Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Away In A Manger 

We had a lovely, long Autumn, the yellows and oranges and reds magnificent, as if taken from a paint manufacturer's colour chart, and the leaves seemed to cling to their branches like they would never let go, but when Winter came it did so rudely and abruptly, like someone dropping a sack of logs on your foot and feeling no need to apologise or explain.
Only Rex the Security Guard was unsurprised to see snow in November. He'd smelled it in the air the week before, brought in the last of the spuds and the purple sprouting brocolli, oiled his tools and was sitting pretty on a fresh delivery of grit before anyone else had an inkling.

Charlotte, Bill Surname CEO's loyal PA, is back now from her extended sojourn in the Company X Decompression Home.
The trouble started when she was up some ladders draping England flags on the datacentre walls at the start of the World Cup and Neil, my former team leader, passed by rehearsing for his audition with the Company X Vuvuzela Orchestra.
The orchestra never really took off, which can't be said for poor Charlotte, who thought she was being visited upon by a swarm of angry bees and tried to make good her escape by jumping off the ladders and crashing into the rhodedendrons, only narrowly missing, unlike England.
Doc. Stethoscope, the Company X general practioner, ordered her to take two months off for her arms to reset and a further six years to settle down from her anxiety, which he said was lethally high, the kind of stress levels you only normally see in fighter pilots and public sector workers. Charlotte managed to negotiate that down to six months and the ripple of applause that went round the office on Monday when she screamed incoherently into the crackly bing bong public address system for the first time since June was truly heart warming.
We'd been scraping along on email without her.

Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, is having a bad build up to Christmas.
“Oh my God, Tabs. This job at Debenhams has got my friend Becky really broody,” she confided this afternoon over sort of lattes and cake type things from the wonky vending machine.
“It's only until Christmas, isn't it?” replied Tabs sympathetically.
“Right,” said Tabs. “Of course it is. Sorry, I wasn't really thinking.”
“She's surrounded by bloody kids every day and IT'S SET SOMETHING OFF. I don't know what to do, Tabs.”
The office fell silent, but for occasional slurping. The clock tick tock ticked. Terry and Mike were both out on jobs. Outside my window, Rex and Charlotte were setting up the Company X Christmas Crib in the carpark.

“Do you know what she said the other day, Tabs? She said if she'd known she was going to be out of work all this time she could have used it to have a baby.”
“I see. And she's never... You've never talked about...”
“She's never said anything about babies. Now it's babies all the time. Babies babies babies. She comes in late from the grotto every night after a hard day's elfing and all she wants to do is tell me about the babies they've had in that day.”
“But that's just work talk. She used to talk about, I don't know, savings accounts or whatever when she came in, didn't she? Now she talks about that day's kids. It doesn't mean...”
“It's killing me, Tabs. What if she decides... What if she doesn't want to be my, you know, friend any more? What if she wants to go off and have bloody babies and there's nothing I can do to stop her?”
Stella burst into tears, huge gulping sobs, and I could just see Tabs put a comforting arm around her and shushing her gently.
“There, there. Sshh Stella, it'll be alright. Sshh now, or you'll upset Tim.”
“What am I going to do if it's not alright, Tabs? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?”

Mary and Joseph and a bunch of shepherds and kings and donkeys took their places in the manger, the happy couple stage left, the wise guys to the right, and there in the centre of all things, the object of their attention, the reason for their being there, the tiny Christ child lay, the little baby Jesus, sucking his thumb sagely, thinking his profound and Godly thoughts, backlit with a 100 watt bulb, covered in straw and saw dust and a crisp packet the wind had left.
Away in the distance, lines of cars shuffled slowly along the bypass like a holy procession.
Preston shimmered in a blessed neon glow, while high up in the dead black sky a single star, brighter than all the car headlights combined, brighter than all the dazzling lights of Tesco Express and Poundstretcher and Greggs and HMV and Wilkinsons and Debenhams, blazed it's brilliant, lonesome trajectory across the heavens at a million trillion miles per second, always going nowhere and always coming back.

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