CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED!

by Robert Williams

It was two weeks before Christmas, and Des, Mick and Mike the Manic Mechanic were all sitting in the cafe. Des was looking particularly miserable.

"Why is Des so down in the dumps?!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy.

"Nothing new, he always looks miserable when he comes here," said Mick.

Just then they felt a rush of cold air as the front door opened and they saw a group of carol singers standing there, led by Wayne.

"We wish yer a Merry Christmas, we wish yer a Merry Christmas, we wish yer a Merry Christmas, and an 'appy new year!!" sung the carol singers.

"Look, I got it right, I got it right!!!" exclaimed Wayne, excitedly. "Now can we 'ave some dosh?!"

"I'll just go and get some," said Mrs Greasy.

"Bah humbug!" exclaimed Des, getting up and slamming the door on them.

"Des, what was that for?!?!" exclaimed Mick.

"I've had enough of Christmas!" exclaimed Des, sitting down again. "Have you noticed how it seems to come round every single year?! There isn't a royal proclamation, there's no act of parliament to decide there's going to be a Christmas this year, it just happens. And nobody can stop it?!"

"What do you want to stop it for?!" said Mike the Manic Mechanic. "I love Christmas!!"

"Same old thing every year. 'Ding-dong merrily on high', mince pies, Christmas pudding, rotten useless gifts you get out of crackers, even the Christmas episode of 'The Good Life' which I've now seen so many times I could recite it word-for-word backwards!! I'm sick of all of it!!"

"He's gone mad," said Mike.

"He just wants to get out of buying any presents," said Mick. "And judging by what he normally buys us, that'll be no great loss. Last year he bought me a CD boxset of Brother Beyond, the unauthorised biography of Jamie Theakston, and a sink plunger!"

"It was a very good sink plunger!" said Des. "Top of the range!"

"Anyway, here's some news that'll cheer you all up," said Mrs Greasy. "I've started cooking your Christmas turkey!!!"

There were gasps from all around.

"You know what, I'm starting to go off Christmas as well now!" said Mike.

"Me too!!" said Mick.

"They might as well cancel Christmas for all I care..." said Des. "Wait!! That's it!! Huddle round, everyone."

"I'd rather not, if you don't mind," said Mick.

"I've just had a brilliant idea," whispered Des. "Why don't we tell Mrs Greasy that Christmas has been cancelled, then we won't have to suffer her Christmas dinner!!!"

"Good gracious," said Mick. "You've come up with some stupid ideas in the past, but this is definitely the stupidest yet!! Tell Mrs Greasy that Christmas is cancelled?! How on earth is that supposed to work?! Even in the unlikely event that she believes what we tell her, you can't avoid Christmas at this time of year!! Decorations in the shops and in the street, Christmas songs on the radio, Christmas specials on the television!! Des, that idea is completely unfeasible."

"Hey, Mrs Greasy!" said Des, calling her over. "There's no point putting the turkey in the oven!! Haven't you heard?! Christmas has been cancelled!!"

"What?!?!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy, her face falling. "Has it really?! Oh no!!!! What a bombshell!!!" Des grinned at the others. Then Mrs Greasy's face turned from a look of horror to a look of laughter. "Hey, you're a cheeky wind-up scampster, Des!! Of course Christmas hasn't been cancelled!! You can't fool me!!"

"Botherations," sighed Des. "How are we going to convince her?! Hmmm...I know!! Mike, have you still got your pirate television transmitter?"

"Yes, but I've dismantled it," said Mike.

"Well you'd better hurry up and re-mantle it then," said Des. "We are going to make a pretend news broadcast!!"

"Oh no," groaned Mick.

The next morning Mike had reconstructed his transmitter at his garage.

"I can't keep leave this thing up for long you know!" said Mike, as they all gathered in his workshop. "I can't risk letting Plod see this thing!!"

"Don't worry, we only need it for a couple of minutes while we do the broadcast," said Des.

"Who's going to be the 'newsreader' then?" said Mick. "Can't be any of us lot, for obvious reasons!!"

"On the contrary," said Mike. "It's going to be you, Des."

"But it can't be?!" said Des. "She'll definitely recognise me!!"

"Oh no she won't!!" said Mike. "Look at this!" Last night I took a photograph of the news, and had it blown up jumbo size!" He showed them the picture, which he had mounted on a wooden board.

"It's Huw Edwards sitting in the news studio," said Mick.

"But what have you done with his mouth?!" said Des. A hole had been hacked through the picture where Huw's mouth would normally be.

Mike held the hole up at his own mouth and started talking through it.

"Get it?!" said Mike. "That's what you have to do, Des! You can do a Welsh accent, can't you?!"

"Oh no, don't ask Des to do one of his accents!!" exclaimed Mick.

"Now Mick, you need to get down to the cafe and make sure Mrs G is watching television, and that it's tuned to BBC1, because that's the frequency I'll be interfering with. Got that?!"

"Yes," sighed Mick. "As if this is ever going to work." He headed off to the cafe.

"Now Des, you to need to hold up this picture in front of you," said Mike.

"Okay, but it's very big and heavy!!" said Des. He put his mouth through the hole as Mike had done. "Hello boyo."

"Really convincing, it's as if he's in the room with us!!" said Mike. "Now try to not drop the picture. I'll be manning the camera, of course, while holding the script up so you can read it. We'll give Mick a couple of mins to get down to the cafe and then I'll switch the transmitter on."

A couple of mins later Mick arrived at the cafe.

"Mrs Greasy, you've got to put the telly on!!" exclaimed Mick.

"Shhh Mick, I'm watching the repeat of 'Emmerdale Farm'!!" said Mrs G, who was watching the portable television on the counter.

"Switch it over to BBC1, there's going to be an important announcement!!" said Mick.

"Ahh, look at those little piggies!" said Mrs G.

"Switch it over, Mrs Greasy, you've got to!!" exclaimed Mick.

"All right, all right, keep your hair on, what little you've got left!" said Mrs G. She switched over to BBC1 where David Dickinson was leering out of the screen.

"Well just look at this delightful antique chest of drawers!" said David on the telly. "A snip at just £525.20!! Cheap as chips!!"

"That's your important announcement, is it?! I'm not interested in delightful antique chests of drawers, even when they're cheap as chips!!"

"Wait a minute!!" exclaimed Mick.

Suddenly the picture started jumping about and a fuzzy still image of Huw Edwards appeared.

"Oh look, it's Huge Edwards, I like him," said Mrs G. "And he looks a lot more animated than he usually does."

This picture remained on screen for a few seconds.

"Isn't he going to say anything?!" said Mrs G.

Just then Mike the Manic Mechanic's face appeared on the screen.

"Oh no!!" said Mick. "Look over there, Mrs G!!" He pointed in the opposite direction.

"What is it!?" said Mrs G.

"It's...a...um..."

"I've switched the transmitter on," said Mike on the television, "now I'd better just switch the camera on." He disappeared behind the camera. "Oh, it's already switched on! Did you switch it on, Des?"

Mick coughed very loudly.

"Are you all right, Mick?!" said Mrs Greasy. "What are we looking at?!"

"Errr...the television!" said Mick. "Yes, it's okay to look at now."

"Beep, beep, beep!" said Mike the Manic Mechanic on the television, doing his rendition of the BBC News theme.

"Hello boyo," said Des in his bad Welsh accent, poking his mouth through the picture. "I...I...can't read the script, can you move a little closer, Mike?"

They heard Mike groan, and the camera shuffled forward a bit.

"That's better," said Des. "I regret to inform you all, boyos, that it has been officially announced today by none other than Her Highness the Queen of Royal Majesty that Christmas is to be officially cancelled, boyo. This is in order to save money because of the credit crunch and the economical depression and things like that, boyo. Anyone caught celebrating Christmas this year will be subject to a £5,000 fine or else they will be forced to spend the Christmas holidays in Wormwood Scrubs, except of course there won't be any, Christmas holidays, that is, boyo. We now return you to your normal programmes. Yaki-dah!"

"Good gracious!!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "Is this true?!"

"Errr..." said Mick. However he was distracted as he was still looking at the television, seeing Des drop the picture of Huw Edwards on his foot.

"OUCH!!!" yelled Des as his face came into view.

"DES!!!" exclaimed Mike, running in front of the camera.

Mick switched the television off quickly.

"Well?" said Mrs Greasy. "I asked you a question, Mick. Is this true, has Christmas really been cancelled?!"

"Umm...well of course it has, you just saw it on the news!" said Mick.

"You're right," said Mrs Greasy. "They're not allowed to lie on the news! Christmas cancelled...hmmm... Well I'd better get that turkey out of the oven then!! Don't want to be fined £5,000!!"

"Yes!!" said Mick.

"Oh, and I'd better ring up Mrs Perkins from the butchers and let her know...and while I'm at it Mrs Gallagher from the bakers...and Mrs Cole from the candlestick makers..."

Mick hurried back to the garage and gave the others the thumbs up.

"I didn't believe she'd buy it, but she did," said Mick.

"Must be all down to my convincing Huge Edwards impression!" said Des.

"How's your foot?!" said Mick.

"Oh, not great at the moment," said Des.

"So now Mrs Greasy believes that Christmas has been cancelled," said Mick. "But surely when she goes down the shops, or even just walks down the street and sees the decorations, she's going to know it's not true!!! She watches ITV, she's bound to see all the Christmas adverts! And not to mention switching on the radio and hearing Slade and Wizzard every five minutes!!"

"Hmmm," said Des. "I'm still working on that one. I wonder if there's any chance of Tolworth FM changing their playlist if I ring them up?"

A couple of days passed, and amazingly Mrs Greasy was still under the impression that Christmas was cancelled.

"I don't understand it, how come she hasn't twigged yet?" said Mick.

"I've turned her television aerial round the wrong way so she can't pick anything up!" said Mike the Manic Mechanic. "And I've gunged up her radio dial so it's stuck on Radio 4! No music, you see!!"

"Nice one, Mike!!" said Des.

"I can't understand it," said Mrs Greasy, emerging from the kitchen. "What's happened to my reception? I've tried to get a repair man in but they're all busy!!"

"Time of year, isn't it?!" said Des.

"What time of year?!" said Mrs G. "Not Christmas, because that's been cancelled!!"

"Oh yes, of course," said Des.

"Must say, though, Radio 4's pretty good though, isn't it?!" said Mrs G.

"I wouldn't know, I haven't passed the MENSA test that permits me to listen to it," said Des.

Mrs G disappeared back into the kitchen.

"Tell you what, I'm really started feeling festive, now that we know that Mrs G won't be cooking our turkey for the first time ever!!" said Des.

"Don't count your chickens," said Mick. "Or your turkeys. There's over a week to go till Christmas, plenty of time left for her to find out she's been hoodwinked!!"

"In fact I think I'll go and do some Christmas shopping!!" declared Des.

Des went down the shops and into the bargain basement store to buy some cheap tat for the others. However he was rather bemused to see that the shop staff were taking down the decorations.

"Excuse me," said Des to the shopkeeper. "Why are you taking down all the decorations before Christmas?!?!"

"'Aven't you 'eard?!" said the lady at the till. "Christmas 'as been cancelled!! Somethin' to do with the recession or somethin'!! Don't understand meself, don't they need Christmas to generate more sales!! But we've got to comply, 'cos there's a £15,000 fine for celebratin' Christmas!!"

"But...but...where did you hear this?!" said Des.

"Mrs Finch from the laundrette rang me and told me!! Apparently she 'eard it from Mrs Jones from the dry cleaners who 'eard it from Mrs Perkins from the butchers who 'eard it from Mrs Greasy from the cafe!!"

"Oh no!" gasped Des.

Next Des went into the pound shop, where they were also taking down the decorations. Des asked the same question of the shopkeeper.

"I was told my Mrs Randall from the boutique! She apparently heard it from Mrs Jenkinson from the jewellers who heard it from Mrs Patel from the grocery who heard it from Mrs Gallagher from the bakery who heard it from Mrs Greasy from the cafe!!"

"Oh no!!" gasped Des.

It turned out that every single shop in town was taking down its decorations, resulting from a long chain of gossip which usually led back to Mrs Greasy, but in some cases was so long, they couldn't remember who had told them!

Des went to see Mick to report back.

"Funny you should say that," said Mick. "Because I've just been into the town centre, and saw some council people taking down the decorations from the streets!!"

"Oh dear," muttered Des.

"And Dickie's the Vicar's even cancelled the nativity rave he was planning!" said Mick.

"There's always an upside to everything," said Des. "At least we know the truth!! And I'm still in festive mood!!"

Des was still in festive mood the next morning, when Mrs Greasy knocked on his door.

"Mrs Greasy, what do you want?!" exclaimed Des as he answered the door.

"Just reminding you to pop down the cafe this morning as usual," said Mrs G.

"Yes, Mrs G, I always come down the cafe every single morning and you well know that, what's the point in coming round to remind me?!?!" exclaimed Des.

But Mrs G was busy peering past Des into his house.

"Mrs Greasy, what are you doing?!" said Des.

"Sorry, what did you say?!" said Mrs G. "Okay, I'll cut to the chase. I was just walking past your house and I couldn't help noticing you appear to have a tree in your front room. It wouldn't be a Christmas tree, perchance?!"

"Christmas tree?!" exclaimed Des. "No, no, of course not, it's just a tree, a normal tree, that, um, I've, er, planted in my living room..."

"And those look very much like Christmas decorations you have up in your hallway," said Mrs G.

"Ah, well, in actual fact, um, err, well, you see, ah..."

"Des, you know the rules. £50,000 fine for anyone caught celebrating Christmas. Now either you remove all signs of Christmas from your house or else I will be forced to perform your civic duty and inform the relevant authorities. I've heard Wormwood Scrubs is very pleasant this time of year..."

"All right, all right, I'll take the decorations down and then come round to the cafe!!" exclaimed Des, closing the door on her. "Cor, I was just starting to feel festive as well."

Once he had removed all of his decorations he went round to the cafe. Mrs Greasy was busy in the kitchen, but Mick, Mike, Clive were all peering at Clive's laptop.

"Des, what have you done?!" exclaimed Clive.

"Me?!?!" exclaimed Des. "What are you talking about, I haven't done anything!!"

"It's all over the internet," said Clive. "All over the country!! Shops taking down decorations, councils taking down decorations, now people are even taking down decorations in their own homes!!"

"Really?!" said Des. "I can't imagine who would do that?!"

"People playing Santa Claus in shopping centres have all been sacked, pantomimes and office parties have all been cancelled. And they've even reissued the Christmas Radio Times with all the Christmas specials taken off and all the normal programmes put back on!!"

"Ah," said Des.

"And yet it says here, no one seems to know exactly why this is all happening," said Clive, "or where it can be traced back to! Only I think you might have the answer."

"Really?" said Des.

"This is how you cancel Christmas," said Mick. "Not by issuing a royal proclamation! Or an act of parliament! All you need is word of mouth!!"

"Well how did I know Mrs Greasy would be such a blabbermouth?!" said Des. "What are we going to do?! Could we just do another pretend news broadcast and say that Christmas has been reinstated?!"

"Not likely," said Mike. "I've trashed the transmitter, can't risk being found out!!"

"So...um...Christmas really is cancelled then?" said Des.

"Blimey, he's quick!" said Mrs Greasy, coming out of the kitchen with their dinner.

"Oh yuck," groaned Des as she plonked a plate of boiled cabbage in front him.

Mrs Greasy then went back into the kitchen.

"But this is ridiculous, Christmas can't be cancelled, it's impossible, like I said before, it's something that just happens!" said Des. "Santa will still be popping down my chimney on Christmas Eve, of that there is no doubt!"

A few days later, it was Christmas Day, or rather the day formerly known as Christmas Day. To everyone in the country this was simply 25th December - an ordinary day. Apart from Wayne, that is.

Des was awoken than morning at 5.15 by someone banging on his front door.

"Who on earth can that be at this time of the morning?!" yawned Des. He got out of bed, stumbled downstairs and answered the door. Standing there was Wayne.

"Des!!! Des!!!" exclaimed Wayne, who looked very distressed. "I've got no pressies!!!"

"What are you doing up at 5.15 on Christmas morning?!" mumbled Des.

"Yeah I know it's late, innit?!" said Wayne. "But where's all my pressies?!?!"

"I bought you a present, so you must have at least one," said Des. "I posted it up to Father Christmas with all the others, so he must have delivered them all!!"

"But I've got no pressies!!!" whined Wayne.

"Oh dear," said Des. "I wonder if..." He rushed into his living room where he had surreptiously re-erected his Christmas tree the previous evening. He was shocked to find he had no presents either.

"This is bad," said Des. "We need to get in touch with Santa!"

"But how?!?!" exclaimed Wayne.

It was a well-established fact that Farmer Files was a personal friend of Father Christmas. So after breakfast Des and Wayne took a trip up to the farm.

"Good morning Farmer Files," said Des, "and a merry...oh, um... Anyway, we need a favour. Have you got Father Christmas's mobile phone number?!"

"Ooooh arrrrrr!!! Don't you be usin' that word round 'ere!!" exclaimed Files.

"Which one?!"

"Ooooh arrrrr!!! The one beginning with 'C' and ending with 'S'!!!"

Des thought for a moment. "Oh, that one!!"

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!! Do you be wantin' me saddled with a £500,000 fine or be slung into that there Wormwood Scrubs for sixty year?!?!"

"Umm... No, of course not," said Des. "Look, we just need...his number."

Files took Des and Wayne inside and rang up Father Christmas.

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!! Mornin' Santa!! 'Ow are you, me ol' mucker?!?! There be someone 'ere who be wantin' a word wi' you!! Oi don't know wha' about, mind, these be troublemakers, these people..."

"All right, all right," said Des, taking the telephone. "Hello Santa? It's me, Des? Remember me? We came up to see you once, the last time no one on the planet received any presents on Christmas...I mean, that special morning."

"Oh yes, I remember that," said Father Christmas, direct from the North Pole. "I was ill in bed with a cold!!"

"Yes that's right," said Des. "Where are you now?"

"In bed!" said Santa.

"What?!?!?!" exclaimed Des. "You're supposed to be out on your sleigh delivering all the presents!!"

"There didn't seem much point!!" said Santa. "Seeing as Christmas has been cancelled!!"

"WHAT?!?!?!?!" exclaimed Des. "How on earth did you find out about that?!?!"

"I read it on the internet!!" said Santa. "So it must be true!"

"Oh no," groaned Des. "Everyone was right. I really have done it this time!"

"OOOOOOH ARRRRR!!!!" exclaimed Files. "This be true?!?! This be all your fault!!!"

"Ummm...sort of," said Des. "Look, Santa, what are we going to do? Christmas hasn't really been cancelled, it was just something we made up to get out of having to eat Mrs Greasy's Christmas dinner!! You'll have to get out of bed and start delivering all those presents now!!"

"I can't do that!!" said Santa. "All the children will have woken up by now, and you know I can't be seen delivering their presents!! It's against the rules!!"

"Yes I know that," said Des. "Let me think..." Des tried to think a plan, while Files got increasingly agitated at how much this international phone call was going to cost him. "I know!! Why don't you bring your wife, Mary Christmas, with you?! She can distract each family by telling them Christmas isn't really cancelled, while you go down their chimney and deliver their presents!!"

"Good idea..." said Father Christmas. "Except that no one has ever seen Mary Christmas!! How will everyone know that she has the authority to declare that Christmas isn't cancelled?!"

"Don't you have badges like the police?" said Des. "Okay then, she'll have to dress up as someone with authority. Now who is it impossible to imagine telling a lie...I know!! The Queen!!"

"Good idea!!!" exclaimed Santa.

"Just one thing," said Des. "You can deliver to every household in the world...but don't forget to miss out Mrs Greasy's cafe, I don't want to end up eating her Christmas dinner."

"I understand," said Father Christmas.

And so their plan was put into action. Using Father Christmas's magic, every household received a visit from Mary Christmas, disguised as The Queen, informing them that Christmas had been reinstated, and they could put their tree and decorations back up. And when they returned to their living rooms, to where their Christmas trees should have been, they found that all their presents had been delivered by Santa. Every household - except for Mrs Greasy's.

"Where are all that lot?!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy, as she waited at the cafe for the others to turn up for their usual morning meeting. "There's no excuse for lateness, it's not as if it's Christmas Day or anything!!"

Just then Des burst through the door. Following his trip to Farmer Files, he had been back to his house to put all his decorations back up, while Clive was busy cooking their Christmas dinner.

"Mrs Greasy, just popped in to say I can't make your meeting today because...um...oh..." Des realised he had forgotten to think of an excuse.

Wayne then burst in.

"Hey, there you are, Des!!!" exclaimed Wayne excitedly, clutching a bunch of things in his hands. "Look, Santa's been, I've got all my pressies!! Look, I've got a Scaletrix, an X-Box, a Stan Boardman biography, whoever 'e is..."

"Presents?" said Mrs Greasy, looking askance at Wayne. "Delivered by Santa...which makes them Christmas presents? Des?"

"Um..." mumbled Des.

"Have I been the subject of a little joke?" said Mrs G.

"Err..." mumbled Des.

"Of course, I never really believed it in the first place," said Mrs G. "Christmas being cancelled, what rubbish! Who would believe something as preposterous as that?! I'd better get that turkey out of the freezer!!"

Des groaned, and rang up Clive to tell him to cancel their Christmas dinner. Then he rang up Father Christmas.

"Santa," he said, "we've got one more household for you to visit." He put the phone down and sighed. "Maybe next year will finally be the year I don't have to eat Mrs Greasy's Christmas dinner. Maybe...just maybe..."



Copyright © Robert Williams

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