enlarged, drawing the gravestone closer. Gloom-Laden could see the faded writing on it a lot better now.

GLOOM-LADEN
Born 21st July 1971:
Died just after lunch, Christmas day 2010.
Beloved of no-one…

Christmas Future looked at Gloom-Laden for his reaction. Gloom-Laden just shrugged.

“So what?” he retorted, then, “Can I go back to sleep now?”

The ghost pointed again at the gravestone which became even larger on his wall, his arm and finger shaking…emphasizing the point.

“Yes, I know. I’m going to die. Can’t come soon enough for me!”

The Ghost lost control; not able to believe anyone could be so casual about dying. “But you’re going to die tomorrow!”

Gloom-Laden raised himself from his bed. “So you can speak then?”

Christmas Future slapped a hand over his mouth in sudden panic. Then he realised it was pointless and spoke again.

“Bugger!”

“And swear.”

“Yes but I’m not about to die,” responded Christmas Future, a little smugly.

“No, but that would be pointless as you’re already dead!”

“The point is it’s no good you lying there, acting as though you don’t care…”

“I don’t,” said Gloom-Laden, “and even if I did care, all that you showed me was a load of rubbish.”

“Rubbish? Rubbish! That’s your future, matey, what’s in store for you….” said Christmas Future with folded arms and a nod of his head.

“No it isn’t”

“Yes it is and I should know. I’m the Ghost of Christmas Future!”

“So,” said Gloom-Laden, thoughtfully, “I’m going to die tomorrow and that’s it?”

“Getting through, now is it, eh, good.”

“So, I might as well have a good night’s sleep then.”

“No, no, no! You’re supposed to start changing your ways!”

“Haven’t got time, I’ll be dead before it can do any good.”

“Not if you mend your ways.”

“Then I won’t die?”

“Yep.”

“So you haven’t really shown me my future.”

“Yes I have…”

“The bit where I’m dead, but you said that can be changed. Well, that means it’s not a fixed point then?”

“Fixed point? It’s what’ll happen if you don’t change your ways.”

“So what’s my future then?”

“I’ve just shown it to you!”

“You haven’t, you’ve just shown me something that might happen or rather what you guess will happen if I don’t take your advice…” argued Gloom-Laden.

The Ghost looked hurt. “Guess? GUESS? I don’t bloody guess, I know, matey.”

“Well, not really, you’re only showing me something that might happen…”

“If you don’t mend your ways…”

Gloom-Laden looked dubious. “That’s playing the odds. Pretending to know something then putting in a little clause that says if it doesn’t happen it’s because of something else someone did…You didn’t use to write the Astrology column for the Daily Rambler, did you?”

“No I didn’t, wouldn’t be seen dead writing that sort of trash!”

“It’s not far removed from the stuff you’ve shown me.”

“I resent that. What I’ve shown you is an accurate vision of the future, matey.”

“But it isn’t, you said so yourself.”

“No I didn’t…”

“Ah, you did, you said it was the future I would have if I was to continue as before. But if I change my ways then it won’t be my future.”

“That’s right.”

“So what you showed me might not happen.”

“If you change your ways…”

“So it’s not immutable?”

“Well….not exactly, I need to know what you’re doing.”

“But isn’t that like the weather man looking outside to tell you the weather.”

The Ghost thought about that then. “No, no it isn’t. That’s telling you what’s happening now. I’m telling you what’s happening in the future.”

“Not very clearly, though. It might be this, if you do that, or might be that way if you do that. Not very convincing, is it? And it’s not as if you’ve got that much to do, is it?” exclaimed Gloom-Laden.

The Ghost frowned. “What d’you mean, not got much to do? I’m bloody busy, really busy, the work’s piling up.”

“Well, if you say so,” responded Gloom-Laden dubiously.

“It’s not because I say so, it’s because it is…so.”

“If that’s as accurate as your predictions for the future…”

“There’s nothing wrong with my predictions for the future,” screeched the Ghost.

“Except you can’t honestly say which one I have to look forward to.”

“Yes I can, it just….”

“…depends on what I do. Everybody can work that out about their future, don’t need you to tell anyone. Still, I suppose it passes the time for you, stops you getting bored.”

“No chance to get bored with all the work I’ve got to do.”

“Seems to be your friend does most of it.”

“What?”

“Well, he goes first, softens them up, then you go in a do the easy bit…and it doesn’t have to be accurate!”

“His job isn’t that hard…”

“Well, on it’s own it might not be, but he got lumbered with two jobs. Past and Present and you got off lightly with just Future and you can’t seem to pin that down with any degree of accuracy!”

“Two bloody easy jobs? He wants to try mine.”

“Still two jobs to your one, and you don’t have to be accurate in yours. He’s got to check out the past, make sure he’s got all his facts and then present it. Then the same for the present. All facts as opposed to your rather limp ‘might be’ futures!”

“I work just a hard and I resent the comment ‘limp’ and the words ‘might be’, for that matter. My predictions are accurate!”

Gloom-Laden said: “Then you yourself do not have that much faith in the Future you present people. I mean a prediction is a statement of what somebody thinks will happen in the future…”

Wide-eyed, the Ghost stuttered: “Well…well…well, yes, yes, it could be said. But mine are well grounded. Solid.”

“Not very solid if they can be changed, are they?”

Having rarely felt anger and frustration, or indeed needing it in his job – the Ghost shook a little. There was this irresistible need flowing through him to commit an act of violence. He hadn’t faced anyone like this portly little twerp before. All his past clients had been supine in nature with a good dose of regret and fear but this sod, this bloody sod!

Stave V

It was about an hour later that the ghost of Christmas Future left having got no further forward.

It was another time and place that a Ghostly Supervisor went amongst his reports to find a CPP drinking what seemed to be an alcoholic beverage, looking depressed and telling everyone around him who’d listen, that he wasn’t appreciated and even if he had been it was all pointless anyway and he might as well be dead. Despite appeals from said colleagues that he was already dead and so it was a mute point, CPP continued his self-pitying wail.

Christmas Future was quite silent, save for the thumping noise he made every three seconds after he head-butted the wall…

The Supervisor decided it was going to be one of those Christmases!!

Stave VI

It was at 7am sharp that Gloom-Laden arose from his bed to find it was Christmas Eve once more. He checked his clock and calendar again. No, it was Christmas Eve. Or was it for the first time.

Gloom-Laden frowned. Something about poor old Blameworthy being dead…

Once he’d had his bath and breakfast, he lifted his telephone receiver and called Blameworthy’s number. The voice of Blameworthy answered. Gloom-Laden quickly put down the receiver.

Ha ha, so he was alive, it was Christmas Eve once more and so the whole thing had to be a dream…

But the experience changed Gloom-Laden. No more did he decry Christmas and its associated trimmings to those who loved and cherished Christmas; to those who wished him Merry Christmas. Oh no, Gloom-Laden formed a club, a very special club for those who were like-minded and moaned and groaned and complained together about those over-enthusiastic ticks who claimed to love Christmas so much.

It was called the “Bah Humbug Club!”

(With apologies to Charles Dickens and thanks to Blameworthy…)

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67 comments on “10: A Christmas Gloom-Laden

  1. I am touched by your support Fitters but it has to be remembered that, in the past, I have invited and withstood insults and abuse from some of the finest exponents of the sarcastic arts, including the late, lamented Mrs. Sunshine and the very much alive, but lamentable, Mrs.Blameworthy, in comparison to whom GloomLaden is a mere featherweight. I am reminded of the lone knight who once launched an assault on an English medieval castle armed only with a few yards of lace curtain material and a packet of instant gravy granules. GloomLaden continues to toil at the coalface of literature unaware that the mine he is working was closed down over twenty years ago and the entrance boarded up above him. Sadly, the end product of his persistent and valiant effort will never see the light of day and, in any case, would have only been fit for burning on the fire, although the heat given off by his low-grade combustibles would be barely sufficient to roast a solitary chestnut.

  2. I have to defend the venerable Blameworthy here. You assumption that he cannot write is made by virtue of the fact he rarely does.

    However, he can be quite elequent with a ballpoint when the urge arises.

    A testament to this is I lifted the description of the death of Blameworthy for my last Web entry because I thought it was amusing and well-written.

    I couldn’t have written a death as good as that in the time available to me. I’m unsure if I could have had I had four times the amount of time…

    It’s true the urge may not come upon him all that often, but all the same…

  3. It ill behoves a man who has never written anything more substantial than the name of an especially rare Herefordshire mild on the back of a sodden beermat advertising a long and rightly defunct bitter (a few too many fruity notes) to decry in any way those who, no matter how humbly, toil at the coalface (by which I aay sometimes mean shitface) of Literature. Christ, Blameworthy, by comparison with you, even Roger Protz is an author. Even the two Deaf Blokes could hear your disrespect through the respectful silence!

  4. Like an illiterate tree falling in the forest my respectful silence would be deafening if only there was just one proper writer close enough to hear it.

  5. Oh,Fitrambler, I think Scotland will hold together pretty well no matter what you write.

    As for Malmsey and Sewidge; I would not want the festive edition I sent being published on the blog as some readers may be offended by the content. I have been trying to write a Malmsey & Sewidge adventure more suitable for the blog but so far without success. Blameworthy, not being a writer, will doubtless maintain a respectful silence in this matter.

  6. I have to add here that the up and coming piece is about the second houe I moved into in which the Building Society of the time and I agreed to purchase.

    It was an odd time as all sorts of silly events happened. Blameworthy may remember some of them…

    But to move onto another subject. I enjoyed your piece, Gloom-Laden that you sent over the Christmas Period; A Drop Of Malmsey, A Whiff Of Sewidge. I regret I haven’t been privy to them before.

    It’s a piece I’d be happy to publish on the Web-Site. However, that is a decision you must make and not I.

    There is, in the very early draft stages, a ‘Fitrambler In Scotland’ piece I’m thinking of putting up; but that will depend on how it holds together…

    I

  7. Well, you could have knocked me down with a J.C.B. What a turn up! Gloomladen is tantalised and eager. Hardly living up to your name Gloomers, me old mate. Are we now to expect a whole series of comments exonerating me from all blame and suggesting that I was always entirely innocent of the accusations levelled at me? Should we be changing our names to Mr. Brightfuture and Mr. Irreproachable? Or Mr. Lifensoul and Mr. Unimpeachable? Whatever next? Will Fitrambler be declared a physical wreck and discover he is no longer able to perambulate? Stone me! I’ll be buggered etc. etc…

  8. I, for one, am tantalised by the prospect of the next blog post. The title, we are told, is ‘A House of One’s Own’ which echoes E M Forster and Virginia Woolf who insisted variously on house and rooms of their own in which to write. The question of housing is uppermost in my mind, too, and I wait eagerly to know Fitrambler’s take on a perennial subject.

  9. So would you recommend roasting as an alternative? Or perhaps microwaving to get it over with more quickly.

  10. I’ve been enjoying the Fitrambler tweets from Edinburgh. There’s just as much food involved as there was in North Wales, but much more drinking this time. When you boil life down, all that remains is food and drink, it seems.

  11. Not wise at all. But I still have a truckle of fine cheddar cheese, a bottle of good champagne and the most expensive bottle of red wine I have ever bought to get through. The rest of my life may be falling apart at alarming speed but the commestibles are worth hanging around for.

  12. I’d have to have been described as portly, the word implying a heavy consumption of port. Morbidly obese is fine from the morbidity point of view but has a modern ring to it I don’t like. I never weigh myself so have no notion what weight I have put on but it is a lot. And there is still a lot of food and booze left, so the health kick cannot begin yet.

  13. That’s because I paid for a redirection so I could check out the sort of salacious mail you receive.

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