Christmas Chronicles 2011: Bitter-Sweet Christmas

A little way down the road from a story of colour, a Christmas time. In a home city of mine. For security, copyright and legal reasons – I shouldn’t mention the name of the city. But rest assured, it was one of the only cities I have lived in. Which is only one.

Me and Becky were Christmas shopping. As you do. At Christmas.
Even though all Christmas shopping is done online these days, there were still some things we wanted to see in the flesh… before buying it cheaper online. Free money-saving tip – shop online. We were in a supermarket that I’d never worked in. Although, it’s worth mentioning at this point, I do miss the supermarket I worked in. So many memories. So many adventures. But back in the new supermarket – it was down the sweet aisle. The aisle where dreams are made.

Becky was in her element, browsing the sweets. Maybe trying a few. When suddenly a hand reached through the perfectly stacked haribo’s. The hand was holding a note.
The note was on mini-headed paper and was clearly from the local council. “Come to the chocolate section at the end of the aisle”, it read. So, confused, I followed the note’s directions. And there, at the end of the aisle were two suited-up men with dark glasses. They escorted me to the back room, assuring me that there was nothing to worry about it. Yea right.

I was led into a back room with a little bit of a wrestle from me, I shook off the bouncer boys and addressed the main-suit in the room. It was the local MP. She apologised to me for the abrupt nature of the meeting, but that this was an unusual circumstance. The city was in trouble.

“With your adventurous history with retail, we had no other choice but to approach you for a solution. We have been waiting at supermarket’s across the region for you to turn up. And now we have you, please consider this as confidential.”
She passed me a document that contained a few photocopies of details from the local newspaper. She went on to explain the situation
“Over the years, the banks have been slowly gaining more power in the national government. But this year took the biscuit. They over-stepped their mark and bribed the government to force a law through in a convert nature.” She sighed. Before I could ask for further details, she continued,
“The law went into play three months ago. We broke this law two months ago. And again one month ago. And once more this month. Penalty for breaking this law, isn’t regular punishment, but is instead punishment that the banks handle.” She paused, turned her back to me. Then in one swift turn of the head (so as to add dramatical effect, she turned back and whispered: “Financial punishment.” I had to stop myself from laughing at the theatrics. Politicians are supposed to be good at acting. She was from a minor party. Anyway. She continued: “For breaking this law, the city will have its funding withdrawn for the next quarter. We need that funding.”

I looked through the paperwork. There, sitting on the top of the pile was the law that had been passed. It read:

“For ethical and environmental reasons, the period of time that centralises around the celebration of December 25th will no longer be referred to as a celebration of the Christian deity, but will instead be referred to as a Winter holiday and an sole emphasis must be placed to increase excess spending.”

I looked up and began to speak but before I could, the MP interrupted…
“We broke the law without realising in. First time in pantomime advertising, second time in attempting to build a record-breaking giant gingerbread house (the size of a house) and the third time in promoting Christmas day services occurring across the city on Christmas… Er Holiday… day. We need you to get a job in the bank and go undercover to destroy them from within.” I raised an eyebrow and shook my head.

“You are aware that I disagree with the law that is being passed. I think you were in the right to use the word Christmas. It seems like this country is going into political-correctness overdrive. And don’t even get me started on buses.” (Seriously, don’t get me started on the buses). The MP grew red in the face. She represented an environmental party, so didn’t like my final comment regarding buses. But decided to ignore it non-the-less and then concluded on the matter in hand:

“That does put you too close to the problem. Sorry to have involved you in this.
You may not speak of this ever again. You may resume your shopping experience.”
And in the snap of a candycane, I was back in the sweet aisle.
As I looked towards Becky, she was still engrossed in the sweet products and hadn’t even noticed I’d gone. We finished our shopping and left for home.

The trouble was, I couldn’t get the situation out of my head. What was going to happen? I wasn’t too fussed about the lack of council funding. The council didn’t seem to be spending it brilliantly anyway. They kept buying new buses and making more bus lanes. Drivers weren’t getting the respect they deserved. But still, neither was Christmas. And I did want another adventure. And this crisis needed me.

It was the 21st of December and Christmas day wasn’t far away. I did my research and followed the MP and black suits around for a while, to get an idea of what was going on. In the two days I followed them, they orchestrated 4 bus lanes, 2 cycle lines and managed to put in around 30-40 speed humps. Apparently, their view was that if they spent all of the budget surplace on “meaningful things”, the banks may feel sorry for them. But if any of the bank owners had cars (which I imagined they would), the humps, bikes and buses probably wouldn’t please them much.

Side story moment. Remember I said that the council were trying to break the world record for gingerbread house? Well I learned a little more about it. They weren’t just building it, they were going to make the biggest Christmas day unveiling ever. The local and national news-teams were lined up from across the country to report on a giant Christmas day scene. The biggest gingerbread house in history. They were baking it in the biggest bakery in town and were getting truck loads of ingredients to fulfil the sheer size of this creation. It was being built in the temporary bakery tent secretly behind the bakery and would be trucked into town late Christmas eve.

Side story over. Onto the plot. On the second day of my stalking the MP and co (the 23rd), a bank messenger arrived at their office. Talk about the angel of doom. This guy drove up in a brand of car I didn’t even recognise, but it emanated with evil, parked in front of the statue outside of the council offices and blocked in every other car. His chauffeur opened his door as he strolled out of the back seat with an “I’m a banker” suit and cane made of gold. I snuck in after him and followed him to outside the MP office. As I paced my ear to the wall, I could just about make out his muffled sentences. The words he spoke would send chills down my spine. His posh snobby voice whined:

“We don’t feel as though you, the local council, are making a proper effort to resolve the situation that you, the local council, have created. So we, the agency that is now running the country, are putting an ultimatum on you. It has been brought to our attention that you are attempting the build world’s biggest gingerbread house to create the world’s biggest festive holiday scene. This is now also considered against best-practise. If you continue this tomfoolery, and do not cancel this attempt. We will destroy the bakery factory in central town. We have access to high-tech explosive departments. According to my sources, this is positioned right next to your bus station. Don’t be surprised if the boom removes some of these from the equation. You can take down the city’s festive lights immediately to show you are serious about our ultimatum. You have until nightfall on Christmas Eve.”

I knew they’d be annoyed about all the bus lanes. But as he walked out of the office, I wasn’t able to get out of the way of him in time. He stopped and looked at me. Looking down on me, he then spoke “We are aware of you.”
What the heck was he going on about? Either way, I now had a bomb to defuse.

I followed the angel of doom’s evil-mobile. I jumped into my orange sleigh followed him to a high-security building on the outskirts of town. Before I could get anywhere near the door, about five bankers came out of nowhere. They all had various weapons. I counted two swordsmen, a gunman and two karate-style bankers. They surrounded me and told me to stop what I was doing. I did something stupid. I said no. This is how I rationalised my actions.

The swords-bankers had only a little reach and were less of an immediate threat. The martial arts banker were fast, but unless they had ninja stars – had nothing to throw, so they would take a while to get to me. That left the sole-gunner who was clearly the major threat.

In a set of swift movements, I dived for the gunner and managed to land his gun. This set the others frozen in the their footsteps. It probably would have set me scared too. I hadn’t had too much gun experience. So I just fired a few shots in the air to add effect. I winced, expecting a few loud bangs. But I was only met with a few sprinkles of water. A water pistol.
“Are you kidding me?” You were going to threaten me with a water-pistol? What do you guys have, play swords?” They nodded and illustrated the bendy-ness of their plastic weapons. “Why?”
“Well the boss said that this was just a decoy while they plant the bomb…”
Before the half-whitted poor-excuses for decoys realised what they had just revealed, I was back in my sleigh and off to the centre of town. More specifically, the bakery.
Unfortunately, the bankers weren’t as stupid as they’d made out- they’d filed my sleigh with sedative gas and before I could switch the ignition, I was fast asleep.

I woke up in my sleigh (in case you haven’t realised by now, I am referring to my Panda Car), which was in a dark locked-up car park. I checked my phone. 14 missed calls. Becky was trying to get hold of me. I called her to let her know I was ok, albeit a little lost. I started to drive around the car-park looking for a way out. It was then that I noticed the time of day. 4pm on Christmas Eve, I had been knocked out for over 24 hours. The bomb would likely explode any minute, unless the council had given in to their demands.

I had no time to loose, I backed up the sleigh to the far wall and revved. Handbrake off and I sped towards what looked like the exit gate. At that exact moment, one of the bankers started to open the gate. The little opening at the bottom was enough to assure me it was the way out, so I sped up and smashed through the gate. Pieces of car park flew everywhere. I could have sworn they car park was made of gold when I looked back in the rear-view mirror. It was a bank after-all. It was now dark and I had to get to the bakery before it was too late. As I sped through the back-streets and hills, I saw all the Christmas lights everywhere. At least the council hadn’t given in to the evil bank’s demands.

I finally reach the hill. From the top I would be able to see the city centre, the bakery and hopefully a bomb squad. I raced to the top of the hill to see something that would haunt me for a while ten minutes. As a looked toward the bakery and started to drive the sleigh down the hill, an explosion ripped through the side of the bakery. I was horrified. My sleigh came to a standstill as I gazed in horror at the carnage. It had only effected the bakery, it hadn’t gone as far as the bus shelter – and done no damage to the surround buildings – but I was still horrified.

Then something amazing happened. A Christmas miracle, if you will. It started to snow. All around the city. But this snow wasn’t just snow, it was flour and sugar. As if that wasn’t enough through the sugared snow, I saw hundreds and hundreds of new-crews surrounding the ruins of the bakery. The sheer volume of the flour was putting out the fire, along with the fire-engines from the back of the building. But the news crews weren’t focusing on that, they were focusing on something else, coming around the city – escaping the chaos. Cameraman ran to the roads to catch a glimpse of what was coming. I couldn’t see it yet, whatever it was was hidden behind the other buildings. Then, finally, I saw it. The most Christmassy site ever. A convoy of ten, twenty, maybe more trucks drove out from the city. They were bright red and covered in Christmas lights. They resembled a very specific Christmas advert for a very specific Cola beverage. And there, being pulled along on wheels to the front behind one of them was the giant gingerbread house.

Crowds gathered around as the ultimate Christmas scene just got better and better. Finally, the Christmas songs began. It was literally like shaking up a snow globe and watching the festive scene. Except you were in it. And you could eat the snow.

I was immediately in the Christmas spirit and all was well with the world. I rode my sleigh to join the crowds singing the festive tunes and watching the spectacular sight. And then, through all the sugar snow, I saw the best sight of all. Becky came running towards me and gave me the biggest hug ever. I started to explain everything, but then realised I couldn’t. How had this final scene developed from a disaster into a perfect Christmas scene?

Well I later found out that while all this was going on, another story was taking place. Let me tell you Becky’s story:

While I was in the supermarket back room with the suits, she was peering through the crack in the door. She knew everything. And she formulated an even better plan.
She then bettered my research by talking to the nurses at her job and found who was the bank shareholder in the city.
Then when I discovered about the bomb, that’s when she went into overdrive.
She located paper-trails that incriminated the bank shareholder by speaking to a friend who had worked as a temporary administrator at the bank. She found phone calls to explosive experts and invoices for Bombs inc. She then put on an accent and made a phone call to the baker to say the bomb was a fake and that it wouldn’t work. The banker then turned up to see it explode. Of course, she’d briefed the police he would be there, so immediately he was taken into local prison.
On top of this, knowing all the buses would get evacuated from the area, she’d got all her girl-friends to meet her at the bus station next to the bakery. During the day they decorated the buses to look like articulated trucks with giant, brightly-coloured bulbs all over them. They looked exactly like the Something-Cola Christmas trucks.
She then went into overdrive using all my old business contacts to get in touch with all the news networks (local, national and even international) who were on stand-by for the giant gingerbread house and told them that the greatest Christmas event was likely to take place BEFORE Christmas day, on Christmas eve at the bakery. When the news teams turned up, she got them all to sign permission forms that totalled over £950,000. Enough to sustain the local council for about a month. As long as they didn’t go nuts with more speed humps and buses.

The moral of this story is always marry someone who is better than you. And in my case, I did. Infinitely.

Christmas was saved. And for now, so was the city. But there was a bigger battle brewing. The banks wanted their revenge. And the city wanted revenge on the banks.

To be continued.