by Robert Williams

Christmas had come round once again.

"So why don't we go carol singin'?!" exclaimed Wayne, on Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve.

"But none of us is called Carol!" exclaimed Des.

"Do you know the words to any carols?" asked Mrs Greasy.

" you 'ave to do is go up to people's doors and sing 'We Wish Yer a Merry Christmas!!'" replied Wayne.

"But it's not really a carol..." pointed out Mick.

"Oh don't be a spoilsport!" exclaimed Wayne. "Most people won't care! And then when 'ey come out to listen to our bootiful singin' they'll give us loadsa dosh!!"

"Ah, so that's why you want to go carol singing," said Clive.

That evening the five of them went out in the snow in their woolly hats and gloves. They went up the drive of some poor unsuspecting householder.

"Right, Wayne, ring the doorbell!" instructed Mick.

"Me?!! Why me??!!" exclaimed Wayne. "It might be a mass murderer living 'ere!! You ring it, Des!!"

"Um......I don't really like to disturb people at this time of night..."

So it was Mick who bravely stepped up to the door and rang the bell.

"Right, take it away!!"

The fivesome broke out into the most appalling, off-key, tuneless racket the neighbourhood had ever heard.

"We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, and a happy new year!!"

"You were out of tune, Clive!" exclaimed Des.

"Me?! You made Mr Blobby sound like Frank Sinatra!!" exclaimed Clive.

"Why ain't anyone answered the door?!" said Wayne.

"Sing another verse!" said Mick, ringing the doorbell again.

So they did. Immediately, a light upstairs came on, a window opened, a bucket came into view and then next thing they knew they were covered in freezing cold water.

"Atchooo!!" sneezed Des. "Shall we try another house?"

They went all round the houses, singing their excuse for a carol. They got rude comments, fierce dogs, many more buckets of water, and very confused when Ralph asked them to sing a proper carol.

Eventually, having made no money whatsoever, they decided to go home.

"Hold on," said a totally battered and soaked Mick. "Where's Des and Wayne?"

"Oh, they got fed up and went off," said a totally soaked and battered Clive. "Des said something about going sledging."

"Sledging?!" exclaimed Mick. "At this time of night?!"

"They were probably talking about going tomorrow," said Mrs Greasy.

As they walked up their road, they were intrigued to see tracks everywhere in the snow, on the road and on the pavement.

"What could that be?" pondered Mick. They soon found out.

"LOOK OUT!!!!" yelled Des, behind them. Mick, Clive and Greasy looked round to see Des and Wayne speeding towards them. Before they knew it there was an almighty crash, and the lot of them lay in a heap on the pavement.

"Look at that!" exclaimed Des. "You've broken my sledge!!!"

"Perhaps it'd be better if we went sledging in the park in daylight," suggested Mick, trying to get up, but failing since Mrs Greasy had landed on top of him.

But since Des's sledge had been broken beyond repair, and the fact that the group of them had sustained minor injuries and had all caught a cold, they didn't really feel like it. So they decided to hold a Christmas party for the children. They held a meeting in Mrs Greasy's cafe.

"Atchoo!!!" sneezed Des. "We'll hold it in the church hall on Christmas Eve Eve."

"We've got to have....atchoo!!!...a Santa though," said Mick. "Who could play him?"

"We could get the real one," said Des. "Atchoo!!! Files is a personal friend of his! He could get in touch with him!"

So they got in touch with Files, who got in touch with Father Christmas.

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!! Oi'm afraoid no'!! 'E says 'e'll be too busy that day!!"

"I wonder why that might be," said Des, sneezing. "So who's going to play Santa?"

"Well what about Farmer Files?" said Mick. "He's fat and has an overgrown beard!!"

"Oi beg your pardon!!!" exclaimed Files.

Despite the insults, Files agreed to dress up as Father Christmas for the party, which took place the day before Christmas Eve. That day the church hall, which Des and Mick had spent hours decorating, was teaming with children, anxious to meet Santa.

"Atchoo!!! This is a great turnout," said Mick, still with a bad cold.

"Yes, there must be lots of parents desperate to get rid of their children for a few hours," said Des, who was also carrying a box of tissues with him everywhere. "Right, who wants to play...atchoo!!!...pass the parcel?!"

Des and Mick then played some party games with the children. At lunch, shortly before Files was due to turn up, Des seemed slightly concerned.

"Why have all the children started sneezing?" he said, sneezing.

"I don't know," said Mick, sneezing. "You know, I'm sure I recognise one of them!"

The children began to tuck into their lunch, cooked by Mrs Greasy, but were then saved from further horrors from her kitchen when Files, all decked out as Father Christmas walked into the church hall.

"Ooooh arrrrr....oi mean, ho, ho, ho!!" he exclaimed.

"IT'S FATHER CHRISTMAS!!!" yelled the children, rushing towards him.

"What about my catering?" said Mrs Greasy. "Looks like you two will have to eat it!"

"But they've all sneezed all over it!" said Des. "(Not that I would have eaten it if they hadn't)."

One by one, Files took the children on his knee and did his bit. All went well until one child came up to him.

", ho, ho!! Now what be your name??!!"

"Colin!" exclaimed the child, who was evidently Colin.

"And what be you wantin' for Christmas, Colin?"

"Computer games...hey!! You're not Father Christmas!! You smell of pigs!!"

"WHAT!!!! MOI PORKERS DO NOT SMELL!!!" exclaimed an angry Files, standing up.

"Fake!! Fake!!" shouted Colin.

"I knew I recognised him!!" exclaimed Mick. "It's my troublesome nephew, Colin!! You're spoiling it for all the others!"

But soon the whole crowd of children was hissing and booing at the Files, who threw off his Father Christmas suit and stormed out. He then stormed back in again, sneezing, and asked Des for some tissues.

"That Colin!" exclaimed Mick. "OH SHUT UP YOU LOT!!!"

Files then whispered something in Mick's ear. Mick agreed.

"QUIET!!! QUIET!!!" yelled Mick, sneezing. "FARMER FILES HAS SOMETHING TO SAY!!!"

Eventually the children calmed down.

"Ooooh...atchoo!!!! Now oi be goin' up in moi magic sleigh to see the real Santa Claus tomorrow!! And oi'll be willin' to deliver your orders personally!!"

"Magic sleigh?" whispered Des to Mick.

"It's the old model which Santa sold to Files," explained Mick.

The children cheered at the announcement, and Files was able to continue taking orders, promising to deliver them to Father Christmas, and guaranteeing success. However some of children started taking advantage of this offer and started asking for Ferraris and private jets.

The party, for once, ended in success, although it was noticeable that everyone left the church hall with very red noses and boxes of tissues. They all stood outside and watched Files head up into the sky in his magic sleigh.

Two days later it was Christmas. Des got out of bed, excited about all the presents and chocolate biscuits he'd be getting. He looked in his stocking and got a shock. He then went downstairs, looked under the Christmas tree and got another shock.

All over the world, small children and big children (like Des) were waking up getting a shock. Not one stocking contained a present, and not one Christmas tree had a present under it.

Mick called round to Des.

"What's going on?" exclaimed Mick. "I've been checking round, and no one's got their presents!"

Des switched the radio on, to hear the newsreader informing the nation that not a single person in the world had received a present from Father Christmas.

"This is incredible!!" exclaimed Des in disbelief. "We must get up to the North Pole and find out what's happened!"

"But how? Do you think Farmer Files will let us go up there in his magic sleigh?"

"There's only one way to find out," said Des. They went over to the farm, where Files and the pigs were sneezing away, and not very happy, like the rest of the world.

"Ooooh arrrrrrr!!! Yes, we 'ad be'er ge' roight up to Santa's grotto roight away!!"

Des and Mick watched Files pull his magic sleigh out of the shed.

"But you haven't got any reindeer to pull it!" remarked Des.

"Ooooh arrrrrr!!! No, but oi've got some porkers!! They'll pull the sleigh!"

"Pigs might fly," said Mick.

"Precisely!" exclaimed Files, connecting some pigs up the sleigh. Des and Mick then boarded the sleigh behind Files.

"Ooooh arrrrr!!! Giddy up, moi little porkers!!" exclaimed Files. Des and Mick then had a strange sensation as the sleigh lifted into the air and took off at a tremendous speed.

"You should be used to this!" shouted Mick to Des as they flew away. "You've already flown through the air at tremendous speeds in your old car!!!"

"Don't remind me!!" exclaimed Des.

"Ooooh arrrrr!!!" exclaimed Files, sneezing. "We be 'ere!!"

"What, already?!" exclaimed Des. "We only just took off!!"

Files landed the sleigh in front of Santa's grotto, and the threesome got out. Files knocked on the door.

"Ooooh arrrrr!!! Father Christmas!! It be me, Farmer Foiles!!!"

"Come in, the door's open!" called a weak voice. Files opened the door and walked in. Des and Mick looked around with their mouths wide open.

"Ooooh arrrrr!!! Don't just stand 'ere gawping!!"

"I'm upstairs!" called Father Christmas. They went upstairs, into the bedroom, and saw Santa laid up in bed, coughing and sneezing and generally not looking too well.

"Hello, Father Christmas! Ho, ho, ho!" greeted Des.

"No, no, no," groaned Santa. "I'm not at all well! I think I've caught a cold!"

"But where on earth could you have caught a cold from?" said Mick.

"It came on soon after Files popped up to see me yesterday," said Father Christmas, sneezing. Files then also sneezed. "It's the first time I've ever been ill!"

"And that is why you haven't delivered everyone's presents!" proclaimed Des.

"I just didn't feel up to it," sighed Father Christmas.

"But what about your elves?" said Mick. "Couldn't they have helped?"

"They've all caught it as well. Look through there," said Father Christmas, pointing.

They looked through the door and saw all elves laying in their beds, not looking very well either.

"But we can't just let the kids go without!" exclaimed Mick. "We've got to do something!"

"You'll have to do it," said Father Christmas.

"Us?!!" exclaimed Des.

"No, no, no! I wouldn't trust you two! My old mate Farmer Files can do it!"

"Ooooh arrrrrr!!!" exclaimed an amazed Files. "But oi'll never get round the whole world in one day!!"

"I'll let you borrow some of my magic," said Father Christmas.

"Ooooh arrrrrr!! Oi don't really know about 'is..."

"But you're perfect for the job! You're fat and have an overgrown beard!" exclaimed Santa. "You can put my costume on, and no one will know it's not really you!"

"Well, almost no one," said Mick. "Files, make sure you miss out Colin Woolley!"

"Ooooh arrrrrr!!! Oi quite agree!! Okay, oi'll do it!"

Files was kitted out in the costume, and Santa worked some of his magic on Files.

"Right, you know what to do," said Father Christmas.

"Ooooh arrrrrr!!! Oi 'ope so!!" exclaimed Files. He loaded himself onto his magic sleigh pulled by the porkers and took off.

For the next few hours Files went all around the world, delivering presents left, right and centre to delighted people, who were even more delighted to catch the merest glimpse of who they thought was the genuine Santa. Clive was delighted to receive a year's supply of hair gel and a Groovy Dave and the Sidebenders CD, Wayne was overjoyed when a new bucket arrived, and Ralph was ecstatic when Files delivered to him the new train timetable for the Isle of Wight.

Meanwhile, Des and Mick spent the door nosing round the grotto, showed round by a Santa in dressing gown, and meeting the reindeer who were also too ill to go racing round the world.

"Look at this one!" exclaimed Des. "He's so sick his nose has gone all red!"

Late that evening, after Santa had made Des and Mick some supper, and told them some of his old stories, there was a knock at the door. It was a totally exhausted Farmer Files, back from his role of standing in for Santa.

"Oooooh arrrrrr!! Tha' was 'ard work!!" exclaimed Files, sinking into an armchair.

"Well done, Farmer Files!" exclaimed Father Christmas. I'm ever so happy!"

So was the entire population of the world, having received their presents, albeit slightly late.

"Well, time to go home now," said Des.

"Wait!" exclaimed Father Christmas. "I've got to get your presents!" He went into the next room, and brought back a couple of presents for Des and Mick, who promptly unwrapped them.

"A voucher for a year's supply of chocolate biscuits," said Mick looking at Des's present. "You get that same present every year!"

"Well it's more interesting than your present!" said Des. "Yet another woolly jumper!"

"That is my name, after all," said Mick. "Thanks, Santa!"

"And don't forget, don't tell anyone that you've met me!" said Father Christmas, sneezing.

The four of them said their goodbyes, and Files took Des and Mick back home.

"You know," said Des to Mick as they disembarked from the magic sleigh. "Perhaps it'd be better if we didn't go carol singing next year."

"Yes," said Mick. "Hey, you'll never guess what! I haven't sneezed once today!"

Then he sneezed.

Copyright © Robert Williams

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