Bonus "End of Days" edition!

INCLUDING: James Bond, underpants, Hob Nobs and not much else!

MUTANT VIRUS IS EVERYWHERE is something you’d expect to read in a John Wyndham novel, not the front page of Britain’s newspaper of record.

But there it was, the splash headline in Tuesday’s Times. All that was missing, for full doom-laden effect, was the exclamation mark at the end and the strapline HANCOCK: “BRING OUT YOUR DEAD” underneath.

It didn’t get any better inside. CHAOS TILL CHRISTMAS EVE AT PORTS, PANIC BUYERS QUEUE FROM 5AM AND STRIP SUPERMARKET SHELVES, MISERY FOR BRITS LEFT STRANDED ABROAD, TRAVELLERS FROM TIER 4 TOLD TO ISOLATE, POUND SLIDES OVER FEAR OF DOUBLE DIP, ST MAXIMIN IN TOON COVID BATTLE Jesus, and I’d only reached page six.

It’s now Wednesday, and although I wasn’t planning to write a newsletter this week I thought I’d better get one out while I still can. By the time you read this the UK may have been obliterated by an asteroid strike, having already been overrun by Triffids.  

(Even then, I imagine Keir Starmer would emerge from the smoking rubble to announce he warned the government about this last week, and that he has some very interesting plans for devolution in what remains of British Isles.)

Yes – it’s a Festive Clusterf**k, all right, and God Help Ye Merry Gentlemen! But were you really expecting 2020 to go quietly? This year, the merest sniff of optimism has been rewarded with a punishment beating, and to even think we had Covid licked was just asking for trouble. At the risk of being Starmer-ish after the event, the writing was on the wall for Christmas as soon as the vaccine was announced.

Sure enough, instead of James Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life the country is like James Bond in Casino Royale — tied naked to a chair while the virus whips our collective dangling knackers with a length of knotted rope. And while Bond managed to escape, quite frankly I don’t think we’ve got the energy anymore.

So if you don’t mind I won’t wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, because that would be irresponsible.

Instead may I recommend 007’s recipe for martini: four parts vodka to one part dry vermouth, poured over ice. For best results, start drinking as soon as you get up on Christmas morning, and as long as the 4:1 ratio remains the same, and it’s shaken, not stirred, feel free to use a vase or a large bucket.


BORDER BLUES

The closure of the border has wreaked havoc with my band, Reiver, which rehearses every Sunday at Gretna village hall. For while Gordon, Steve and Bob live in Scotland, Malcolm and I do not.

Last weekend there was an ominous portent of things to come when, heading south after band practice, we spotted a Dumfries & Galloway Police patrol car parked next to the border sign itself.

This time the officer let us past with nothing more than a suspicious glare — but it will be a different story on Sunday. Explaining that we are key members of Cumbria and South-West Scotland’s leading rock covers band is unlikely to cut the mustard as our instruments are impounded and we are dragged off to the cells.

Ironically, in the time of the original Border Reivers, there was no border. They lived in lawless area known as “The Debatable Lands”, stretching from the Solway Firth to Langholm, where for over 300 years they stole sheep and killed each other with impunity.  

Gordon suggests we use this as our defence if we get caught; but Malcolm and I aren’t taking the risk. Instead we have agreed to meet for a socially-distanced sherry, while discussing the set list and hurling abuse at Nicola Sturgeon from the safety of England.


PANTS PRESENT

Stung by last week’s criticism about sending my birthday money via BACS, my father responds by sending me an advert for Comfyballs, the latest in supportive underwear for the sagging elderly gentleman.

The implicit threat is that I’ll be getting a pair for Christmas instead of the usual cheque, but he also knows that my self-esteem is already battered by all the targeted ads for Tena Men incontinence pads that keep popping up on my Facebook feed.

It’s just as well I won’t be seeing him this Christmas, because it could turn ugly. Then again we can both now use the traditional get-out of, “You wouldn’t hit an old man with glasses, would you?” – so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.


ON THE BRIGHT SIDE…

It’s not all bad news, though. Here in Cumbria it’s already Christmas Day, according to today’s Cumberland News – which means that by the time you read this I’ll be smashed on martini and watching Mrs Brown’s Boys with a paper crown on my head.

Furthermore, the same newspaper reports that biscuit manufacturer McVitie’s, whose main factory is in Carlisle, is to introduce new versions of Hob Nobs and Digestives which are completely covered in chocolate. They go on sale in January, and already sound like the best £1.79 you’ll spend in 2021.

Finally, it went largely unnoticed this week but Monday was the shortest day. Those extra few seconds of daylight may seem insignificant now, but make no mistake – summer is coming, folks!

Have a good ‘un, and I’ll see you next time.