There are very few stories I read again and again but Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is one of them. It is one of those instant pathways to my own childhood Christmases. My father, who never read any other book and who worked long hours, came home on Christmas Eve with just two things on his agenda. The first was to carry the previous Christmas’s empties to the off-licence and trade them for a few beers and a bottle of egg flip to add a bit of oomph to my mother’s lemonade. I went with him, partly to remind him to buy crisps and partly because he was very good company. He could do all the Goon Show voices, plus several others of his own invention.
Once the beers and the egg flip were stowed he moved on to Any Other Business: reading A Christmas Carol whilst smoking one of his rare cigarillos. As I grew older he let me do the reading. His favourite bit (and now it’s mine) was in Stave One. The city clocks had only just gone three but it was quite dark already. The funny thing is, year on year I misremember it. I always feel the already should come before quite dark. The cadence seems happier. But Dickens knew what he was doing so I mustn’t tamper with his syntax.
This year, joy of joys, I shall be Scrooge territory on Christmas Eve. Nobody knows the exact location Dickens had in mind but the area around Leadenhall Market and Cornhill (where Bob Cratchit went down a slide twenty times in honour of its being Christmas Eve) is riddled with little courts and alleys. Any one of them will do. No gruel for me, I don’t care what the bank manager says. A pie in the George and Vulture sounds about right. And afterwards, if my husband doesn’t have a conniption fit, I may just smoke a cigarillo in loving memory of my Dad.
That’s me done. Back in the New Year.