Years and beers and cheers ago, when I was a boyo, when there was more slag in Old Compton Street than in the valleys, when we swallowed and wallowed all day in caverns that smelt like armpits, and nuzzled and nestled in armpits like taverns, I don’t mean taverns, the word I just said, caverns; back in those sprawling, crawling, falling, your-glasses-please-gentlemen-calling times, it snowed and it snowed.

But here a brass-blonde nursing a gin-and-It like a new born babe says; ‘It snowed last year too, dear, I fell on my bum outside the French pub and you kissed it better.’

‘But that was not the same snow,’ I say. ‘Our snow came shawling down and swam and drifted over the bat-black, hat-black, cat-black, mat-black, sat-black, rat-black, fat-black, ha ha ha ha ha ha excuse me ahem.’

‘Get on with it , then.’

‘Listen, tight lady of the light. As you were, night. Listen to what I am telling you. Listen, because this is very interesting. Listen, because this is the most interesting, winteresting, splinteresting, pinteresting-’

‘Oh God, he’s off again.’

‘One Christmas was so much like another, in those lost boy years spewed up in sawdust and gone out of sight except for the little animals I sometimes see a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether I was pissed for six days and six nights when I was twenty-five or for twenty-five days and nights when I was who’s got my drink?’

‘You’ve got to humour him, you know, Were there drinks then, too?’

‘Rivers and oceans of them. I rode in a barrel down a Niagara of rum, then bobbed in a dimpled bottle across the seven C’s, Calvados, Crême de menthe, cherry brandy, Charrington’s Export and look, I’m not a bloody fool, you know, this is ginger ale.’

‘It’s Scotch and ginger, dear. Was there singing?’

‘Such singing as a child cradled in sleep hears when the lark-choir caged in dreams cries at the dew-drop morning. HO! THIS IS NUMBER ONE, AND THE FUN HAS JUST BEGUN, ROLL ME OVER, LAY ME DOWN AND DO IT AGAIN...’

‘Come along, dear, the landlord has very kindly invited us to leave. Mind the steps.’


‘In a club, dear. The one you’re not barred from. Tell us about the jokes.’

‘But I haven’t told you about the singing yet. Such singing as a child cradled in sleep-’

‘You did mention the singing, dear. You told that policeman in Leicester Square all about the singing, and I said I’d look after you. Tell us about the jokes.’

‘In those Christmases gone-by, when the snow-thatched roofs glistened like icing-sugar in the dew-drop morning, and the lark-choir caged in dreams cried at the children cradled in sleep, there was this thick-mick, bog-fog Irishman who was trying to change this electric-light bulb-’

‘Keep your voice down, dear, the barman comes from Belfast. And I’m sure you won’t mind, but you’ve just bought my friend a bottle of champagne. I’ve put the rest of the money in your top pocket.’

‘In those chestnut-pulling Christmases gone by, not chestnut-pulling, cracker-pulling, in those chestnut-cracking, cracker-pulling, pulling-cracking, stocking-filling, pillowcase-stuffing, turkey-plucking, stop-me-if-you’ve-heard-it Christmases gone by, such jokes were told as would set double chins bouncing like jellies and bosoms heaving like chapel-picnic blancmanges, and nipples the size and substance of glacé cherries would balloon from their sequinned moorings and-’

‘Were there barmaids in those days?’

‘Of course there were barmaids, you stupid ignorant cow! Whose nipples the size and substance of glacé cherries do you think would balloon from their sequinned moorings, if not the double-chin bouncing, bosom-heaving barmaids? And I’ll tell you another thing about those triple-Scotch, nipple-touch, tipple-much Christmases gone by, they didn’t water the sodding whisky.’

‘Come on, dear.’

‘Where going now?’

‘Back to my place.’

‘And when it was rat-black night and the frolicking and rollicking were over, and drunks lay like skittles in the alleys and policemen with fat lips frog-marched poets up the snow-sleet, Bow-Street steps, and the yule frog correction yule log hissed and sighed then crackled into powder like the snow-thatched roofs crumbling like icing-sugar in the dew-drop mornings and the lark-choir, no stuff the lark-choir, you’ve made me lose my bloody thread now.’

‘Sorry, dear, I was just taking a pound note for the taxi fare. I’ve put the rest of your money in your back pocket.’

‘Back pocket Venuses, slim as Venus pencils, flitted out of that cat-pack night and scrawled and scribbled their indelible kisses over the fat-lipped poet’s frog-slobbering cheeks, then with calligraphic fingers scratched copper-plate pothooks across his parchment belly, oh Christ.’

‘What’s the matter, dear?’

‘I’m going to be sick. A Vesuvius of light ale, rum and peppermint, Scotch on the rocks, gin and tonic, and that green stuff we were drinking on the alley-cat-scuttling bomb site, churns and heaves and then erupts, rumbling to the surface like a Rhondda pit-cage and spewing through frog-slobbering lips with the whirling, swirling force of a clogged-up fountain in a vomitarium. Why is there always tomato in it?’

‘Out you get, dear.’

‘Where going this time?’

‘The taxi-driver has very nicely asked us to walk the rest of the way, dear. It’s just around the corner.’

‘And peeping round the corner of all the years, as a child peeps through church-steeple fingers at the tangerine-smelling tin-toy-promising stocking on the patchwork quilted horizon, I see a young man in his prime staggering through the Notting Hill, Rotting Hill tag-end-and-bobtail of Christmas and bawling at the Yule-frog dawn, ‘TWAS ON THE GOOD SHIP VENUS, YOU REALLY SHOULD HAVE SEEN US-’

‘Come to the Presents, dear.’

‘There were Presents for everyone. There were Turkeys, plucked from the Food Hall at Harrods, and pressed on the doorman at Claridge’s as a tip for not letting us in. There were shiny half-crowns for newsvendors, and sweet quires of the Evening Standard for the foot-stamping, No. 11-damn-and-blasting bus queues. There were crisp-and-even fivers for the commissionaires of night clubs, and teddy-bears that mooed for the cow-faced hostesses. And in the senseless, Wenceslas-singing evening, all the barmaids with nipples the size and substance of glacé cherries, would smirk and say “You shouldn’t have” as they dabbed bedroom-smelling scent on their bouncing, heaving-’

‘You’ve told me about the barmaids already, dear. Get back to the Presents.’

‘In a minute. I think I’m going to be sick again. A Vesuvius of-’

‘Just lean against the lamp-post, dear. And get back to the Presents, to take your mind off what you’ve had to drink. Were there Presents for your lady-friends?’

‘Oh, yes. The street-girls were paved with gold, those Christmases of so long ago.’

‘That’s the idea, dear. I’ve left you enough for your bus fare. It’s in your side pocket. I’d ask you in, but my landlady doesn’t like it. Merry Christmas, dear,’ says the brass-blonde who nursed her gin-and-It all night like a new-born babe.

‘Merry Christmas,’ I say, and then I lay me down to sleep.

A Parody of the Christmas Eve chapter in Dylan Thomas’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, originally published in Punch magazine.

      Main Directory      

–– The Heretical Press ––