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Red Christmas – a tale of torture and woe

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PART 1
It was Christmas morning in London. That is to say it was raining fiercely and there wasn’t a flake of snow to be seen this side of the South Pole. In households all over the city ugly ungrateful brats were busy tearing open lovingly gift-wrapped packages and tearfully complaining about what was inside them. In other words it was a normal Christmas morning. Well, normal for anyone whose name happened NOT to be Johnny McKenzie, otherwise known as Johnny Nothing.
“Why do I never get any presents?” thought Johnny to himself as he dragged himself out of bed with a shiver.

“Brrrrrrr! It’s cold!” thought the shiver.

The other occupants of the rat-infested council flat that Johnny called home were all asleep as he and his shiver made their way downstairs into the living room. It had been a busy night for Johnny’s parents, the loathsome Felicity MacKenzie and her useless lump of lard husband Billy. As well as drinking several gallons of something that tasted like cheap lager they had found in a skip, the grisly pair had also been laying a trap for someone. Someone whom you might know very well indeed…

On Christmas mornings in most people’s homes you might expect to find a nice juicy Christmas tree covered in twinkling lights with a fairy perched on the top. Not so in Johnny’s home. Here, there was no Christmas tree. No twinkling lights. And there was no sign of a fairy with a giant pine tree stuck up her bum. Instead, there was a sweaty old man with a straggly white beard squatting in front of the gas fire making curious gasping noises. Sort of like this: “Gasp… Gasp… Gargle…”. (Did I mention that he occasionally made gargling noises?)

The man was dressed from head to toe in a red all-in-one body suit with furry cuffs. On his wrinkled liver-spotted old head there was a really stupid looking hat. He looked ridiculous. I’m not joking – he really did look like a complete pillock. Moreover, someone had tied him up with rope and gagged him so that he could scarcely breathe. Johnny recognised the stranger instantly.

“Are you… Are you… Santa Claus?” Johnny asked in astonishment, prising the gag away from the old man’s mouth.

“Who do you think I bloody am?” spluttered Father Christmas. “Barrack Obama?”

“Not really…” said Johnny, fairly sure that this was not the president of America sitting in his living room.

“Untie me!” yelled the tied up stranger. “There’s going to be hell to pay – I can tell you!”

For a moment Johnny thought he was dreaming. “Am I dreaming?” he murmured, as if determined to play along with my description of what was happening.

“No you’re not bloody dreaming!” said Santa, as if determined to undermine my description of what was happening. “And if you don’t get these ropes off me I’ll have your guts for garters!”

Johnny frowned a little, as you do. He rubbed away a bit of that scummy stuff you get in the corner of your eye every morning (for a moment he considered eating it but changed his mind and wiped it on his pyjama trousers instead) and took a closer look at the stranger in the living room. It was not every day that you got sworn at by Santa Claus.

“Are you really Father Christmas?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied the old man irritatedly, as if he was totally fed up of answering that question. “Now will you please untie me.”

Johnny dropped to his knees and began working at the ropes that bound Father Christmas. Whoever had tied them had made a good job of it.

“No offence,” said Johnny. “but I thought that Santa Claus was just a made up person.”

“Oh… I’m real enough all right,” grumbled Santa. “Who do you think delivers all those presents every Christmas?”

“But you’ve never delivered any to me.”

“I most certainly have.”
“Well I’ve never received them.”

“Of course you haven’t – your bloody mother has always nicked them before you’ve had a chance to lay your hands on them.”

Right on cue the sound of an extinct woolly mammoth could be heard descending the stairs.

“Talk of the Devil,” groaned Father Christmas, as Johnny continued to struggle to untie him.

“Johnny stop untying him right now!!” ordered the hungover voice of the extinct woolly mammoth as it entered the room. “That silly old scrote is my prisoner!”

I suppose it’s fair to point out that it is a little cruel to compare Johnny’s mother, the delightful Felicity MacKenzie, with an extinct woolly mammoth. You have my apologies for doing so. Because woolly mammoth’s – even though they were big and hairy and smelly and prone to accidentally squishing any cavemen who accidentally got in their way – were actually quite cute. Baby woolly mammoths were particularly cute; and quite tasty on the barbecue, too, I’m told.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of Felicity MacKenzie, who was neither tasty nor cute. In fact, she was the opposite of tasty: quite rancidly tasteless, if such a thing is possible. The sort of human being tastebud equivalent of Brussel sprouts marinated in fart juice. And she was also the opposite of cute, which I make as being ‘etuc’, quite a meaningless word in actual fact.

She was so fat that she exerted her own gravitational pull. She was so ugly that when she was born her mother slapped herself. She was so mean that she won’t even allow me to finish this senten

Back to the story:

“Why have you tied me up!” yelled Santa Claus. “What do you want from me?”

“What do you think I want, you stupid dosser?” smiled Felicity. “I want all your presents and you’re going to give ’em to me! But before you do so, it’s time for an advertising break…”

END OF PART 1
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She was an evil woman was Felicity. I’m not kidding – she was really evil. More evil than Margaret Thatcher ever was – well maybe not. You can read all about her (Felicity not Margaret) in my lovely smelly book entitled: Johnny Nothing. It’s available from all half-decent book retailers in ebook and paperback formats and has a really nice yellow cover with scratchy bits on it. If you’re reading this before Christmas why not click on one of the links below and you and/or your beautiful ugly child can find out what happens when Johnny’s uncle dies and leaves him a fortune only for Felicity to steal all the money from him and go on a really long shopping spree. It’s quite exciting and all that.

 

PART 2

Felicity MacKenzie was rummaging through the large sack of presents that lay beside the still tied up Father Christmas. Beside her was a blobby heap of beer belly and builder’s crack clinker named Billy MacKenzie. If you don’t already know, he was Johnny’s dad and Felicity’s husband. As usual he was unshaven and smelled of Victorian urinals and dog breath.
“This is no good!” scowled Felicity, throwing a box of Lego across the room. ‘We want expensive gifts. Something we can flog on eBay!”

“Stop opening my presents!” urged Santa. “They’re not for you!”

“Or what?” growled Billy MacKenzie.

“Or… Or… I’ll get very cross,’ said Santa, which wasn’t really much of a threat because he was still tied up and – let’s face it – however cross he might be, Santa Claus is never going to be that scary, is he? He’s Santa Claus for goodness sake!

“I’m ravenous,” said Felicity. ”’Ere Santa – you got any food in these parcels?”

“Even if I knew the answer to that question there’s certainly no way that I’m telling you.”

“Oh la-de-da.” said Felicity, which doesn’t really mean anything but people still say it from time to time.

As Santa looked on, the horrible pair continued opening the presents in his sack. Books, CDs, socks, after shave, strange looking adult toys that required batteries, and boring games like Cluedo and Monopoly were hurled to one side.

“Should you really be doing that?” asked Johnny, who had kept quiet while all this was going on.

“Mind your own business!” said his mother, spitting out a mouthful of perfume that she had hoped might be whisky. “And get me some food you little brat!”

Johnny went into the kitchen and rooted around for something to give to his mother. Apart from a small piece of cheese that was growing a quiff, the fridge was lukewarm and empty. There was nothing in the food cupboard either. There was no sign of a turkey and all the trimmings waiting to be cooked like you might find in other peoples’ houses. The MacKenzies never bothered with Christmas dinner. They usually went to the pub and if they were feeling generous they would bring home a packet of crisps for their son.

Johnny went back into the living room to give his parents the bad news. Before he could speak, however, Felicity MacKenzie let out a hoot of triumph, whatever that sounds like. “Hold on a minute,” she announced, looking over at a very unhappy Santa Claus.. “How did you get here?”

“I beg your pardon?” he replied.

“Are you stupid? I said: how did you get here?”

“Is that an existential question or do you mean into your flat?”

“Whatever!”

“Well down the chimney, of course.”

The fact that there wasn’t a chimney in the flat didn’t seem to deter Felicity MacKenzie. “No I don’t mean that you fat old imbecile!” she said. “I mean how did you get here? How did you journey to the flat?”

“Why on my sleigh, of course.”

“On his sleigh!” yelled Felicity in triumph. “And where is it now?”

“Why, it’s still parked outside.”

Felicity MacKenzie pulled herself upright and began to cackle. “Billy,” she said, “go outside and fetch our Christmas dinner.”

Billy looked confused. “Whatdoyoumean, Fliss?” he asked.

“I’ve got a special treat for us all today,” said Felicity, licking her bulbous trout lips. “…Roast reindeer.”

“Lovely,” said Billy. “But before we eat have we got time for another advert?”

 

END OF PART 2

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I’m not one of those writers who’s always harping on about their books. In fact, when asked at parties I often tell people that I’m a tax inspector. Sometimes I tell them that I’m a murderer. What I was going to say, however, is that if you’re enjoying the story so far you might want to to go and download the first three chapters of Johnny Nothing from the iBooks Store or from the Kindle Store. They’re free, of course. And if you end up liking them there’s another thirty or so chapters for you to read. Hold on, what’s that nice smell?
PART 3

Although when pushed she could just about rustle up a Pot Noodle, Felicity MacKenzie would be the first to admit that she wasn’t much of a cook.

“I’d be the first to admit that I’m not much of a cook.” said Felicity macKenzie, as she sat at the head of the dining table. There. I told you so.

Nevertheless, she had made a surprisingly good job of Christmas dinner. Delia Smith would have been proud. Delicious odours of cooked meat wafted around the flat like clouds of tangy loveliness making Johnny’s tummy rumble like a long extinct volcano. Hold on… If it was extinct it wouldn’t be rumbling. Would it?

“Shall I carve?” asked Billy.

“Please do, my darling husband,” said Felicity, putting on her poshest voice.

While Felicity and Billy sat at either end of the dining table Johnny stood in the doorway to the kitchen looking on in horror as his blood soaked father began cutting the Christmas dinner into succulent slices. Still tied up on the floor was Santa Claus, who was weeping profusely.

“Stop crying you big baby and have a bit of dinner,’ said Felicity.

“But… But… You’ve murdered… My Rudolph…” cried Santa.

“Oh stop fussing,’ said Felicity. “Do you fancy a slice of nose?”

Billy MacKenzie had been uncharacteristically efficient with Rudolph. First he had dragged the whimpering reindeer into the flat by its harness. And then, using a carving set that he found in Santa’s sack, he had set about slaughtering the animal.

First he had cut Rudolph’s throat, collecting the gallons of blood that gushed from the wound in a tin pot that he used for soaking his feet. “We can use this for black pudding later,’ he had said cheerfully.

Then he had neatly sliced the still warm and trembling carcass into smaller portions, passing a leg over to his wife which she swiftly popped into the oven with a bit of garlic. The whole exercise was over in less than ten minutes. However, the mess this created was terrible. Everywhere you looked there was reindeer blood: on the walls, the ceiling, the curtains. Most of the blood was on Billy, who looked even redder than Santa Claus. It was a red Christmas.

“Tuck in,” urged Felicity.
END OF PART 3

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PART 4

Dinner was over. Felicity and Billy McKenzie slumped into their chairs in front of the telly, stuffed to satisfaction and watching as the Queen gave her annual speech.

“Philip and I would like to thank everybody for giving us all of your hard-earned money so that you can help to maintain an oligarchy that is thousands of years old and patently unfair to all but the select few,” she said. “It keeps us in jewels and Corgis and helicopter rides and makes sure that you, my subjects, have no hope of ever achieving anything with your lives unless you go on the X-Factor or Big Brother or Strictly or some other asinine turgid nonsense…”

“I love the queen,” Felicity said dreamily, as her stomach struggled to digest the unexpected influx of reindeer matter. “She’s always so honest to her people.”

“Yes, she has a lovely turn of phrase” agreed Billy.

The speech finished and the couple reluctantly got to their feet when the National Anthem was playing. Then they sat back down again to watch a Bond movie with a Welsh bloke playing Bond. After that there was a Dad’s Army repeat which led to the inevitable Christmas snooze followed by a Two Ronnies repeat, a Morecambe and Wise repeat and Jurassic Park 3. It was a great Christmas day. If you’re American and reading this you won’t have a clue what I’m going on about. But do I really care?

In the morning there was only one more thing to think about. The remaining bits of Rudolph had been stuffed into the fridge and under the sink and in the bath and into various cupboards. The presents that had been pilfered from Santa’s sack were already on eBay. (Although Felicity wasn’t particularly hopeful that they would make that much money from their ill-gotten gains – all of Santa’s presents seem to have come from the Pound Shop.) It was just a question of what to do with Santa Claus.

Santa Claus. All over the world that name had suddenly become hated overnight. This was because, apart from a couple of isolated regions in the south of England, no presents had been delivered anywhere else.

Santa Claus. Millions of parents were left wondering how to stop their children’s desperate tears. “But it’s not our fault,” said mothers and fathers everywhere. “It’s that evil Father Christmas who’s to blame.”

Santa Claus: you could almost swim in the wave of bitter disappointment that washed over the globe.

Santa Claus: What a smelly old rat!

On television, newscasters told tales of the hated devil named Santa Claus. Police and politicians were interviewed, universally condemning this once loved figure. A warrant for Santa’s arrest was issued by Interpol. In many countries the death penalty was reinstated in anticipation of Santa’s capture.

On boxing day there was knock on the MacKenzie’s front door. “He’s in here,” said Felicity to a man waving an identity card. Early in the morning, Felicity had called the police and told them that she had apprehended a familiar looking intruder.

“Get him boys,” said the man, and at once a dozen or so police officers bundled into the council flat.

“I caught him killing a reindeer,” said Felicity. “So Billy banged him on the head and we tied him up.”

“Thank you madam,” said another man. “You’ve done a great service to the nation.”

Santa was handcuffed and taken into police custody. Three days later he was sentenced to death without trial. The Home Secretary’s triplets had caused such a fuss when they discovered they had no Christmas presents that he had vowed to get an instant revenge.

At the execution a jeering crowd threw rancid Christmas puddings at the cowering figure of Santa Claus. Some hurled chocolate cherry liqueurs. As his head was placed into the noose, Santa was asked if he had any last words.

The old man hunched his shoulders and coughed. Then he replied: “Yes I do, actually.”

The crowd grew silent as the man known as Father Christmas or Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas uttered his final words.

“What an ungrateful bunch you are,’ he said softly. ‘For thousands of years I’ve been making and delivering presents for you all and never once have I received a thank-you for my troubles.

“Despite living in a freezing cold draughty house in the North Pole with no-one for company save for a couple of imps and a reindeer with a genetic nose impairment you’re still not satisfied.

“Despite having to sit on rooftops for most of December waiting for your little brats to post their Christmas wish list up the bloody chimney I’ve never got so much as a ‘ta very much, mate’.

“Despite having to listen to endless crappy Christmas records by the likes of Slade and Wizzard and Bing bloody Crosby you still want more.

“Despite depositing millions of gifts into your kids’ stockings for longer than I care to remember, it doesn’t stop you from hinting to them that it was actually really YOU who bought the presents.

“So goodbye and good riddance you ungrateful mob. In future YOU can fish around in red hot coal embers retrieving your semi-literate kids’ note to Santa. YOU can spend literally minutes on Amazon ordering your brats’ myriad requirements, complete with personalised message and reasonably competitively priced gift wrapping paper. YOU can take delivery of the parcels, a couple of days later, signing for them, unpacking them and then hiding them under your bed or in a cupboard somewhere. YOU can wait until your kids are asleep on Christmas Eve and then creep into their bedrooms and carefully place their gifts at the foot of the bed. And YOU can sit and watch while they open those presents believing that are not from you – their bloody parents – but from some mythical, sleigh-driving deity from the North Pole.”

There was a murmur among the crowd as the spectators took in Santa’s words. Then a crescendo of voices rose up and almost to a man began chanting the same words:

LET HIM…” they cried, thinking of all the hard work they would have to do if Santa was allowed to go to the gallows.

LET HIM…” they chanted, wondering how their lives might change without this universal figure of kindness and joy.

LET HIM…” they chorused, trying to imagine what life would truly be like without Christmas.

LET HIM… DIE.
THE END

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The Great Tea Wars (2001) – A Modern Parable

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It would be an over exaggeration to claim that Ian was delighted when Linsey offered him a cup of tea. Delight was really not the word. Nevertheless Ian was at the very least pleased with the offer: he was new to WMP and Linsey was tall and busty. It was far better than being ignored. Even when the beverage in question arrived and it was rather less than steaming and tasted more like rusty puddle water than anything that had allegedly originated in the exotic Chinese sunshine.
Ian was careful to drink the tea with a cheery smile. Whenever Linsey looked happily towards his desk he raised the cup to his lips and gave the thumbs up like Paul McCartney announcing the breakup of Wings. It was his first day in his new job and already he’d made a friend.
However, little over an hour later Linsey’s happy demeanour began to change. Her smile rotated 180º and the crease of a frown was seen to distort her features. It took a while for Ian to comprehend the sudden change. And when he did he could have slapped himself around the head for being so dim. Of course! What an idiot! Linsey wanted him to return the favour! She wanted him to make her a cup of tea! What a delightful place to work this is, thought Ian, everybody friends together; everybody making each other cups of tea. Why there’ll probably be a biscuit run soon.
Linsey introduced Ian to Sally, a small hunched figure, whose attempts at surgically removing 20 years from her age had left her with a face like a burns victim. Wouldn’t it be lovely, said Linsey, if Ian made Sally a cup of tea as well as making one for her? Wouldn’t it be lovely indeed, agreed Ian. Heading to the kitchen to undertake his side of the bargain.
Ian certainly put some effort into it. He really wanted impress his two new friends. He washed the scum off the cups, warmed them, made sure to use the freshest boiling water and was able to deliver quite possibly three of the best cups of tea that had ever been made in this country since Catherine of Braganza forced Charles II to drink some back in the seventeenth century.
And then it was four: soon Maggie was added to the little rota, and Tom. And Lucy. And Malcolm from the picture library. Debra from accounts. The tea rota quickly became a living, breathing entity. It was like Woodstock all over again. Everybody loved one another and delighted in the creation and consumption of sacred tea. It was a branch of Communism that actually worked. Karl Marx would have been proud – and he would have been delighted with the unremitting quality of brew that was served up. But like all self-perpetuating systems there was a flaw in its flue. And in this case the flaw’s name, amongst others, was Jon.
Jon was in middle management and the wrong side of forty. Like a lot of people of that age he had a face that he deserved, which looked like it had had three previous owners. Like everyone else at WMP Jon was impressed by the exotic flavour of Ian’s tea. And he was also happy to join the rapidly growing ranks of the tea rota. What he wasn’t happy too do, however, was actually make the stuff. Why should I? thought Jon. Somebody else can do it.
Within a fortnight the tea rota had begun to swell out of all proportion. It was beginning to reach an unmanageable size.
The unlucky person whose job it was to make tea for everyone now had to patrol the office with a notepad, writing down the particular likes and dislikes of the tea rota’s members.
Some wanted sugar. Some no sugar. Some wanted milk. Some no milk. Some wanted almond milk, some soya. Some wanted decaffeinated tea, some wanted Earl Grey. Some liked their tea hot, others liked it tepid. Sandra from production refused to drink her tea unless it was in the cup with ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here – but it helps…’ emblazoned on the side. Murray the maintenance man would only drink coffee. It was a logistical nightmare. Something had to give.
Clever, devious people such as the aforementioned Jon from middle management sought to circumvent the tea rota. Whenever it happened to be his turn to make the tea he would arrange it so that he was engaged in a long telephone conversation. ‘Sally, would you mind getting this,’ he would mouth, with his hand cupped over the telephone receiver, ‘I’ll do the next one.’
Of course, there was never a Next One for people like Jon. And he was not the only one displaying a peculiar talent for avoiding tea rota duty. Ian could not help notice that Linsey was always doing something in the Ladies whenever it was her turn. He felt betrayed. It irked him that the person who had been his tea rota co-creator was always in absentia.
Ian began to hate Linsey. It was a gradual thing. Suddenly it did not seem to matter that she was tall and busty. That was purely incidental. The important thing was that the ugly cow never made tea. And as for that wanker Jon in middle management…
The weeks went by and the hatred and resentment swelled like an unlanced boil. The once jovial atmosphere at WMP was replaced by an atmosphere of mistrust and loathing. Woodstock was over and all that was left were empty Coke tins and plastic bottles full of piss. Utopian Communism had been replaced by grim Conservatism in which those who had exploited those who hadn’t. A fuse had been lit. An explosion was imminent.
As always, alcohol was the catalyst for the looming explosion. At the office Christmas party Linsey danced with Jon and neither of them stood their round. Drinks were bought for them with nothing in return. The office separated into two distinct factions. Them that did. And them that didn’t.
After the Christmas break the dids studiously ignored the didn’ts. The didn’ts merely shrugged, as if to say they didn’t care a hoot for what the dids did. Needless to say the dids didn’t make tea for the didn’ts. Civil war was a whisper away.
And then one morning Ian had had enough. Although nobody could have guessed that it was to be the very last time, Ian made one final tea round.

Clutching his notepad he made one last circuit around the office and took down everybody’s last orders:

Linsey, tea, white with no sugar
Sally, tea, black with two sugars
Jon, tea, white at no more than 70º in temperature
Malcolm, tea with lemon
Sandra, Darjeeling, microwaved for precisely 16 seconds and then gently fanned for six minutes
Chris, cream tea with scones made from Yak cream
Trevor, decaffeinated latte with a lactose free chocolate dusting in the shape of a heart with an arrow going through it

And so the list went on. Each person an individual. Every person making their own particular demand. For one last time Ian put the kettle on. He’d been hoping to ask Polly from editorial to do this for him, but she’d gone away somewhere.

Ironically, Jon was the first to notice that something was wrong. He’d already drunk more than half of his cup of tea before he began to cough. At first he thought it was just a tickle but the cough quickly grew worse. And then he felt a painful burning sensation in his throat. As he climbed to the feet in absolute agony, Jon could hear other people coughing. The noise was accompanied by the sound of groaning. One by one the entire second floor of WMP fell to the ground. Within five minutes every staff member was dead.

Everyone, that is, except Ian. Who stood alone, silently impressed that Amazon had been so efficient with his cyanide order. It had only taken a day to arrive and they had posted a card through his door telling him to pick it up from his neighbour when he got home. Ian would certainly use Amazon again.

Naturally the papers couldn’t get enough of it. The story of the  serial killer who wiped out an entire floor of co-workers dominated the headlines for more than a week. At the trial the judge looked at Ian like he was a cross between Ted Bundy and Tony Blair. He was given a life sentence, as well as a lucrative advertising contract with P G Tips.

*****

Life in prison was even grimmer that Ian had imagined. Locked alone inside his cell for 23 hours every day, Ian had plenty of opportunity to reflect on his behaviour. And then, on his seventh day in captivity Ian was finally allowed to interact with another human being. In the exercise yard, a young prisoner approached Ian with a welcoming smile: ‘It’s not so bad here,’ he said. ‘You really do get used to it after a while.’
‘Is that right?’ said Ian grimly.
‘Listen,’ said the other man. ’The name’s Brian – fancy a nice cup of tea?’
’No I fucking do not!’ replied Ian.

2

Dan’s Dead

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It was a dreadful, barren windswept January morning that made you feel like setting fire to your own underpants just to earn a brief respite from the monotonous despair. The summer was something that had happened to someone else a long, long time ago. The winter winds were a medieval instrument of torture that scourged any exposed flesh, turning white to red and red to blue. The days were shorter than this –> Sentence. The nights went on forever; a lot longer than this sentence even if you filled it with lots of useless inappropriate words such as porridge, ambulance and suppository.

But something was about to happen and if this was an interactive ebook there would be a little button for you to push that made a sound like this: ‘Dum-de-dum-dum-duuummmm!! However, because it isn’t remotely interactive you’ll just have to imagine it.

Nobody noticed Dan as he moved slowly into the school playground. Why would they? He was an unremarkable kind of boy. The sort of kid who wasn’t even a household name in his own household. Ginger hair. Freckles. A nose that never seemed to stop running (although even Dan could never exactly understand what it was running from). Nobody noticed as he picked up the largest stone he could find and lobbed it at a window with all his might. Lots of heads turned towards the crash of shattering glass but not a single person spotted Dan.

Nobody was looking when Dan went up behind Billy Crumpster and gave him a hefty kick up the fat, spotty backside which brought tears to the eyes of the hated school bully. “How’d you like that?” smiled Dan, remembering the years of misery that he had endured at the hands and fists of this walking lump of vitriol and blubber.

“Yooowwwwww’ howled Billy, as a few of his lump-headed cronies tried not to snigger. “If I find out who did that I’ll… I’ll… Murder them!”

Nobody seemed interested when Dan took his place at the back of the classroom to watch in silence as the despised Mr. Nicolas took to the stage. “How on earth did I land myself with an ugly bunch of cretins like you lot!” said the red-nosed teacher in his customary cheerful manner. “If anybody dares to interrupt me I’ll have their guts for garters!”

Mr. Nicolas was Welsh and taught French. Or was he French and taught Welsh? Nobody really knew. He was particularly fond of throwing things at his pupils. (By that I don’t mean he lobbed things at his own eyes. That would be stupid. I mean his pupils – the children whom he taught French or Welsh to.) Chalk. Rubbers. Pens. Razor blades. Grenades. Anything that he could get his hands on really. He thought that picking on the kids was part of his job description. If he managed to make one or two cry he considered it a perk of the job. Like many grown-ups he wore a wig – a really cheap one made of nylon that was fixed to his head with superglue from the Pound Shop. Mr. Nicolas thought that it made him look rather fetching in a Hollywood movie star kind of way. Which is why a look of sheer horror spread across his face when he suddenly felt a cool breeze waft across the top of his head and realised that his nylon wig was missing and that he no longer looked like Brad Pitt. “Stop that noise immediately!” he yelled, caught between trying to cup his hands over his shining dome and finding something large and blunt to throw at the roomful of giggling schoolchildren. “If I find out who’s nicked my hair system I’ll make their life a misery!” Adults call them ‘systems’ because the don’t like the word ‘wig’.

Dan had never had so much fun. At break he managed to block all the teachers’ toilets with bubble gum. The headmaster had to roll up his trousers to ungum them and ended up covered in teachers’ poo. At lunch Dan put salt in the sugar bowls and dandruff in the pepper pots that he got from the scalp of ‘Flaking’ Stevens in Year 5.

And nobody had a clue that Dan was behind this wave of mischief.

He was enjoying himself. In the afternoon Dan put chilli powder in horrible Mr. Grimes’ underpants. The PE teacher spent the next hour doing a peculiar kind of breakdance that made the cross country team wail with laughter. Finally he had no choice but to run for a shower that was boiling hot one minute and freezing cold the next. When the thoroughly miserable teacher eventually managed to wash away the chilli powder he was forced to put on a dress. Somebody had stolen his own clothing. Someone whose name happened to be Dan.

Dan had always hated school. It was a place of misery. A place where bullies bullied you. A place where teachers taught you that life might be bad now but you wait until you grow up. But all of a sudden he was having a whale of a time. During the afternoon break Dan set off the fire alarms and turned on the sprinklers in the staff common room. The teachers were deafened and soaked to the skin. And before the final bell sounded Dan had one last trick up his sleeve. As the soggy teachers attempted to rise to dismiss their classes for the day they found they were unable to move. Someone had nailed their underwear to their chairs. You can probably guess who.

By the time that the school began to empty there were a lot of happy smiling faces. Many of the children had never had such a good time. Some such as Billy Crumpster, for example, didn’t look quite so happy. Most delighted of all was Dan. And if anybody who knew him could have seen his face they would have agreed that they had never seen him looking so pleased with himself. For the first time ever Dan had actually enjoyed going to school.

Perhaps being dead wasn’t so bad after all.

7

Inside The Celebrity Big Brother House Of Horror

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Tensions are running high inside the Celebrity Big Brother house. Repellant inmates Perez Hilton and Katie Hopkins have stirred up emotions to breaking point. Ian Probert takes a look at the most explosive CBB ever.

The concept is admittedly not without some allure: assemble a selection of random people who have never met, lock them in a room with no access to the outside word, starve them of the everyday mental stimulus of books, TV, Twitter, etc. and wait for the fallout. I’m talking, of course, about Big Brother, a television programme whose psychological fallout over the past decade has regularly been of sufficient quantity to attract the vast advertising revenues necessary to mount an enterprise such as this.

But I’m not going to waste time and energy Googling and then regurgitating the history of this largely futile annual event. We all know what it is. We all know what is involved. And anybody who possesses the merest sliver of free thought and good taste will already have exorcised Big Brother from their lives. The same goes for Celebrity Big Brother, or should I say Nonentity Big Brother, which seeks to serve up more of the same using more random people with false lips, hair plugs and plastic tits.

The only problem is… I’m a little bit hooked on the latest one. Well more than a little bit.

Let me tell you how I got hooked: There are reasons as to why it happened and these are more to do with good luck than any divine pre-planning on the part of the programme makers. By nothing but sheer accident the collection of inmates (I say ‘inmates’ rather than ‘housemates’) that have been gathered together in the Big Brother glasshouse offer a curious symbiosis that might be compared to sugar and fat: individually these substances are bad enough – but in combination they are artery-threateningly addictive. See for yourself:

First into the house was the frighteningly offensive Katie Hopkins, she of the cruel and brutal Twitter attacks on fat people, poor people, working-class people, unusually named people; essentially anyone who isn’t Katie Hopkins. But Katie hides a secret: the reasons for her intermittent attacks on the rich and famous are because she wants to be rich and famous herself. She’s just as bad, in fact even worse than the people she pretends to vilify. Witness her continual attempts to appear on ANY television programme that will tolerate her bile.

As the series progresses we learn that she was in fact a Guinea Pig on the very first BB. No offence to any Guinea Pigs out there. Some of us watched with horror at her attempts to charm Sir Alan on the Apprentice; others were equally appalled when she intentionally gained three stones for a TV programme and then failed to shed that weight and then pretended that was her original intention. Katie likes to attack: this is evident from the first few moments of the opening night. Katie will attack anyone within spitting distance if there is a slight chance of a contentious comment. Katie will even attack the people she most wants to be, i.e everybody else in the CBB prison.

Yes, it’s difficult not to sound like Katie Hopkins when you are talking about Katie Hopkins.

Next to enter (and I don’t care that I could be wrong about the order of incarceration) is someone called Perez Hilton, who, because I’d never heard of him (as you will learn, this is a common motif), I had assumed must be related to Paris Hilton. Not so. Perez is called Perez because he loves Paris, the person not the city or the song. OK. Fair enough. Perez, we learn, is an acid-tongued failed-actor-cum-celebrity-blogger who has somehow made the transition to nonentity. Watching Perez interact with others quickly becomes like watching a possum fighting a cobra; except I’m not sure which of these animals Perez is.

Like Katie, Perez hates almost everyone. And like Katie, Perez is interested in one person only. Already the seeds of an epic battle of bitches has been laid. And as we watch through cupped hands we see Perez swear (a lot), swear, cry, curse, laugh, threaten to shove his ‘big dick’ up another inmates bottom, strip, dance, sing, cry, simulate sex, swear. If I was his dad I’d put him on the naughty stair. Permanently.

More of Perez later.

Next we have soul singer Alexander O’Neal, an African-American who is that most unusual of CBB creatures – someone who actually has a real, bonafide talent. Alexander can sing. Really sing. Which is just as well because it’s obvious from the start that he doesn’t want to be in that freak show. He’s between tours and someone’s offered him a few quid. He most probably thought it would be a nice little break. Alexander quickly and quietly slips into the background, earning the respect of most of his fellow inmates and later becoming the subject of racial abuse.

Alexander is followed by a vision in a black dress called Alicia Douvall. A vision because very little of Alicia remains of the woman called Sarah Howes that she once was. Alicia bears the scars of hundreds of operations conducted by unscrupulous Harley Street charlatans who clearly care more about their holiday homes in Tenerife than in helping somebody who is addicted to cosmetic surgery. This is a woman who openly proclaims on the show ‘I’d kill myself if I didn’t have big tits…’ Which is just as well because she is surrounded by them. Both physically and metaphorically.

Poor Alicia really is a mess. More Simon Weston than Simone Signoret. But she has a good heart. She really does. It’s easy to mock Alicia but it quickly becomes clear that the poor girl is very definitely more victim than perpetrator. Anyone with a conscience can see that.

Step forward a lady without a conscience named Katie, who, sensing free blood, quickly moves in for the kill, criticising Alicia’s admittedly unconventional but actually quite healthy eating habits and repeatedly calling her stupid. It’s all too much like pulling the wings off a moth.

The next non-celebrity to enter is someone called Anthony Kavanagh who apparently has trouble spelling his own surname. Kavana, as he once liked to call himself, was supposedly big in the late-1990s. So what? So was I – but I’ve since lost a lot of weight. These days poor Anthony isn’t even a household name in his own household. (Now I’m really sounding like Katie Hopkins!) Like Alexander, Anthony is a reluctant talker and soon settles into a corner determined not to talk to anyone unless drunk. And only when he has a drink in his hand does this reformed alcoholic (eh?) have a bad word to say about anyone. In his eyes you can see Anthony glare enviously at the other non-celebs in the house. He was once like them and,like Katie Hopkins he could be again.

Next up another person I’ve never heard of, an American named Cami-Li, convenient I suppose if she ever decides to start a Fami Li. She’s quite a beauty is Cami, although the ungracious among us could actually describe her as a cheap tattoo with a big pair of false tits superglued on. Indeed, so tattooed is Cami that it’s difficult to locate any bare skin. Presumably she used to pricks. (Erm, sorry about that. I’m regressing, I’m no longer Katie Hopkins… I’m… I’m… I’m a crappy comedian from the 1970s… I’m… I’m… Keith Chegwin!) Because there are plenty of them surrounding her in the house.

Beautiful, false, plastic Cami quickly settles into a routine of lounging around with a piece of string covering those expensive breasts and saying ‘fuck’ even more than Perez, which is quite a feat really. Is it me? I know I’m getting on a bit but why do these ‘celebs’ have to say ‘fuck’ quite so often? Didn’t they learn any other decent expletives at school?

Cami soon joins Katie in a spot of Douvall baiting, also calling poor Alicia stupid and accusing her – behind her back – of having ‘butt implants. A case of the brat calling the fretful black? (Aaarrgghh!)

Roll of drums: next we have serial reality show contender Calum Best. I’ve actually got nothing against Calum, other than the quasi-American accent, the three hair transplants (I bloody can’t even afford one!), the extravagantly talented father, and the habit of saying ‘dude’ so often that you want to force your hands down his throat and pull out his bleeding tonsils. Even Calum has lost count of the number of reality shows he has graced. It’s easy money and it keeps your boat race in the papers. And being the old hand that he is, Calum quickly fades into the background, taking care to avoid any unpleasantness while continuing to practice his ‘dude’ saying.

What is it they say about like attracting like? Well there’s proof of this in the Big Brother house when Cami-Li’s tattoos swiftly sidle up to Calum’s equally impressive needle marks and merge into one inky expanse amid much back massaging and plenty of quite obviously painfully aching balls.

Now for some more eye candy in the red-dressed form of Chloe Goodman, yet another person that this writer has never heard of. No matter. She seems nice enough, she’s pretty and the tits that she has out on display seem real enough. Within days this assumption is put to the test when the next contender, one Jeremy Jackson decides to check them out for himself.

As the reformed alcoholic (eh?) throws up the night’s booze in the Big Brother bathroom Jackson mistakes Chloe’s comforting arms for something else and gives those apparently real mammary glands a quick fumble. Amid tears and hoots of outrage Jackson is quickly stoned to death and his bones are fed to the ghost of Davina McCall. Not really. They kick him back to America, where he returns to a life of semi-obscurity.

Did I mention Cheggers? Keith Chegwin? Former Swap Shop giggler and TV am money doler-outer? Well here he is? And guess what? He’s ANOTHER reformed alcoholic. Is this a budgeting strategy? Did the CBB production team bring in a hat trick of ex-alcoholics so that they could lower the booze budget? Who knows?

What we do know is that in Chegwin we have someone who is brilliantly adept at combining an aura of profound personal tragedy with some really gut-wrenchingly poor jokes. Think bathos to the power of two million. As one of the elder statesmen of the house, non-confrontational Cheggers is soon bawling but not brawling with the best of them, as well as being told to fuck off by none other than Kavana. After a particularly boozy night, Anthony Kavanagh finally plucks up the courage to pick on the one person in the house most likely NOT to retaliate. Keith has another cry in the diary room.

Now I DO know this bloke. It’s Reg Holdsworth from Corrie! Didn’t we laugh when he tried to get Mavis or whatever her name was into bed? However, despite the sub-Bernard Manning witticisms, we’re not laughing now. Somebody should have told Reg that you simply cannot walk around with a face like a sheep’s bladder sucking a peppermint humbug while blatantly leering at women’s behinds, only to justify this behaviour by explaining that you have a right to look at them because ‘they are the best arses in the world’. Nor, for that matter, can you call an African-American a ‘negro’ not once but twice. Enough said. He looked unhappy and frankly out of his depth in the house anyway. Although in a frankly astonishing act of awareness and clarity he did call Perez an ‘irrelevant American’. Which is actually quite a compliment if the truth be told.

Jesus Christ. Now we have Michelle somebodyorother and I really haven’t the faintest idea who she is. For all I know she could be that woman who serves my daughter her school dinner. Google to the rescue. Apparently her surname’s ‘Visage’ and she’s a ‘drag queen’. WTF?

However, Michelle is actually quite nice and quite genuine except for her enormous plastic breasts which she tells Cami she plans to have removed. Forgive my apparent preoccupation with breast implants (it’s not just me – even Cami-Li’s mum apparently calls her ‘tits’) but it’s just hit me that of the eight women who entered the BB house five of them have had the op. That’s ten sacks of silicon wobbling around the house without a licence. Quite what that means I can only guess at. But back to Michelle: As I say, she’s surprisingly OK really and soon adopts a sort of mother hen role in the house, doling out sage advice and frowning at the appropriate moments.

Next up is Nadia Sawalha. From the days when I used to watch Eastenders I sort of remember her. Apparently she’s on Loose Women, which I’m seldom around to suffer. Nadia is one of the few women in CBB who doesn’t need silicon buffering and is all the better for it. She calls a spade a shovel does Nadia but I’m not sure that I could deal with her if we were ever to share the same space for more than a millisecond. Within moments she cannot conceal her desire to take charge of things, speaking over people in a cloyingly self-righteous manner and telling off anybody who dares oppose her. She’s a little too much like my wife for comfort. Not really. Honest, Laura.

Soon Nadia has formed a friendship with the increasingly vile Perez. And at the same time she vies with the increasingly vile Katie Hopkins for the position of Cock Of The Roost.

Lastly but not leastly we have Patsy Kensit, who, up until quite recently, was actually one of my neighbours. Little bit of name-dropping there. Admittedly I didn’t see much of her but when I did I could quite easily see why the heads of Jim Kerr, Liam Gallagher et al had been turned on their axes. (BTW I’m not suggesting that these fellows wielded blood-soaked axes, I’m actually employing the plural of ‘axis’ Confusing, huh?) Patsy is another who clearly doesn’t want to be in that padded prison complex. And as the arguments inevitably unfold she does what any sane person would do – hide away in a corner until people stop shouting at each other. This attitude only serves to piss off Katie Hopkins, who soon resorts to calling Patsy ‘Yoko Ono’ in the Diary Room. When Patsy is finally evicted I have never seen anyone looking quite so happy in my life.

I did say not lastly, didn’t I? Midway through the first week a new inmate turns up. Why it’s Jordan! Who? Sorry, Katie Price. Wasn’t she big some time ago? Well she’s not so big now. Because, in a cautionary warning to those ten sacks of silicon I keep going on about, her’s have fallen out. It’s not funny at all, is it? Once upon a time those enormous triple-Zs or whatever they were graced the pages of the red tops on an almost hourly basis. Now, like most of the housemates’ heads, they are apparently filled with holes. ‘I can’t lift my arm above my shoulder…’ Miss Price painfully announces after inviting one of the inmates to ‘have a feel’. (Erm… No thanks…)

That said, Katie turns out to be better than expected. She keeps herself to herself, avoids arguments and talks explicitly about sex and infidelity whenever she gets the chance. Further Brownie points are awarded when she gives that other Katie what for. You could hear the studio crowd cheering.

So that’s it. That’s my little pen pictures of the sorry saps who have sacrificed their dignity for a quick buck. It doesn’t really explain why I’m watching this rubbish. But that wasn’t the intention. In a nutshell this is motorway pile-up TV of the highest order. Every episode is filled with vicious arguments that are genuinely shocking in their intensity. Somebody in the upper echelons of Endemol must be rubbing their hands together in glee. Because what clearly must originally have been a mad rush to persuade any z-list celebrity to enter the Big Brother house has actually turned out unbelievably well. It could not have been planned any better.

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Red Christmas – A Christmas ebook-isode from the creator of Johnny Nothing

xmas, christ,as

Red Christmas

PART 1

It was Christmas morning in London. That is to say it was raining fiercely and there wasn’t a flake of snow to be seen this side of the South Pole. In households all over the city ugly ungrateful brats were busy tearing open lovingly gift-wrapped packages and tearfully complaining about what was inside them.

In other words it was a normal Christmas morning. Well, normal for anyone whose name happened NOT to be Johnny McKenzie, otherwise known as Johnny Nothing.

“Why do I never get any presents?” thought Johnny to himself as he dragged himself out of bed with a shiver.

“Brrrrrrr! It’s cold!” thought the shiver.

The other occupants of the rat-infested council flat that Johnny called home were all asleep as he and his shiver made their way downstairs into the living room. It had been a busy night for Johnny’s parents, the loathsome Felicity MacKenzie and her useless lump of lard husband Billy. As well as drinking several gallons of something that tasted like cheap lager they had found in a skip, the grisly pair had also been laying a trap for someone. Someone whom you might know very well indeed…

On Christmas mornings in most people’s homes you might expect to find a nice juicy Christmas tree covered in twinkling lights with a fairy perched on the top. Not so in Johnny’s home. Here, there was no Christmas tree. No twinkling lights. And there was no sign of a fairy with a giant pine tree stuck up her bottom. Instead, there was a sweaty old man with a straggly white beard squatting in front of the gas fire making curious gasping noises. Sort of like this: “Gasp… Gasp… Gargle…”. (Did I mention that he occasionally made gargling noises?)

The strange man was dressed from head to toe in a red all-in-one body suit with furry cuffs. On his wrinkled liver-spotted old head there was a really stupid looking hat. He looked ridiculous. I’m not joking – he really did look like a complete pillock. Moreover, someone had tied him up with rope and gagged him so that he could scarcely breathe. Johnny recognised the stranger instantly.

“Are you… Are you… Santa Claus?” Johnny asked in astonishment, prising the gag away from the old man’s mouth.

“Who do you think I bloody am?” spluttered Father Christmas. “Barrack Obama?”

“Not really…” said Johnny, fairly sure that this was not the president of America sitting in his living room.

“Untie me!” yelled the tied up stranger. “There’s going to be hell to pay – I can tell you!”

For a moment Johnny thought he was dreaming. “Am I dreaming?” he murmured, as if determined to play along with my description of what was happening.

“No you’re not bloody dreaming!” said Santa, as if determined to undermine my description of what was happening. “And if you don’t get these ropes off me I’ll have your guts for garters!”

Johnny frowned a little, as you do. He rubbed away a bit of that scummy stuff you get in the corner of your eye every morning (for a moment he considered eating it but changed his mind when he realised we were watching and wiped it on his pyjama trousers instead) and took a closer look at the stranger in the living room.

It was not every day that you got sworn at by Santa Claus.

“Are you really Father Christmas?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied the old man irritatedly, as if he was totally fed up of answering that question. “Now will you please untie me.”

Johnny dropped to his knees and began working away at the ropes that bound Father Christmas. Whoever had tied them had made a good job of it.

“No offence,” said Johnny, “but I thought that Santa Claus was just a made up person.”

“Oh… I’m real enough all right,” grumbled Santa. “Who do you think delivers all those presents every Christmas?”

“But you’ve never delivered any to me.”

“I most certainly have.”

“Well I’ve never received them.”

“Of course you haven’t – your bloody mother has always nicked them before you’ve had a chance to lay your hands on them.”

Right on cue the sound of an extinct woolly mammoth could be heard descending the stairs.

“Talk of the Devil,” groaned Father Christmas, as Johnny continued to struggle to untie him.

“Johnny stop untying him right now!!” ordered the hungover voice of the extinct woolly mammoth as it entered the room. “That silly old scrote is my prisoner!”

I suppose it’s fair to point out that it is a little cruel to compare Johnny’s mother, the delightful Felicity MacKenzie, with an extinct woolly mammoth. You have my apologies for doing so. Because woolly mammoth’s – even though they were big and hairy and smelly and prone to accidentally squishing any cavemen who accidentally got in their way – were actually quite cute. Baby woolly mammoths were particularly cute; and quite tasty on the barbecue, too, I’m told.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of Felicity MacKenzie, who was neither tasty nor cute. In fact, she was the opposite of tasty: quite rancidly tasteless, if such a thing is possible. The sort of human being tastebud equivalent of Brussel sprouts marinated in fart juice. And she was also the opposite of cute, which I make as being ‘etuc’, quite a meaningless word in actual fact.

She was so fat that she exerted her own gravitational pull. She was so ugly that when she was born her mother slapped herself. She was so mean that she won’t even allow me to finish this senten

Back to the story:

“Why have you tied me up!” yelled Santa Claus. “What do you want from me?”

“What do you think I want, you stupid dosser?” smiled Felicity. “I want all your presents and you’re going to give ’em to me! But before you do so, it’s time for an advertising break…”

END OF PART 1

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She was an evil woman was Felicity MacKenzie. I’m not kidding – she was really evil. More evil than Margaret Thatcher ever was – well maybe not that evil. You can read all about her (Felicity not Margaret) in my lovely smelly book entitled: Johnny Nothing. It’s available from all half-decent book retailers in ebook and paperback formats and has a really nice yellow cover with scratchy bits on it. If you’re reading this before Christmas why not click on one of the links below and you and/or your beautiful ugly child can find out what happens when Johnny’s uncle dies and leaves him a fortune only for Felicity to steal all the money from him and go on a really long shopping spree. It’s quite exciting and all that.

The Links:

The iBooks Store

Amazon UK

Amazon USA

PART 2

Felicity MacKenzie was rummaging through the large sack of presents that lay beside the still tied up Father Christmas. Beside her was a blobby heap of beer belly and builder’s crack clinker named Billy MacKenzie. If you haven’t already guessed, he was Johnny’s dad and Felicity’s husband. As usual he was unshaven and smelled of Victorian urinals and dog breath.

“This is no good!” scowled Felicity, throwing a box of Lego across the room. “We want expensive gifts. Something we can flog on eBay!”

“Stop opening my presents!” urged Santa. “They’re not for you!”

“Or what?” growled Billy MacKenzie.

“Or… Or… I’ll get very cross,” said Santa, which wasn’t really much of a threat because he was still tied up and – let’s face it – however cross he might be, Santa Claus is never going to be that scary, is he? He’s Santa Claus for goodness sake!

“I’m ravenous,” said Felicity. “’Ere Santa – you got any food in these parcels?”

“Even if I knew the answer to that question there’s certainly no way that I’m telling you.”

“Oh la-de-da.” said Felicity, which doesn’t really mean anything but people still say it from time to time.

As Santa looked on, the horrible pair continued opening the presents in his sack. Books, CDs, socks, after shave, strange looking adult toys that required batteries, and boring games like Cluedo and Monopoly were hurled to one side.

“Should you really be doing that?” asked Johnny, who had kept quiet so far while all this was going on.

“Mind your own business!” said his mother, spitting out a mouthful of perfume that she had hoped might be whisky. “And get me some food you little brat!”

Johnny went into the kitchen and rooted around for something to give to his mother. Apart from a small piece of cheese that was growing quite an impressive quiff, the fridge was lukewarm and empty. There was nothing in the food cupboard either. There was no sign of a turkey and all the trimmings waiting patiently to be cooked like you might find in other peoples’ houses. The MacKenzies rarely bothered with Christmas dinner. They usually went to the pub and if they were feeling generous they would bring home a packet of crisps for their son.

Johnny went back into the living room to give his parents the bad news. Before he could speak, however, Felicity MacKenzie let out a hoot of triumph, whatever that sounds like. “Hold on a minute,” she announced, looking over at a very unhappy Santa Claus.. “How did you get here?”

“I beg your pardon?” he replied.

“Are you stupid? I said: how did you get here?”

“Is that an existential question or do you mean into your flat?”

“Whatever!”

“Well down the chimney, of course.”

The fact that there wasn’t a chimney in the flat didn’t seem to deter Felicity MacKenzie. “No I don’t mean that you fat old imbecile!” she said. “I mean how did you get here? How did you travel to the flat?”

“Why on my sleigh, of course.”

“On his sleigh!” yelled Felicity in triumph. “And where is it now?”

“Why, it’s still parked outside.”

Felicity MacKenzie pulled herself upright and began to cackle. “Billy,” she said, “go outside and fetch our Christmas dinner.”

Billy looked confused. “Whatdoyoumean, Fliss?” he asked.

“I’ve got a special treat for us all today,” said Felicity, licking her bulbous trout lips. “…Roast reindeer.”

“Lovely,” said Billy. “But before we eat have we got time for another advert?”

END OF PART 2

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I’m not one of those writers who’s always harping on about their books. In fact, when asked at parties I often tell people that I’m a tax inspector. Sometimes I tell them that I’m a murderer. What I was going to say, however, is that if you’re enjoying the story so far you might want to to go and download the first three chapters of Johnny Nothing from the iBooks Store or from the Kindle Store. They’re free, of course. And if you end up liking them there’s another thirty or so chapters for you to read. Hold on a moment, what’s that nice smell?

PART 3

Although when pushed she could just about rustle up a Pot Noodle, Felicity MacKenzie would be the first to admit that she wasn’t much of a cook.

“I’d be the first to admit that I’m not much of a cook.” said Felicity MacKenzie, as she sat at the head of the dining table. There. I told you so.

Nevertheless, she had made a surprisingly good job of Christmas dinner. Delia Smith would have been proud. Delicious odours of cooked meat wafted around the flat like clouds of tangy loveliness making Johnny’s tummy rumble as if it were a long extinct volcano. Hold on… If it was extinct it wouldn’t be rumbling. Would it?

“Shall I carve?” asked Billy.

“Please do, my darling husband,” said Felicity, putting on her poshest voice.

While Felicity and Billy sat at either end of the dining table Johnny stood in the doorway to the kitchen looking on in horror as his blood soaked father began chopping the Christmas roast into succulent slices. Still tied up on the floor was Santa Claus, who was weeping profusely.

“Stop crying like a big baby and have a bit of dinner!” said Felicity, hurling a piece of dripping meat in his direction.

“But… But… You’ve murdered… My Rudolph…” cried Santa.

“Oh, stop fussing,” said Felicity. “How do you fancy a slice of nose?”

Billy MacKenzie had been uncharacteristically efficient with Rudolph. First he had dragged the whimpering reindeer into the flat by its harness. And then, using a carving set that he found in Santa’s sack, he had set about slaughtering the animal.

First he had cut Rudolph’s throat, collecting the gallons of blood that gushed from the wound in a tin pot that he used for soaking his feet. “We can use this for black pudding later,” he had said cheerfully.

Then he had neatly sliced the still warm and trembling carcass into smaller portions, passing a leg over to his wife, which she swiftly popped into the oven with a bit of garlic. The whole exercise was over in less than ten minutes. However, the mess this created was terrible. Everywhere you looked there was reindeer blood: on the walls, the ceiling, the curtains. Most of the blood was on Billy, who looked even redder than Santa Claus.

It was a red Christmas.

“Tuck in,” urged Felicity.

END OF PART 3

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(Sorry about that. I had to sell this advertising spot to someone else.)

PART 4

Dinner was over.

Felicity and Billy McKenzie slumped into their chairs in front of the telly, stuffed to satisfaction and watched as the Queen gave her annual speech.

“Philip and I would like to thank everybody for giving all of your hard-earned money to us so that you can help to maintain an oligarchy that is thousands of years old and patently unfair to all but the select few,” she smiled. “It keeps us in jewels and Corgis and helicopter rides and makes sure that you, my subjects, have no hope of ever achieving anything with your lives unless you go on the X-Factor or Big Brother or Strictly or some other asinine, turgid nonsense…”

“I love the queen,” Felicity said dreamily, as her stomach struggled to digest the unexpected influx of reindeer matter. “She’s always so honest to her people.”

“Yes, she has a lovely turn of phrase” agreed Billy.

The speech finished and the couple reluctantly got to their feet while the National Anthem played. Afterwards they sat back down again to watch a Bond movie from the 1990s with some Welsh bloke playing Bond. After that there was a Dad’s Army repeat which led to the inevitable Christmas snooze followed by a Two Ronnies repeat, a Morecambe and Wise repeat and Jurassic Park 3. It was a great Christmas day. (If you’re American and reading this you won’t have a clue what I’m going on about. But do I really care?1)

1The publishers of Johnny Nothing – Red Christmas would like to point out that its author, Ian Probert, actually loves all Americans. He adores them all – he really does. He frequently kisses them and is definitely grateful for chewing gum and their assistance in World Wars I and II. (Although it’s only fair to point out that America made an awful lot of money from selling supplies to the the UK during both wars. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that America would ever have entered World War II but for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. (Which, in itself, is a bit of a joke. I mean have you ever compared the size and population of Japan and the USA? It’s like an ant attacking a rhino.))

Yes, the author loves America. Elvis… Chubby Checker… Cindy Lauper… All of you. So there.

In the morning there was only one more thing to think about. The remaining bits of Rudolph had been stuffed into the fridge and under the sink and in the bath and into various cupboards. The presents that had been pilfered from Santa’s sack were already on eBay. (Although Felicity wasn’t particularly hopeful that they would make that much money from their ill-gotten gains – all of Santa’s presents seem to have come from the Pound Shop.) It was just a question of what to do with Santa Claus.

Santa Claus. All over the world that name had suddenly become hated overnight. This was because, apart from a couple of isolated regions in the south of England, no presents had been delivered anywhere else.

Santa Claus. Millions of parents were left wondering how to stop their children’s desperate tears. “But it’s not our fault,” said mothers and fathers everywhere. “It’s that evil Father Christmas who’s to blame.”

Santa Claus: you could almost swim in the wave of bitter disappointment that washed over the globe.

Santa Claus: What a smelly old rat!, thought everyone. We never really liked him anyway.

On television, newscasters told tales of that hated devil named Santa Claus. Apparently a particularly favourite habit of his was to beat up old grannies. Police and politicians were interviewed, universally condemning this once adored figure. A warrant for Santa’s arrest was issued by Interpol. In many countries the death penalty was reinstated in anticipation of Santa’s capture.

On Boxing Day there was knock on the MacKenzies’ front door. “He’s in here,” said Felicity to a man waving an identity card. Earlier that morning, Felicity had called the police and told them that she had apprehended a familiar looking intruder.

“Get him boys,” said the man, and at once a dozen or so police officers bundled into the council flat. “Give him a bit of a hiding!”

“I caught him killing a reindeer,” said Felicity. “So Billy banged him on the head and we tied him up.”

“Thank you madam,” said another man. “You’ve done a great service to the nation.”

Santa Claus was handcuffed and taken into police custody. Three days later he was sentenced to death without trial. The Home Secretary’s triplets had caused such a fuss when they discovered they had no Christmas presents that he had vowed to get an instant revenge.

At the execution a jeering crowd threw rancid Christmas puddings at the cowering figure of Santa Claus. Some hurled chocolate cherry liqueurs and stale Crunchie’s from their selection boxes. As his head was placed into the noose, Santa was asked if he had any last words.

The old man hunched his shoulders and coughed. Then he replied: “Yes I do, actually.”

The crowd grew silent as the man known as Father Christmas or Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas uttered his final words:

“What an ungrateful bunch you are,” he said softly. “For thousands of years I’ve been making and delivering presents for you all and never once have I received a thank-you for my troubles.

“Despite living in a freezing cold draughty house in the North Pole with no-one for company save for a couple of imps and a reindeer with a genetic nose impairment you’re still not satisfied.

“Despite having to sit on rooftops for most of December waiting for your little brats to post their Christmas wish list up the bloody chimney I’ve never got so much as a ‘ta very much, mate’.

“Despite having to listen to endless crappy Christmas records by the likes of Slade and Wizzard and Bing bloody Crosby you still want more.

“Despite depositing millions of gifts into your kids’ stockings for longer than I care to remember, it doesn’t stop you from hinting to them that it was actually really YOU who bought the presents.

“So goodbye and good riddance you ungrateful mob. In future YOU can fish around in red hot coal embers retrieving your semi-literate kids’ note to Santa. YOU can spend literally minutes on Amazon ordering your brats’ myriad requirements, complete with personalised message and reasonably competitively priced gift wrapping paper. YOU can take delivery of the parcels, a couple of days later, signing for them, unpacking them and then hiding them under your bed or in a cupboard somewhere. YOU can wait until your kids are asleep on Christmas Eve and then creep into their bedrooms and carefully place their gifts at the foot of the bed. And YOU can sit and watch while they open those presents believing that are not from you – their bloody parents – but from some mythical, sleigh-driving deity from the North Pole.”

There was a murmur among the crowd as the spectators took in Santa’s words. Finally, a crescendo of voices rose up and almost to a man began chanting the same words:

LET HIM…” they cried, thinking of all the hard work they would have to do if Santa was allowed to go to the gallows.

LET HIM…” they chanted, wondering how their lives might change without this universal figure of kindness and joy.

LET HIM…” they chorused, trying to imagine what life would truly be like without Christmas.

LET HIM… DANGLE!

THE END

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What happens when we die?

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Blatant advertising, I’m afraid. Here’s an excerpt from my new kids book Johnny Nothing (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00ITZTOUA). This chapter attempts to answer such time immemorial questions as:

What happens after we die?

What does god look like?

Why are most accountant transvestites?

Why does the devil resemble Alan Titchmarsh?

I hope you enjoy it!

 

Chapter 22  – Handbags

Ebenezer Dark was having a dream about the instructions that he had given to Johnny Nothing a day or so earlier when the youngster had visited his office. It was both a convenient and an inconvenient dream. 

It was convenient because it gives me the ideal opportunity to do a movie-style flashback and let you know exactly what was said to Johnny in his office on the day in question. It was inconvenient because Mr. Dark was currently sitting in the driver’s seat of his car, which, even more inconveniently, was hurtling down the motorway very, very quickly indeed.

To make matters worse, sitting behind the wheel of a small mini and hurtling very, very quickly indeed in the opposite direction was a young lady named Minnie Driver. To make matters worse she was mini driving on the wrong side of the motorway. Silly moo, don’t you agree?

What’s the chances of this but Minnie was also a solicitor and she was also asleep and having a dream about a ten-year-old boy named Ronny who had visited her for advice only the other day? In actual fact, Ronny was the star of another book called ‘Ronny Everything’ and his parents had just stolen HIS cash card in order to stop HIM from spending all the wonga. Funny old world, isn’t it?

It’s an absolutely amazing coincidence – I’m not denying it – and opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities for sequels prequels, cross-pollination of story-lines, Ebenezer and Minnie falling in love and getting married, etc. etc. But…

Bang!

Actually, that bang is simply not loud enough to describe the truly ear-splitting noise that the two motorcars produced when they crashed into each other head-on. Let’s try all caps and a couple of exclamation marks:

BANG!!

Still not good enough.

How about a nice illustration to demonstrate just how loud that bang was?

 

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That’s better. Although if you’re reading the interactive version of this book press the button to the left labelled ‘BANG!!’ and you’ll get an even better idea of the ear-splitting noise that the crash produced. For still more fun, wait until your dad’s having a snooze on the sofa and hold your iPad or Kindle up to his waxy earhole and press the button. Write and tell me what happens.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced having a dream in the middle of a car crash and then waking up to find that you were dead. I can’t say it’s happened to me much lately. But if you haven’t I can tell you that it really is confusing. In fact, when Ebenezer and Minnie awoke from their dreams to find themselves dead, their level of confusion was simply off the confusion scale.

The first thing that they noticed was that they were floating a good ten or twelve feet above the wreckage of their smashed up vehicles. This is what happens when you die — ask a teacher. You leave your body and float away into infinity. At least, that’s what I read somewhere I think. Looking down they could see their mashed up bodies sitting motionless in the respective driver’s seats of their mangled cars. It looked like an explosion in a tomato ketchup factory that had been sprayed with zombie gore.

The next thing they noticed was each other. And out of politeness they both gave each other a friendly little wave and a really cute bashful smile. This initial joviality quickly disappeared, however, when the pair of them put two and two together and realised what had happened. It was Ebenezer Dark who spoke first:

‘I do believe that we’re dead,’ he glumly announced in his best solicitor’s voice. ‘And I do believe that you are culpable!’

‘I do believe that you’re correct,’ said Minnie Driver, in her best solicitor’s voice. ‘In that we are both dead. However, I do not agree that it is my fault. After all, you were asleep at the wheel.’

‘Agreed,’ agreed Mr. Dark, ‘In that I was asleep at the wheel. However, not only were you asleep at the wheel but you were also driving down the motorway on the wrong side of the road.’

Minnie Driver pondered this for a moment and watched as an ambulance duly appeared at the blood splattered scene. ‘I cannot fault the validity of your argument,’ she conceded finally. ‘For this reason I reluctantly accept culpability and I am willing to make a frankly insulting offer of damages.’

It was at this moment that another voice entered the fray. It was deep, and booming and masterful. LIKE THIS. Except in a really chunky font with better kerning and thunder and lightning coming from the top of the ‘H’.

‘I am God,’ the voice bellowed in a general tone that was a bit like that angry T. Rex in Jurassic Park when that stupid kid shone his torch in its eyes. ‘I created everything in six days and then took a day off for a break and I happened to be watching this stretch of the motorway when you crashed.’

Ebenezer Dark looked a little concerned. So did Minnie Driver, only more so.

‘This is what happens when you die…’ continued God, who, I should explain, looked quite a lot like an old man with a long white beard. He could easily have earned a little extra money in December by posing as Father Christmas, except that he wasn’t wearing a red costume; in fact, he didn’t seem to be wearing anything at all. (Which sort of begs the question that if you’re God and all powerful and omnipotent and all that, why would you make yourself look like a doddering old geriatric without any clothes on instead of, say, Brad Pitt or David Beckham in a really smart suit?) ‘…You float out of your bodies and I come to collect you so that I can decide whether you go upstairs or downstairs…’

At this point another figure floated into view. He had red skin and horns and hooves like a red skinned hoofed horny goat. He was carrying a large gardening fork. He jovially waved over at the two recently deceased solicitors. He seemed quite friendly actually. He smiled a lot and looked a little like Alan Titchmarsh⁠1 would if he fell into a vat of indelible red paint. 

‘If you have lived a worthy and honest life you will go upstairs and spend the rest of eternity having a pretty darned good time,’ said God. If, however, you have lived a worthless and dishonest life you will go downstairs and spend the rest of eternity sitting on a blow torch in the depths of hell or somewhere equally horrid such as Burnley…’

It was at this point that God thought for a moment. ‘Wait a second,’ he announced. ‘Aren’t you both solicitors?’

Ebenezer and Minnie shuffled about uncomfortably and looked downwards at their feet.

Suddenly there was a deafening clap of thunder and God shook his beard angrily, if such a thing is possible – although obviously God can do anything. He didn’t say a word. All he did was point his finger downwards and shake his head reproachfully, if such a thing is possible.

Without warning the scene went all shimmery and out of focus. A harp could be heard playing a weird ethereal tune like this: ‘da… dada… da… da dada’. You had to be there really. Then Ebenezer Dark awoke to find himself lying on a stretcher in an ambulance. ‘Calm down,’ said the voice of a white-suited doctor named Doctor White. ‘You’ve had a very bad accident and you’ve been dreaming.’

‘Thank God for that,’ said Ebenezer.

‘Nothing to do with God,’ said Doctor White. ‘More to do with this country’s woefully unappreciated ambulance service.’

‘Am I… Am I… badly injured?’ groaned Ebenezer.

‘Broken ribs, broken scull, perforated scrotum, pierced lung, pierced ears, ruptured spleen, broken neck, triple heart bypass, very bad cold, carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injury, fractured skull, in-growing toenail… I don’t think you’ve got long, old boy.’

‘How long?’ asked Mr. Dark.

‘Well, put it this way,’ said the doctor, ‘I wouldn’t bother booking a holiday this year…’

‘Oh, dear…’

‘In actual fact, if you’ve got any tickets for the theatre this weekend I’d think about putting them on eBay as quick as you can.’

‘In that case I simply have to tell you what I said to Johnny Nothing when he visited me in my office the other day.’

‘Well I can’t pretend that I’m interested but if it makes you feel any better getting it off your chest then do go ahead,’ said Doctor White.

‘I’ll do it as a series of bullet points if you don’t mind,’ said Ebenezer Dark.

‘Whatever.’

‘I told him to:

  • Withdraw some money from the bank account.
  • Get rid off all the boxes that were cluttering the flat. Put them up for online auction or something. Put them on Gumtree because Gumtree doesn’t charge a 10% commission like other online auction sites.
  • Hire some cleaners and decorators and get that dung heap of a flat looking ship shape.
  • Get some office furniture to put papers and calculators on.
  • Hire Bill and Ben the bodyguard men. In fact, don’t bother. I’ll arrange it for you.
  • Lock your parents up in their bedroom to stop them getting up to any more mischief.
  • Telephone me when you’ve done all this so that I could come to see you and discuss how you are going to get all the money back that your thicko mother has squandered.’

‘Really… How interesting…’ murmured Doctor White, who was absent-mindedly thumbing through the blood-soaked listings guide of the local newspaper.

Ebenezer Dark closed his eyes for a moment and wondered if he was about to die for real this time. He thought about his life. Had it all been worthwhile? Had he done all the things he’d wanted to do when he was a young ambitious spotty nerd or had he wasted it by becoming a boring old solicitor? You’ll find that you probably do the same when you’re just about to die, particularly if you end up being a boring old solicitor. Either that or you’ll post stink bombs through the letter box of anybody who winds you up. Teachers, headmasters and evil ice-cream men are suitable targets. 

It was his father’s fault. The rotten swine. His father had been so mean and pushy when Ebenezer was a young bookworm reading copies of Solicitor’s Weekly. He’d never let him express himself. His father had forced him to become a solicitor. It was the most boring job in the world apart from, perhaps, a checkout girl in a £1 shop that no one ever goes to because it happens to be right next door to a 99p shop. Now that he was on the verge of death, Ebenezer Dark wanted to tell the whole world about the secret ambition that he had harboured deep inside him for all of his life. 

With as much energy as a dying man can muster, Mr. Dark opened his mouth and spat out some words with all his might: ‘I want to be a girl!’ he cried, feeling truly liberated for the first time in his life. ‘I want to be a girl! I want to wear dresses and make-up and go to pretty handbag shops!’

Ebenezer Dark was suddenly aware of another voice speaking to him. ‘Mr. Dark,’ it said, ‘Are you OK? Wake up! Wake up!’

Without warning the scene went all shimmery and out of focus for the second time and Mr. Dark opened his eyes to find himself slumped at the desk in Johnny’s little room in the council flat. Johnny was sitting in a chair opposite looking at him strangely. Bill and Ben were standing behind Johnny staring at him with their mouths wide open.

‘Hmmm… Sorry about that,’ said Mr. Dark. ‘I must have drifted off for a moment or two… I was having a dream about having a dream… Happens all the time, y’know.’

‘But Mr. Dark, we’re supposed to be thinking of ways of earning back the money that my mum has spent,’ said Johnny.

‘Hmm… That’s right…’ said Mr. Dark. ‘Now where were we?’

1 Portly red-faced bloke from the telly. Appears on boring gardening programmes and digs things out of the ground quite a lot.

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Johnny Nothing – new kids book from Ian Probert. Out today!

WARNING: This book will seriously damage your funny bone.

The poorest boy in school has just inherited £1 million. But there is a catch: If he can hold on to his cash for a whole year he will earn ten times that amount. Enter Felicity MacKenzie, the ugliest, sweatiest, vilest, cruelest, hairiest mother in the western world. When she steals her son’s money and goes on the spending spree to end all spending sprees it seems that Johnny Nothing will stay poor forever. However, Johnny has a plan – he will imprison his parents and force them to do homework and go to bed early as punishment.

Join Johnny Nothing, Bill and Ben the bouncer men, Ebenezer Dark and a cast of literally dozens in (probably) the funniest book you will (most likely) ever read in (some of) your lifetime. Learn why solicitors like handbags; why dead people are windier than the North Sea; why parents dislike electrocution; and what happens to you after you die.

Johnny Nothing: Book 01 in a series of less than two from best-selling author Ian Probert.

Available exclusively from Amazon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00ITZTOUA