A seasonal post by Nigel Wallis, director of Legal Futures Associate O’Connors Legal Services Limited
“Come in out of the cold, for goodness sake,” said Emily Cratchit, as she pulled open her front door to find Ebenezer Scrooge ankle-deep in slush, a cranberry-sized dewdrop swinging from his nose.
“My dear Mrs Cratchit,” said Ebenezer, “it is indeed most kind of you and Bob to invite me to join your support bubble and share your Christmas lunch. I was planning on a tin of pilchards this year because, despite getting over the worst of this dreadful plague, everything still tastes like fag ash to me. Not that I’m one to grumble.”
“Oh dear, you poor old thing,” said Emily. “That must be awful for you. Pass me your wet things and tuck in by the fire. Bob has chopped up an old wooden crutch of Tiny Tim’s, so we have a finer than usual fug up in the parlour.”
Emily had promised Bob she’d be on her best behaviour following their blazing row earlier in the week. Quite why Bob wanted to invite the squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner to ruin their Christmas, she would never know. Very odd behaviour, considering he whinged on about Scrooge over supper most evenings.
“I think Bob must be going soft,” she said to herself, as she hung Scrooge’s heavy frock coat on the back of the door.
“I’m sorry?” said Ebenezer.
“Um, I said I think Bob must be in the loft,” Emily said, recovering quickly. “He’s getting the last of the Christmas decorations down. He found last year’s figgy pudding up there yesterday. Nobody seems to like it in this household.”
“I brought you this, my dear,” said Ebenezer, proffering a Bag for Life from The Aldi Curiosity Shop. His thin arm twitched under the weight of the Luxury Roly Poly Turkey Crown. “There’s nothing quite like it, I gather.”
“Oh, you really shouldn’t, Mr Scrooge. Darling, look what Mr Scrooge has brought us.” said Emily, as Bob entered the parlour with a battered box of assorted streamers.
“Father said the bloody lights don’t work again!” shouted Tiny Tim, as he followed Bob into the room, dragging a long rope linking a dozen little glass lanterns.
“Language, Timothy, we’ve got company,” said his mother. “You and your sisters can put new candles in them when they return from church.” Tiny Tim gave her one of his ‘do-I-really-have-to’ looks and went off to sulk.
“Hello, Ebenezer,” said Bob, pushing the dusty box onto the dining table which Emily had just spent the last hour carefully setting. “Fancy a drop of scotch? Your kind nephew Fred gave me a lovely bottle last Christmas.”
“Er, no thank you, Bob. I’ve rather gone off spirits lately.”
Bob smiled. “I’m not in the least bit surprised. I’m truly delighted to see you’re making such a good recovery. It’s a frightful bug. Nasty enough to wipe the smug smile off old Fezziwig’s face, I gather.”
Bob and Ebenezer caught each other’s eye and roared with laughter, as Bob poured himself a Bushmills and a mulled wine for Ebenezer and Emily.
Much later, as they pushed back their chairs after a splendid Christmas feast, Scrooge looked around the table at all the happy faces, burnished red with seasonal conviviality.
“D”you know what?” said Ebenezer, wiping the corners of his mouth with his napkin, the way posh people do. “I can honestly say this has been the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”
Bob gave Tiny Tim’s good leg a sharp kick, just in time to stop him blurting inappropriately.
“No, really,” said Ebenezer, “it’s no secret that I’ve never liked Christmas. The false jollity, the over-spending and over-eating, the rather naff gifts, and the disregard for its true meaning. But in these last few days, my view has changed considerably.”
“Has it really?” said Emily, earnestly. “Has something happened to you, Mr Scrooge?”
“Indeed, it has my dear, and it’s changed me. Perhaps forever.”
“Well… what has happened to you, Ebenezer?” asked Bob, eager to know what had caused his cold-hearted miser of a boss suddenly to turn all gooey.
Scrooge paused before reaching into his inside pocket. He pulled out a letter and handed it to Bob.
“Please,” said Ebenezer, gesturing to Bob.
Bob unfolded the letter and slowly read it to himself. All eyes in the room were on him as he looked up open-mouthed.
“Well?” said Emily.
“Well?” said a high-pitched chorus of Cratchit children.
“Ebenezer’s been picked as a contestant on “I’m a Victorian… Get Me Out of Here!” Bob said at last.
You could have heard Jacob Marley’s jaw drop as they stared at one another in disbelief.
“Gosh,” said Emily.
“Sick,” said the Cratchit daughters, anachronistically.
Tiny Tim cringed at the very thought. “God help us, every one!”