An Unmerry Christmas Book.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Actually, for many, it absolutely ISN’T. I’m not a fan of Christmas; I don’t get starry-eyed and enthusiastic about getting the tree up. I get quite morose about it all. And if life is distinctly unwonderful anyway, the whole Christmas thing is often a way to just rub it in.

Anyway, if you feel anything like I do, you may need an antidote to the sugary, sentimental side to the festive season. I’ve dropped a quid off the price of my own favourite novel, The Bet. Here’s a nicely gloomy extract to whet your appetite.

“In the days after the funerals, Greville worried endlessly about his assistant. The Christmas season seemed indecent with its tinselly colour and insincerity, and the old man’s heart contracted with pity watching the boy decorating the foyer, and to see him arrive every morning on time and go through each day like a man sleepwalking. He watched him working with school children on educational visits, wanted to applaud him for sheer determination when he saw him speaking with a shadow of his old energy. He found him asleep in the midst of the basement chaos, or head pillowed on arms on his desk, or once, sitting on the stairs, resting his head on his knees. Greville touched his shoulder to wake him.

Sorry,” he said, scrambling to his feet. “I just sat down for a moment because I couldn’t remember what I was going downstairs for.” He stopped a few steps down. “I still can’t.”

Doesn’t matter, whatever it was. Go and make us some coffee, boy.”

Ashurst turned on the stairs and headed back up to the tiny kitchen, Greville following. He stood behind him while he filled the kettle, washed out the cafetière and mugs.

Not sleeping, eh?”

Not much, no. I usually get to sleep around three, if I’m lucky.” He didn’t sound as if he were complaining. “I’m sorry I’ve been dropping off here. I do try not to.”

Couldn’t sleep for weeks and weeks after my wife died,” Greville said awkwardly. “It does stop in the end, the insomnia.”

The boy didn’t say anything; he’d been very economical with his speech lately, none of the impertinence that Greville had been used to and had grown to enjoy. He made the coffee with almost exaggerated care; Greville had noticed his hands shaking any time he’d actually got him to talk, even a bit. He was stirring the coffee now, slowly, as if he were counting how many times the spoon went round.

I keep remembering,” he said softly.

That’s good. That’s important. We all need to remember,” Greville said, putting an awkward arm around him briefly.

You don’t know what I’m remembering,” Ashurst said, and walked out.

8 thoughts on “An Unmerry Christmas Book.

  1. You are so right to be dubious about ‘Christmas’ especially as now celebrated! We feel rather similarly: we like the event itself but abhor the way it has been bumped up to meaningless excess, to all happening in the ‘run up’ otherwise and traditionally known as Advent, and the general hype until boom! the great day arrives and everything disappears again …Trying to do a quiet Christmas and somehow satisfy the family which is divided by 2:1 around whether one has a knees-up! Basically the sons aren’t interested …


  2. My heart went out to this “boy” who could have been any age the reader wanted the poor soul to become.

    The holidays can become the saddest days of the year, particularly when someone close to us has departed. Personally, I can’t wait until the end of the year and put it all behind me.

    All year long I practice living simplistically with as few wants as possible. It’s what I call my :Buddha Nature.” And then my son comes to me in December asking me for my “wish list.”

    I want nothing for X-mas I say, raising my voice with determination. Let me have Peace without a desire to want more stuff.

    Maybe a bottle of Scotch or Jameson whiskey, I relent and offer him something to make him feel good in giving something to his old man.

    Thanks for sharing this story and your feelings about Christmas. I believe there are more of us who feel the same way that you do . . .


    • You’ve had a particularly sad year, I know, Michael J and my heart goes out to you. Enjoy the Jameson’s; it gives your son, as you say, a feeling of having done something good and the whisky is nice on a cold night. Much love xx

      Liked by 1 person

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