LibDemVoice is delighted to bring you A Christmas Carol, a contemporary re-imagining of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, told in five staves (as Dickens called them). Part One, Mensch’s Ghost, was published yesterday. Here’s the second stave, The Ghost of Avarice Past…
As sketched by Bodz
Osborne sat on the stone bench and shivered. Mensch’s Ghost bothered him exceedingly. “It couldn’t have happened,” he moaned to himself. “There must have been something in that damned Starbucks coffee. Perhaps it is a revenge for my tax crackdown. Bah! Starbucks!”
Very soon, despite the cold, he was drifting in and out of a troubled sleep.
A sharp crack awoke him. Where had he heard that noise before? Crack! He turned to seek the source of the sound. The snow storm eased and he saw the ghost of a leather clad woman striding along the platform towards him. She was carrying a whip.
Crack! He cowered as the tip of the whip lashed inches from his ear. “Don’t you recognise me Georgie Porgy?” the ghostly dominatrix said softly.
“Uh, uh, oh, no, I don’t remember,” Osborne snivelled. Crack! The whip snapped at his other ear and he jerked his head upright.
“That’s right. Look at me, Georgie. Do you remember me now?”
“Mistress, I mean Natalie,” Osborne whimpered. She lifted his head high with the crop of the whip. “Mistress who?” she asked softly.
“I don’t remember,” he cried. She brought the crop down hard on his shoulder. “Mistress who?” she demanded hitting him again. “That hurts. Pain! Pain!” he sobbed.
“That’s right Georgie Porgy. I’m Mistress Pain. I am the Ghost of your Avaricious Past. Now come with me my little boy.”
“No, no” Osborne pleaded. “Please no.”
Mistress Pain laughed. “No? That’s what you always said when you really meant yes, Georgie. Now come with me. Now!”
Before Osborne could protest further, she had handcuffed his wrist to hers. He felt her hot breath on his ear. “Just like old times,” she whispered. “Hang onto your hat, Georgie.”
And with that command, they were away flying upwards through the clouds. Before long they had spiralled through the dreaming spires of Oxford and were standing in the Great Quad of Magdalen College.
“Please, please let me go,” Osborne begged. Mistress Pain pressed the crop of her whip against his cheek and leant forward to within a few inches of his face. Osborne pursed his lips in anticipation of a kiss. “Come back soon, darling,” she whispered. Then she released the handcuffs and was gone.
Osborne looked around desperately but there was no one to be seen. But he was not alone. From the dark cloisters he heard a baying that turned his blood as cold as his nose. “Jelly, jelly, jelly. Jelly Belly!”
A man emerged from the gloom of the cloister. “Hello, Jelly Belly,” Boris roared. Osborne leapt with a start and turned to face the speaker. “Boris,” he gasped. “What are you doing here?” Before Boris could reply, other men had appeared from the darkness, each and every one of them wearing the distinctive dark blue tailcoat of the Bullingdon Club. “Oh, hello Rothschild,” Osborne said half-heartedly. “Hi Cameron, I mean David, sir.” After a while, Osborne had shaken hands with a dozen men. The pack of Bullingdons then cheerfully set off arm in arm with Osborne to the King’s Arms.
There they requisitioned a room and spent a splendid two hours quaffing beer and champagne, telling very tall stories and warming themselves by a roaring fire. Osborne was thankful to have found a use for his curious hat, for it was being used to collect donations from the boisterous company towards the bar bill.
“Let’s move on!” cried Boris. Osborne put down his bottle of Pilsner in panic. “Oh, give me a moment. I must go to the bathroom.”
On his return, Osborne discovered to his dismay that the Bullingdons had departed. To his anger he found that the hat was empty. “Bah! Starbucks!” he cried.
He dashed to the door only to find his way barred by a brute of a doorman. “Your mates haven’t paid! Pay up or I’ll call the police,” the brute said. “Oh, oh.” Osborne replied. “Do you take RBS cards? I own half the bank you know.” The brute sneered at him. “That’s what all you toffs say. Pay up!”
Five minutes later, and some hundreds of pounds poorer, Osborne was slipping and sliding along Broad Street, seeking the pack of Bullingdons. As it was, they took very little discovering. He could hear them howling and hissing behind the Sheldonian Theatre and he soon found them in the Old Schools Quad. To his fury they had set roaring fire underway in one corner.
“No, no” he cried. “It’s against the oath.”
“What oath?” Boris cried. “We need to keep warm.”
“The Bodleian oath!” screamed Osborne. In his panic, he struggled to remember the pledge that every newcomer to the library is forced to cite. “Erh, item neque ignem nec flammam in bibliothecam…” The flames roared higher. He shouted louder abandoning the Latin. “You must not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame.”
But it was too late. Osborne looked on with horror as the Bodleian began to be slowly but inexorably consumed by flames. “You can’t set the Bodleian on fire,” Osborne screamed. “We have!” cried the assembled Bullingdons. One of them turned to Osborne: “Just write a cheque for the damage, will you Jelly old man? Money excuses everything you know.”
And with that, the assembled Bullingdons marched beneath the flaming Tower of the Five Orders in search of more beer and champagne.
Alone in the burning quad, Osborne felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned nervously to find the ghost of Mistress Pain leering at him. “Tut, tut,” she whispered. “It’s easy to dismantle, to burn, to cut, to slash, to destroy when you are driven by avarice.”
As she spoke these words, the flaming remains of the Tower began to crash to the ground beside them. “Get me out of here,” Osborne screamed at the apparition. “Please get me out of here. I’m a Chancellor, get me out of here!”
And then, without knowing how he got there, he found himself alone and shivering on Corby station.
“It must have been a nightmare” he shouted, though there was no one to listen. “It must have been the bloody coffee,” he cursed. “Never again. Bah! Starbucks!”
* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem living in Ludlow, Shropshire. He writes on communities, planning, the environment and history.