Mostly Bollogs, I'm afraid

But occasionally, a glimmer of truth.
If you find one, please let me know.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


This is about me, the NHS, and contributions.

It is also about fairness, waste and outright piss-taking.

I have paid into the coffers of several of our esteemed governments enough money to have 78 triple bypass ops and resurface the M1 between Preston and Luton. At the rate our esteemed governments have managed to bureaucratise these alleged services, I estimate that the same money could have an ingrowing toenail painted with iodine and get one of those signs that tell policemen where they are on the motorway, but that's by-the-by, and will never change as long as sheep keep mindlessly and obligingly handing their hard-earned over to the state. I suspect the remaining money goes to a secret research facility to develop new forms of Velcro, or something.

I like the NHS. I like what it provides, free healthcare at the point of delivery. I like the way it is funded, so people who are genuinely unable to afford to stay healthy win, and people who earn shitloads have to pay some of it towards that before they buy their yacht in the Mediterranean. I think it's a good thing.

There are bits I don't like. These include A&E departments funded by the public-at-large treating the following:

  • Stupid tarts who've fallen off their high heels
  • Weekend sportstwats who've done stupid things
  • Stomach pumping for stupid people who have been experimenting with alcopops
  • People who have colds and flu and are too stupid to stay in bed
Stupidity can be addressed variously by insurance (can you get high-heel insurance?) and education, or by making these people wait for days on end to be treated. It should happen.

I occasionally suffer from an allergy which needs antibiotic treatment. It comes from certain plants (the allergy, not the antibiotic) and I try to avoid them. I don't always succeed. Flucloxacillin isn't very expensive anyway, and I decided I would pay for it privately when I do manage to get these bloody infections caused by the prickles from this ever-increasing range of flora. I suspect if I got it on prescription it would be more expensive anyway.

My mum suffers from Parkinson's. I first thought that it meant that I'd find her going round interviewing people, but actually it's quite unpleasant and makes one shake and one's legs ache. She is getting treatment for this but it's only every few months. There are drugs. None seem to work very well. 

My dad has had a couple of heart attacks, he takes half an aspirin a day which he pays for himself, and tries not to cut himself because that gets messy.

My daughter gets hay fever. Living next door to a huge rape field doesn't help, but I buy her Piriton from the chemist so she's fine.

If someone is so poor they can't afford these things, and they need them, they will get them on prescription, free, such is the NHS. In Scotland, if they are millionaires, they will get them free, and I will have paid for them. That is complete and utter bollocks and largely down to the last government being Scottish, I suspect.

So far, no contention, is there? If you're disagreeing already you're probably Ellie Gellard or a lost cause, or both.

Shit happens. One day I might get cancer. My daughter did, and she didn't even drink or smoke. She died, having spent her last very short time in hospital being "treated" by radiation and foul chemical concoctions which weren't ever going to help, and which cost a fortune, and being "looked after" by mainly hooded figures having virtually no command of English, and with HUGE attitude problems. She ended her life in a hospice, a charity, and died peacefully in her sleep, God rest her soul.

And now, people get old. Very old. The NHS keeps them alive, because human life is sacred. 

I am all for saving life, if it's possible. I've been in these hospitals and nursing homes. These are not people, they're cabbages. They are not sacred. They shit on the floor, they piss in their beds. They are being kept alive by unnatural means. They are costing a fortune.

Many of these people have invested their cash, over the years, usually in "property". That's safe, because there are rules saying it is. Therefore I, and you, hand over what we earn to fund these people's miserable existences, in which they don't care whether they get visitors because they don't even know who they are, and the "property" increases in value so their offspring, cats, etc., reap the benefits of it.

I would love someone to explain to me why this is a Good Thing. Please?

I would sell their assets. Or let them go. They don't care either way. They don't even know.

Monday, 21 June 2010


Teacher is asking the class what their fathers do for a living, as it was Father's Day yesterday.

It's Johnny's turn.

"My dad's a rent boy in a gay bar. He dances on a pole, sucks off the punters and sometimes, if the money's right, he takes it up the arse."

Teacher is dumbfounded, takes Johnny to one side.

"Johnny, is that really true about your dad?"

"No, miss. I made it up. He plays football for England but I was too embarrassed to say."

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Hardly worth a blog, this. But it's longer than Twitter will let me tweet.

A granny has been jailed for FIVE FRIGGIN' YEARS because she had a gun. She kept it under the mattress. She should have handed it in.

So far as I can see, the extenuating circumstances here are that she could have sought permission from Scottish ministers to keep it, though it would be unlikely that they would have given such permission. And it was a memento of her father - about all that she had left to remind her of him.

It was a 1927 Browning 7.65 which, had she tried to use it, may well have blown her hand off. And she had no ammo for it.

Here is the horseshit part ...

Under laws introduced in the wake of the Dunblane shooting massacre, the offence carries a minimum five-year jail sentence unless a judge is satisfied there are "exceptional circumstances". 

My mate lives in Dunblane, it's a nice town. It has a very sad memorial to the victims of the Dunblane massacre, you should see it if you haven't already. It's in the churchyard.

The nutjob responsible for the Dunblane massacre had a gun licence. So did the nutjob that did Carlisle.

That is all.


This might upset either or both of my readers. If it does, then I humbly ask the offended party or parties to rethink their role in life, and to summarily fuck off, because I don't care.


To put this in perspective, I didn't go. This was mainly because I'm thick, but on reflection I was bloody lucky. I was hankering after a place in a good university to do tonmeistry. I passed the instrumental auditions and such like, then failed the technical 'A' levels with flying colours, adding a couple of 'O' levels to my meagre total.

Most of my mates at school went to either Uni or Tech, depending on their chosen career path. I missed them for about twenty minutes but then realised that about the only thing I had in common with most of them is that we both went to school.

So I got a job, as monkey boy, and worked my way up. It was shift work so we got a good wedge in return for our efforts, and it was a small company so it was relatively easy to wriggle ones way to the middle grounds and more cash.

Everyone was encouraged to go to University if they were in a grammar school, which I was. I didn't realise at the time that my school was shit, that the English teacher was a ratbag and the headmaster was a ponce. I found that out later, and taught myself English properly.

Nowadays, a lot of people go to Uni, which devalues it. I have some experience of it from the outside, in various guises, and I have a solution to a problem which I think would make England a better and more productive place, were it to be implemented.

Here are my few stories.

Two of my daughters went to Uni. One because she is a nurse and to keep her job and gain the promotion she wanted meant having to have a degree, so she put herself through Uni whilst working shifts on a hospital ICU. Fair play, she's a fighter. She got top marks. The other has just finished and is awaiting her results, hoping for a 2:1. She might get it. She knows it won't help her much, and she spent three years on the piss, something she became very good at. My only son got a degree in Computer Science and maths and now works as a consultant in London. Good for him.

Friends of mine have a son who has spent the last couple of years at a "good" Uni doing geography. He is now going to take the path into one of the big wastes of space accountancy practices which I won't name, PwC, and will then be offered out to clients with more money than sense, such as governments, as a "consultant". He, too, spent the last few years on the piss and partly in the local casualty department of a hospital because he can't handle his ale.

A couple of years ago, we took on a graduate in electronic engineering from Queens, Belfast, which allegedly is not too shabby a place. He had an honours in EE, and we set him to work. Because of the placement, his tutors were involved and on the first review he showed them the circuit he had made. The tutor's question was "Jesus, you haven't plugged that in, have you?" and I realised that we had been sold a pup. We got rid of him, and not too soon either, as he was an activist pillock who spent most of his time working out his entitlement and moaning about smoking.

I am told, mostly by modern luvvies, that finishing a Uni course demonstrates an ability to learn. It also sets one up for life as one has to fend for oneself, do washing, ironing and such like.

And to this I say "Bollocks".

I have seen Uni courses in things I know about. They are pathetic. You don't have to spend weeks in New York to get a degree in geography. It will still be there when you leave. Also, it features in films, which you can buy or borrow, and watch. And you can get books about it. I read one once, which is why I've never been to New York.

And a good way to learn how to fend for yourself is to move out of your parents' house. Simples.

So here is my plan. Have Uni, which teaches basic things about a subject. Go on a course in a subject having at least some relevance to the career you have in mind. And do some work. What that means is sitting in a room without a stacking HiFi system, with books and the Internet, and get up in the morning (that's the thing that happens when the sun comes up), and learn stuff, and go to bed sober.

Should take about six months, unless you're going to be a doctor, and they tend to work hard anyway.  That way, you won't have a debt, and you'll be of some value.


Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Everything in this post may be wrong.

In the usual way I post this bollocks because I believe it to be right. If it isn't, then no doubt one or both of my readers will post something to that effect, or offer me a penis extension or wonderful, new and exciting investment opportunity. I don't censor anything.

It's about Lord Saville, the IRA, and the British Army.

The reason I'm writing it is because I think some people don't really understand what's happened. Those people might well include me. But it seems that some are up in arms about the IRA receiving an apology from our Prime Minister, David Cameron.

This is how I see it.

Northern Ireland is somewhere I've neither visited nor want to visit. It's full of Irishmen with quite distinct accents. I've met some of them. Some are quite nice, some are quite nasty, and that could be said of almost anywhere, even the office in which I'm sitting, typing this.

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Some people there would like it not to be. They are Catholics. There are other people there who want to be British. They are protestants. They share a religion, although the former have an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope as well as some of the other traits of Python's Spanish Inquisition, including fear, surprise and ruthless efficiency.

Sadly, because The United Kingdom doesn't tend to let go of anything it previously stole, the Catholics were on a hiding to nothing. Nobody listened to them. So they decided to go the way of violence, as so often happens in these cases (see Twin Towers for details).

It was partly (and a large part, to boot) the fault of the United Kingdom, as they don't listen, they don't negotiate, and they tend to get all big boy about it. That makes things worse. Because the Catholics don't have their own huge army and matching budget and tanks and stuff, the only choice left open to them was to become covert pains-in-the-arse and, to that end, they formed the Irish Republican Army, or IRA. Secret people, in scary balaclavas, they devised plans to terrorise the United Kingdom. Their trademark was the "kneecapping", a horrendous torture involving a Black and Decker hammer drill (cheaper than a tank and uses less fuel) and masonry bit, applied to the victims knee which would not only be extremely painful but would also cause him (or her, they're not fussy) to walk with a pronounced and painful limp.

To combat this, the brave United Kingdom deployed a bagload of troops, fully kitted out, to the streets of Northern Ireland.

Alongside the IRA an organisation known as Sinn Fein grew. This was the "Political Wing" of the IRA, basically run by some pretty horrible scumbags including Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness and possibly someone called Gerry Mandering, but I'm not sure about that one. Because it would be unseemly for a bloke to turn up to chat to the Northern Ireland Secretary wearing a balaclava and packing a Black and Decker, these scumbags instead wore suits and claimed that they supported the cause and not the violence. Bollocks they didn't.

Now, on Sunday Bloody Sunday, sometime in 1972 (I remember it well though through a haze of Newcastle Brown and Number 6) a demonstration took place. The demonstration was a march of "freedom" by Catholics - nothing wrong with that.

Some members of the Parachute Regiment (Paras) were on hand to see fair play and to route the march somewhere safer than the route intended by the Catholics. They were armed, to the teeth, which in the circumstances was pretty sensible.

These Paras are "well 'ard". They are trained to jump out of aeroplanes and land in some hostile places to sort out shit on behalf of the government. Most of them are Scottish, many of them are thugs, and I have had dealings with them. If I wanted to start a fight I wouldn't choose them to start it against. But, alongside the bravery, these Paras are basically "lads". And they are not out for the sunshine, they're expecting trouble, because that's why they're there.

The shit hit the fan when some pratt started shooting. The pratt in question may or may not have shot at the Paras. He may have done it for a laugh, but very likely he did it to start off the trouble. I've heard a machine-gun. It's a noisy bloody thing, it doesn't sound like it does in the films. And these Paras would have shat themselves when it went off. They may or may not have shot at the gunman. At the end of the day they shot several people, innocent people, unarmed people. Shit happens. If you don't want to get hurt, then don't tempt fate. I wasn't there, but I can imagine what it was like, having been in some pretty nasty scrapes. People like Cold Steel Rain will tell more about this, he will know exactly what it was like.

The people who died can't be brought back. It was a cock-up, and it shouldn't have happened. Since then, relatives and friends of the victims have tried to get what they call "justice". What they really wanted was to nail someone in the Paras, but that's not going to happen. What they were actually yelling yesterday was "innocent". We never thought they were guilty. Nobody did.

And Cameron apologised on behalf of the government, to the victims, their relatives and friends. He did NOT apologise to the IRA - had he done so, I'd be inclined to shoot him myself.

So everybody's as happy as they can be, especially Lord Wotsit who has made himself a tidy living out of producing 5000 pages that nobody will ever read, and spent the fat end of 200 million quid in the process.

There is one unanswered question, though. Who was the pratt with the machine gun? I, and many others, would dearly love to know.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


I'm not a solicitor. I'm actually not very good at much, but I'm quite good at quite a variety of things. A jack of all trades, I suppose, a master of none. I know people who know loads more than I about many things.

But I'm a good guesser. I'm usually right.

Here is a guess.

If I had a Big Pile Of Gold Stuff, which I was looking after for my brother while he was on holiday, and I bunged it on eBay while he was gone and spunked the spoils on beer, my brother would be cross.

He would probably beat me up, as he does, and then he'd probably call the Old Bill. Then I would go through the legal system and doubtless be detained at Her Maj's pleasure (she gets her pleasure in strange ways).

But hold! Whilst in the company or Messrs Plod, and in the course of their investigations they decided I was no ordinary crook, but rather a certifiable loony, I would likely be referred to the clutches of the more sinister psychiatric Plod for a good going over.

I have a strong suspicion, and a lawyer would know more, that in the event that I were certified Uncle Loony (which is more than likely), the transaction in which I had engaged might well be summarily declared null and void and the chap to whom I eBayed the gold would probably be forced to sell it back to me at the price for which he bought it. I don't know. I would hope this to be the case.

Now, who DID Gordon sell that gold to? Anybody know?



I think I might be a racist. Read this, both of you, and decide.

My girl needs a passport. This is because she's going to another country, in the EU, and although anyone else in the EU can just wander across the borders by bus, car, train or bicycle, we Eurobritons can't. The EU sucks donkey balls; we are not European (I'm certainly not, anyway), but since we pay squillions of pounds to build big shiny motorways in Spain while our piss-poor donkey tracks remain full of potholes big enough to knock our wheels off, we must be European. Either that or it's a scam, but that's another blog.

My girl already has a passport. She is young, so the picture on her current issue is of a toddler. She now has new photographs, taken by a photographer, because she is a girl, and girls like a nice picture on their passports. So I spoiled her. It was only a few quid.

The Post Office (I think they're still called that) has a service known as "check and send", whereby they will make a cursory inspection of your passport application, then send it off, so you can rest easily in the sure and certain knowledge that the passport gestapo will be issuing your lovely new passport in time for your holiday in the sun.

We have a Post Office. It is a Post Office with shop, which sells newspapers, magazines and plastic shite. More on this later. But, being a Post Office, it offers the "check and send" passport service.

"Hello, nice lady behind the counter, I would like to make use of your passport cursory inspection service, please."

Nice lady behind the counter takes paperwork, looks at it, ticks some boxes. Then the photographs are out.

"Hm," nice lady hums, "I'm not sure about the photographs."

"Bollocks," I mutter.

"I'll have to ask Raj," nice lady continues.

"Bollocks," I mutter again.

Out comes Raj. Raj is the stereotypical O my goodness yes Indian gentleman. I have no problem with O my goodness sterotypical Indian gentlemen, unless they prove to me that I should. Raj proceeds to offer such proof.

"The photograph, my goodness yes, it has the hair on the face, in the eye," he starts, "and it is too far away."

"Bollocks," I mutter, loudly this time. And this time it is not a comment, it is a statement.

"Begging your pardons," interjects Raj, unhelpfully, "I am not being able to authorise the photograph."

At this point I realise that I have a huge problem. Or, at least, one of us does.

You see, my family has been English since 1066. I know this for a fact. Before that we might well have been French but now we are to all intents and purposes English. And I speak English, and I can read English quite well. And, despite the last shithole of a government wishing us all to stay locked in our houses and working for the State so we can buy another motorway in Greece, we are actually entitled to travel to other countries and then be allowed back in to good old Blighty again. And, to that end, I took the trouble to research the draconian rules that the passport politzei now implement with respect to photographs.

The photographs I had taken of small girl are quite good, and they are a true likeness of her. Difficult to stop her grinning, as she always grins. And her hair is quite long, and falls all over the place. But it isn't covering her eyes, for that would invalidate the application. And her head, from chin to crown, measures 30mm on the photograph. I know this, because I measured it with a ruler. So the application is valid. I know, because I can read.

So, dear Raj, fuck off. Fuck RIGHT off. It is not up to you to "authorise" anything. It is up to you to do your fucking job, as a Post Office licensee, or whatever someone in charge of a Post Office is. If you want to bring back plastic shite from your cousin in fucking Mumbai or whatever you call the godforsaken call centre these days, then carry on. I don't have to buy it. But you're supposed to be running a Post Office. You're too short and too offensive to be a policeman, and too thick to do much else, so feel free to run a Post Office.

But, Raj, please do NOT, ever, presume to try to tell ME that I am incapable of understanding my own fucking language. Per-lease.

Am I a racist? If I am a racist because of this, then there is something wholly wrong with someone's definition of racism. And I can live with that.

But truly, I would like to know.


Just been onto the "printable" gov site to get the lowdown on photos.

"Head coverings for religious or medical grounds are acceptable".


Update 2:

Just been to the proper Post Office. There is nobody there who sounds like Raj or looks like Raj. There is an English-speaking girl who glanced at all my stuff (paperwork, you know) and stamped it, took the money, sent it off. No problemo, as they say in Greece.

Next step is to get the passport, then I will go to Raj with same, plus a tape recorder and a camera. After that I will be seeking whoever is responsible for Post Offices and those that run them.

Monday, 14 June 2010


I havent blogged since I last blogged because Ive been quite busy doing things that arent blogging.

"What?" I hear you both cry. "Marvo, what are you on, this early in the day?"

"Aha!" I reply. "You spotted my minor cockups."

I have been reading some other blogettes. They are fucking dreadful. The Engrish in which they are written is barely decipherable. The subjects on which the blogger blogs, or bloggers blog are barely interesting, and about as researched as Churchill's decision to attack the French in 1939.

Chaps, lasses, those of you in between ... word up!

I'm not a writer. I'm a reader, which qualifies me in some small way to write. And I can handle English, even with a couple of irregular verbs and the odd difficult spelling.

Writing is a skill. You need a bloody good story, or a better than average command of English, or at  least a joke that not everyone has already heard. Failing either of those, you need to be terribly offensive.

If you have nothing to say, nothing to say it about, and can't even rant, then please think again. The supermarkets are full of people who thought that writing was to be their future.

They're stacking the shelves.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


There is an MP called Tom Harris.

My attention was drawn to him by someone on Twitter, who said that he was "good value". I have subsequently learned what she meant. In summary, he tweets rather like the BBC travel news - on time, but not to any great effect.

I'm sure what I'm about to blog is libellous. I certainly hope so; I might get to the sort of readership that Lord Old Holborn gets, rather than my usual pair of readers having a look every half an hour to make me feel good (and for which, both of you, I am most grateful).

I followed the honourable member for somewhere in Glasgow. He tweets what he blogs, as do many of us. I read it, fleetingly, as do many of us. And I have discovered that there is a huge, HUGE, problem with his attitude (lawyers, please note).

For your edification, here is one of the blogs in question . Have a read - you may not want to come back and see what I think.

You're back? Well, my initial reaction, which I vaguely remember tweeting earlier is "cock". Then I re-read it. And I'm not wrong.

Allow me to dissemble it.

"A LIMIT of seven minutes was imposed on speeches on Monday night, so the contribution I had prepared had to be cut down quite drastically"

Not his fault, but an indication that the whole system is flawed.

"Unfortuately, having spent most of my allotted time talking about the LibDems, I didn’t leave myself much time to talk about important issues."

The "unfortuately" is his typo, not mine. More importantly, I think it is a word meaning "because I am a ranting cock", whereas I initially thought he meant unfortunately (a word implying "through no fault of my own").

The Rt Hon Glaswegian then goes on to copy and paste his speech (the one he didn't have time to deliver).

"Mr Deputy Speaker, you may be aware that a leadership election is currently underway in my own party."

 Genius. Alienate your audience.

"Yet listening is an utterly pointless activity for any politician unless doing so results in a new or changed policy"

Hello? Listening is pointless? Holy cow, chap, you mean these ponces stand up in the HoC and talk cock, you have your fingers in your ears, then you vote on it? Please explain. I want to know.

I read on. "Labour was wrong". Read between the lines. But I won't take issue with that. The Rt Hon Tom is entitled to his opinion, as am I, as are both of you, my dear readers. But then my hackles, whatever they are, were hackled. With this:

"...if we, the political elite of this country..."

Do what? Elite? Methinks someone has missed the point. Fuck it, they've missed the target, shooting range and most of the surrounding villages. The political elite?

Look, mate, you decided to be an MP. My MP isn't like that, and if she ever turns out to be she's going to get a proper earful not only from me, but from the whole bloody constituency. Elite?

Anyway, we'll let that one go, shall we? I know, you know, both my readers know and I firmly believe that every right-thinking individual and most domestic animals know that if you walked a red-lipsticked donkey down the streets of your constituency they'd vote for it. Elite. Pah.

Next. Deep breath. Big, BIG deep breath, because this one REALLY gets there:

"But if we trust the British people, if we can persuade them to do what’s right ..."

I think. I pause. I relax. I have a cider while it's still legal.


I struggle for the words. Then reality dawns on me. Jesus! These people, or at least this one, really think that's where they stand. Them. Us. Tell us, make us think it's our idea?

How wrong am I, the British People? Please reassure me that he's on his own here, and this isn't REALLY what this is all about?


Tweeters and bloggers alike (of which I am one) sometimes fall foul of the vagaries of the English language. Some of the best tweeters and bloggers write English badly. I know I do. Mainly it is because I've got the raving hump at the time and can't be bothered to check what I spouted seconds before, so I just hit the SEND button with a big stick. What I will say, though, as someone who makes "AAAAAARGH" noises every time I see a pecadillo, is that us sticklers and pedants will assume that because you can't spell, you're thick But I know, instinctively, that you're not.

I can spell. I don't know why I can, I just can. I think it is because I used to read a lot as a kid, and still do.

There are rules for its, it's and such like. All over the internets, they are. And anyone who still can't work out the difference needs to be shot, as they're easy. Easy as pie. So easy I won't insult myself by trying to explain them. And if you can't be bothered to learn, then fuck you.

But if anyone wants to know the difference between their and there, and when they are appropriate, I have tried to explain, here, below. The internets don't seem to have mastered a good way. I probably won't either, but I'll give it a go. It's there. Down there. There you go. If you don't understand it, then "there, there". Poor baby.

[doesn't know what to write, has coffee, goes for fag]

[has blinding flash of inspiration, comes back, blogs]


THERE. If you can point at it, it's a thing. It can be THERE. Or it can be HERE. Or it can be HERE and THERE. They're spelt the same way, HERE and THERE. Easy Peasy, lemon ... oh shut it, Marv, you supercilious twat.

All right. THERE is a house, in New Orleans. THERE it is. HERE I am, in my house. I haven't really got a house, but had I one, I could be HERE. Or it could be over THERE. Or down THERE. Or under THERE. Or HERE. See?

Does it hurt? THERE, THERE. Nobody knows why people say that. But it's right. Just learn it.


THEIR means "belonging to THEM". There is an HEIR to the throne. He might be Prince Charlie, if HM The Queen ever decides to give it up. She owns the Throne. It belongs to her. But Charles is the HEIR. He will own it. Probably Camilla will have a piece too, so it will belong to both of them. It will be THEIR Throne. He is the HEIR.


Easiest one of the lot. The apostrophe thingy means there's something missing. And that something is a space and an A. THEY'RE means THEY ARE. If you can say THEY ARE then it's usually fine to put THEY'RE, unless you're (YOU ARE) writing something for the government. In that case you have to say THEY ARE. Usually it means THEY MIGHT or THEY ARE NOT. As in THEY AREN'T.

No get back to your twittering and blogging, and get it right. Or I'll make you write out 100 times:



Tuesday, 8 June 2010


And it came to pass that Joe, who was a bit on the old side for procreating, found his missus preggers.
"Bit of a turn-up for the books!" he exclaimed "And the return's overdue. If I don't make it to Bethlehem in time I'm going to get fined; too late to bung it in the post, and the internet's down again."

Bethlehem is a small village near Carlisle. Having benefitted from the rural initiative grant scheme, it was now the HMRC headquarters in the north.

"And I suppose you think I'm going to walk all that way?" Mary replied. "If you'd got the car serviced like I said instead of spending it all on that daft sister of yours we'd be there in an hour. Tell you what, I'll ride the donkey, you can walk. In my condition, 'n' all."

"You don't have to come," Joe returned "I can do it myself. I'll be back tomorrow."

"Yeah, right." Mary said. "You'll be off with your mates to the pub. I'm coming with you."

So off they went, Mary on the donkey, Joe walking. And it snowed.

"Snow, in December!" Joe moaned. "Global warming or what? Someone should've listened to that Michael Fish."

"Told you to wear your hat." Mary said, helpfully.

Just as they got to Bethlehem Mary felt a pain. Joe said she always felt a pain, but this time something was up.

"Oooooh." she cried. "You know, I think I'm having it."

"Having it?" Joe questioned.

"The baby. I'm having it."

"Oh, well, that's handy then. Right here, in the snow?"

"There's a pub. We'll get a room. Someone will know what to do."

"See? If I was on my own I wouldn't be going to the pub. I told you to stay at home. Must have been all that jogging up and down on the donkey."

Joe went into the bar and asked the guvnor whether he did B&B.

The guvnor laughed. "We do B&B, but you've got no chance. It's Christmas, the Plod are out in force, stopping anyone and breathalysing them. Targets, you know. We're fully booked until after new year."

"Yebbut, my missus is up the duff. She's having it. Like, now! Surely you can fit us in?" Joe pleaded.

"Not a chance, mate." the guvnor replied. "And don't call me Shirley."

"And what am I meant to do? She's having it. Large. You can't expect her to do it outside in the road, what with the snow coming down cats and dogs."

"Look, out the back there's a barn. Used to keep chickens in it until the EU said we couldn't. Bit mucky, there's a trough in there they used to eat from. And straw, used to keep the eggs warm. I say, a bit mucky, but you can have it for nowt if you like. We can probably find some blankets and stuff. Not ideal. Best bet would be the hospital, but that closed down in the last load of cuts, along with the Post Office, school and the shops."

"Great." Joe said miserably. "Just great. Here we are, miles from home, car packed up, chucking it down with snow, and we get to sleep in a barn. Great. I'll tell Mary, then."

Mary was not too chuffed. "Do what?" she cried. "A bloody barn? I'm not having it. Where's the nearest hospital?"

"There isn't one, any more." Joseph replied. "It got shut down with all the other infrastructure in the latest cutbacks. It's now the HMRC HQ."

"Right then, let's get on with it. Soap, towels, blankets, gin." Mary said, rather bossily.

"Leave it to me," Joe replied eagerly "I'll be back in a mo."

Joe left Mary in the barn and went to the pub.

"Any chance of soap, towels, stuff like that?" he asked the guvnor.

"Expect so. Are you having anything? Beer?" the guvnor encouraged.

"Is the Pope a catholic?"

"Right you are, pint of Best," the guvnor complied "Marge! Can you get some soap and towels from the laundry room for this chap?"

"Cheers, mate!" Joe exclaimed gratefully. "All the best."

An hour later, Joe went back to the barn with the stuff.

"Where's my gin, then?" Mary asked, brusquely.

"Forgot." Joe replied.

"Forgot? Bet you didn't forget to have one for yourself?"

"Er, hold on, I'll go and get you one." Joe offered.

"Forget it. You'll be gone ages. Anyhow, it's coming. Feels like it's coming nooooooooooooooooow!" Mary shrieked, and with that she had the kid.

Joe put the towels in the trough and popped the little chap on top, then covered it up with his jumper.

"Well done, girl!" Joe congratulated Mary. "I thought that was going to be a long job."

"Off you go and get my gin then. I'll have a large one, ice and a slice." Mary said, relieved.

Joe went back into the bar and got Mary's gin, and another beer for himself. Half an hour later, he went back into the barn, where the new arrival had just disgraced himself all over the towels.

"Cor, what's that smell?" Joe asked.

"The little man, he's done a number two." Mary explained. "Not too good."

"But he hasn't eaten anything yet!" Joe pointed out. "How has he managed that?"

"Better clean it up," Mary said "I'll have my drink."

"Great." moaned Joe. "Just great."

~ 2 ~

It happened that there was also a meeting of MENSA, North of England branch, in the pub that night. All three of them were there. Very clever chaps, but like many clever chaps, not necessarily wise.

One of them, Mel, looked up from his Su Doku and commented "That bloke who just came in, did he say something about his missus being in the club?"

"Aye, that he did." agreed Gaz. "Said he was staying in the barn, upstairs is full again."

"What's happening out back?" Mel shouted, in the general direction of the bar.

"Bloke's missus just had a kid!" the guvnor responded. "They're out the back, in the barn. Too bloody cold, I reckon, but there's no room in the B&B, Plod being on the case 'n' all."

"Aye, that's true enough." Gaz agreed. "Perhaps we ought to take them something round, to cheer them up?"

"Reckon that would be much appreciated." the guvnor said.

The three bright chaps thought about it, and came to a decision. They would get whatever they could, shops being shut not helping, and pop round to see the new arrival and give it something meaningful.

"I've got a gold watch. Won it in the chess championship last year, don't really like it. Do you think that would be a good thing?" Mel asked.

"Aye!" the others agreed.

Gaz offered "I've got one of those joss stick burners, got it from Glastonbury earlier in the year, cheap, it was the last day. Might be handy to disguise those 'baby' smells, don't you think?"

"Aye!" the others agreed.

The third man said "I've got a bottle of Mure in my room upstairs. Use it to mix with the rubbish red wine they sell in here, makes it palatable. It's not open, so it would be a good pressie. No?"

"Aye!" the others agreed,predictably.

So the three fetched their respective presents and went to the barn.

"Eyup!" they said, in unison.

"Who are you?" Mary asked.

"We're just three blokes who were in t'pub." said Gaz.

"Having a meeting, but more having a beer." agreed Mel.

The third man said "So we thought we'd pop over and congratulate you, heard about the nipper, brought you a couple of bits."

They presented the Gold watch, incense burner, and Mure.

"What's this?" Joe asked.

The third man explained "This is Gold," pointing to the watch "and, to be frank, incense; a burner that came from Glastonbury. And this is a bottle of Mure, goes well in cheap red wine."

"Well, cheers, blokes." said Joe. "The littl'un's in the trough over there. Don't wake him up, I've just put a clean nappy on him."

"Ahhh" the three said, as everyone does when they see a tiny asleep. And they left.

Joe and Mary wrapped themselves up in the blankets and went to sleep for the night.

~ 3 ~

Cumbria is one of the few places left in the north that still farms sheep. It's used for wool, milk and for getting massive subsidies from the EU. At lunchtime on Boxing Day, being a bank holiday, three sheep farmers made their way to the Dog and Ferret to have an extended lunchtime beer.

Supping their beer, one of them overhead the guvnor telling one of the regulars "rare old thing the night before last, a chap came in with his missus, had to put them in the barn. Snowing like a snowy thing, it was, and she was in the club, and had the kid right there and then. They'll be over in a minute for lunch. Don't normally do lunch Boxing Day but as it's busy the cook's in."

"Excuse me!" butted in one of the sheep farmers. "Tell you what, I can get you a couple of decent lamb legs, had them just defrosted 'cos sis was coming over with the family, but one of the kids got the flu and they can't come. Be a shame to waste it."

"That'd be really great." said the guvnor's wife. "I'll swap the legs for a free dinner for you three."

"That's good of you!" said the sheep farmer. "You're an angel!"

"Aww, think nothing of it." she replied. "You know there's the couple who came in the night before last, the ones that had the kid? They'll be really grateful. My name's Gabby, by the way. Short for Gabrielle, but they call me Gabby."

The sheep farmer went off to get the lamb, he'd only had one beer so he was under the limit. On the way back though, he got stopped for using the mobile phone and got a £30 fine.

Joe and Mary came over with the boy, enjoyed the lamb. The sheep farmers had a quick look at the kid and saw that Gabby had been telling the truth, though it's difficult to understand why they would have thought otherwise.

But not everything was good news. In the excitement, Joe had forgotten about taking in his return. Tomorrow was too late, and today, being a bank holiday, the HMRC office was shut.

You'd think it was their money, the way they carried on. Threats, paperwork, picky officers going through the returns with a fine toothcomb. The particular officer in charge of Joe's case was a chap called Mr Herod. They don't have first names, the officers. Just Herod.

In a flash of inspiration, Joe hatched a story which even Herod couldn't pick at. He'd use the boy as an excuse. Write a letter to the HMRC office, and send in the return, tell them that he WOULD have sent it back on time, which effectively was about three weeks ago, but the wife had the baby early, that sort of thing. Even Herod wouldn't be so cruel as to penalise him for something so beyond his control.

And that's what he did. Crafted an excuse, popped it in the envelope with the return, sent it off.

Two days later, when Joe and Mary had returned home, there was a knock on the door. Mary answered it, and there stood one of Herod's henchmen.

"Apparently you have a newborn, about four weeks old?" the henchman said. "I'm from HMRC, we've got a cock-and-bull story which, frankly, we don't believe, and I've come to see the evidence for myself."

Mary was taken aback. Four weeks old? What had Joe been up to? She wasn't about to give the game away, though.

Joe, in the kitchen, overheard what was going on. He panicked. He had to hide the baby. Anyone would quickly see that the wrinkly little thing wasn't anywhere near four weeks old. Quickly, he stuffed him into a shopping basket, ran out the back, across the road to the stream, and stuffed the basket in some reeds. He ran back into the house, and was confronted by the officer.

"My name is Mr Crewell." announced the henchman. "I need to see this newborn to validate the story which, quite frankly, we believe you made up in order to disguise the fact that your return is late, and if we find that you have been disingenuous, you will be prosecuted to the maximum extent allowed by law, including, but not limited to, a massive fine and life imprisonment, as well as indefinite interest on any further payments you may make to us in the next twenty-five years."

"Ah." said Joe, rather inadequately. Then continued, after some hesitation "He's asleep."

"No matter," said Mr Crewell, "I just need to see him to ensure that this isn't all nonsense."

"He's asleep, but he's not here either." Joe responded, vainly hoping that this apparition would evaporate into nothingness with a brief and quiet 'poof!'

"If he's not here, how do you know he's asleep?" enquired Mr Crewell, rather obviously.

"Because it's one o'clock, and he's always asleep at one o'clock." responded Joe, lamely.

"And if he's not here, then where is he?" asked Mr Crewell.

"He's at the babysitters'."

"And where, may I ask, is the babysitter?"

"With the boy."

"Where, geographically?"

"Quite near."

"Good. Then perhaps you can take me there, and the business will be finished."

"We might wake him up."

"I will promise to be extremely quiet."

"Can we wait an hour, until he's awake?" Joe ventured. "He always wakes up about two o'clock, for his feed."

"What do you mean, 'always'?" Mary helpfully interjected.

"Well, he is, isn't he? He was yesterday, for instance." Joe blabbered.

"I see. Yes, then." Mary said, grudgingly.

"Two o'clock, and not a moment later. I have other important business. I really do despise some aspects of this job" grumbled Mr Crewell.

"Cup of tea?" Mary offered.

"Lemon. No sugar." Crewell said, rudely.

"I must pop out. Won't be long." said Joe, and hurried out of the back door.

~ 4 ~

Joe retrieved the shopping basket from the river, with the youngster still intact. Luckily. He needed a plan. He didn't know anyone with an approximately four-week old kid, and it wasn't likely that a complete stranger, even assuming he could find one in the next half-hour, would be willing to lend him one.

One option would be to flee. Not a good option, especially with the little chap in his possession. If Herod and his men didn't find him, Mary would, and his life wouldn't be worth living. Emigrate? Perhaps to Egypt? Not really. The responsibility of the tot in a strange country, without access to any money - a non-starter.

So, a suitable baby needed to be found and quickly. A loan? With his baby as a deposit, a hostage, if you like. Where do four-week old kids hang out? Maternity wards? No, they get them in and out in days. Playschool? Too early. Creche? Too early. Supermarkets? Perfect. Even mothers need to shop. And dads would be dead keen to get back to work, for the rest.

So, faced with a crisis of monstrous proportions in the form of one Mr Herod and his henchman Crewell, Joe went shopping.

In the supermarket, Joe found what he was looking for. A roughly four-week old, in blue. Same colour hair as he, face like a bulldog. Perfect. All he needed to do now was to borrow the thing. Just for half an hour, enough time to nip back, present it to Crewell, and his work was done. The little chap seemed to belong to someone though, a rather pretty lady of comparatively tender years, buying egg custard in a jar. A story was needed, and quickly. Luckily Joe had in his possession a slightly smelly offspring of his own, always a good conversation starter. He approached the mother, gingerly, and sidled up to her.

"I don't suppose there is any chance that you might have a spare nappy about you?" Joe enquired.

"Hm. I think I smell what you mean." replied the lady, with a wry smile.

"I'd really appreciate it. I'm only out for a few minutes and I didn't bring anything with me." Joe said, truthfully.

"Of course. Hold on a moment, there's one in the bottom of my bag. There's a changing room in the loo at the back of the shop. Would you like me to help you with it?" asked Mother.

It's a funny thing. Men alone in shops are always the object of every lady's attentions, whether it be shop assistants or customers. They seem to want to help the hapless man.

"Would you? That would be great!" said Joe, and made for the back of the shop.

The job duly done, Joe was wondering how he could broach the subject of borrowing the stranger's pride and joy. He could think of absolutely no way to start, and did not have the neck to just come right out and ask.

"You seem a bit edgy." said Mother. "Are you all right?"

Joe hesitated. "Er, sort of. You'd think I was mad if I told you."

"Try me." invited Mother.

"Well, it's a long story, and I don't have the time." Joe replied. "It's sort of life and death, sort of, you see. I have half an hour to find a four-week old looking boy to show to someone."

"I'm intrigued." encouraged Mother.

"I have exaggerated a story a little, and my bluff has been called." Joe explained. "And now, I have a Mr Crewell of HMRC in my house, wanting to see evidence of something which I don't have. That being the said four-week old number. And I have this little chap, who obviously is a very recent addition to the human race, and even the henchman - sorry, officer - isn't going to buy that."

"Mr Crewell, you say?" said Mother.

"Crewell by name ..." started Joe.

"So am I!" interrupted Mother.

Joe's heart leaped into his mouth, displacing the foot which had been there only seconds ago. He was taken aback. He had no idea at all what to do or say, and wanted again to wake up from this terrible dream, this nightmare to end all nightmares.

"Well, I was." continued the lady.

"What? Was? Eh? Argh!" Joe stammered, looking round for the nearest exit.

"Crewell." Mother explained. "The man in your house is my ex-husband. Mr Crewell of Her Maj's Moneygrubbers."

"He seems a lot older than you." Joe observed.

"He seems it. He's only a couple of years older than me. And he is truly a horrible man. I honestly don't know what I was doing. Most of the officers are like him, too. Creepy. I'm happy again now, as you can see from Moses here! My new husband is a victim of Crewell, that's how I met him, sort of."

Joe breathed a deep, long and very visible sigh of relief.

"So you want to borrow my little laddie. How long for? Where?" offered Mother.

"For about half an hour, now, at my house, five minutes' walk away." replied Joe, hardly believing his luck.

"No problem. He mustn't see me." said Joe's new-found friend.

"I'll make sure. Can you look after my babe?" Joe asked.

"Of course." Mother replied. "Insurance." And she gave that wry smile again.

They made their way back to Joe and Mary's house, made the swap. Mother, who turned out to be of the name Wendy Wenceslas, was playing with the few-day old chap in the park a block away. Joe returned to the kitchen via the back door, carrying Moses in his arms. He was gurgling away, like small things do. And Crewell was furious.

"Ah. I see." Crewell said, numbly. He wanted his pound of flesh. There was no flesh to be had. People like Crewell want bad things, and they thrive on bad things. Robbed of his opportunity, he hurriedly made his exit.

Just as he left, Mary came into the kitchen from the living room.

"Who's this?" she asked, confused. "And where's ours?"

"Don't worry. Don't be afraid." Joe comforted. "Because it's good news. Ours is in safe hands, and I'll get him back in a few moments. This one is Moses. Don't ask. I borrowed him from someone I met in the shop. Wendy Something. She's Crewell's ex."

"And you really expect me to believe that?" Mary asked. "This is too far-fetched for words."

"You couldn't make it up, could you?" Joe said. "But we're out of trouble. Hold on to Moses for a second, I'll be back."

With that, he went off to fetch Wendy, and the happy chappie. They returned to the house together, much to the relief of Mary.

"Well, all's well that ends well!" Joe said, inadequately.

"Just by way of interest, what's your baby's name?" Wendy asked.

"Er, well, we sort of haven't got around to thinking much about it yet." Mary said. "We were going to call him 'Christmas' but it sounds a bit silly."

"How about 'Jesus'?" Wendy offered. "Why not? It's becoming more and more popular these days."

So Jesus it was. Joe, Mary and Wendy became the best of friends. And Jesus grew up with Moses. And Crewell got his come-uppance.

And Herod? Well, he seems to have vanished somewhere in history.

And that's the story of Christmas.