Death to grumpery - Hola! By Jan Needle

     My old father, sadly, got to be quite a grumpy old git in the years before he succumbed to seventy years of constant smoking (he started at eight; I leave you to do the sums). But even as a younger man he wasn’t keen on such foolishness as Christmas. He once acquired a miniature costermongers barrow as a surprise present for me, and when I found it hidden at the bottom of the yard, sold it to someone else. Didn’t tell me, and when I’d spent most of the festive morning happily hunting for it, was quite surprised when I burst into tears on hearing the sad truth. Come to think of it, maybe he was always a grumpy old git. Who knows?
The point is, when I got children of my own – and mindful of the old saw that we all turn into our mums and dads – I was determined to be the Christmas party animal par excellence. My greatest triumph was when I got a local handyman to run me up a sit-in perambulating railway engine for Hughie when he was about five. I’m telling you, I can still remember the look of dazed delight on his astonished mug. Superdad lives. I tried just as hard for all the others, too. Sadie’s still got the giant plastic pink wristwatch (I mean giant – it was for hanging on the wall) that I dragged home from Stockport market one Christmas Eve. She assumed, volubly, that it must have cost Santa a considerable fortune, being so big. Who was I to spoil the fun? It was four and tenpence.
As the children grew up and away, I could quite easily have adopted the mantle of grump, I guess. But as most of you must know by now, the motors of my life are boats, music and work. The glory of being a writer is that none of those is mutually incompatible. Last week I had to spend three freezing days moving a canal boat, but had productive evenings hutched up to the stove with my laptop.
And when I got home it was Sunday. And down at the Cross Keys, among the other superstars, was my friend Eliza P. With a Christmas song about a Christmas in warmer climes. Eliza writes her songs herself, and they are wonderfully funny. She writes the tunes as well, and they are transcendental. She accompanies herself on her guitar, and she laughs an awful lot. So do we. My father – who loved music dearly – would have been a different man had he known Ms P. He would have helped Father Christmas muck out his reindeers, unpaid – and done it for love.
Without the tune and the atmosphere you will miss a lot, obviously. But Eliza said I could put the song up on the blog, and you’ve all got good imaginations – that’s why you’re here. Think crowded pub back room, coal roaring in the range, pints and guitars, accordians – Eliza, strange woman, with a cup of tea. Don’t just read the words, imagine them. It’s Christmas Day in Andalucia, mince pies among the expat crims of Spain. A poor minstrel girl offered a free weekend. Of luxury!
Here goes… (the la la-ing looks weird on paper, but is delightful when sung).

Falala la la lalalalala

I was wandering 'round Spain at Christmas, when I met some people that I kind of knew.
They said "we're going to Wayne's villa for our Christmas dinner – it would be nice if you could come too…
Wayne is big in timeshare, he's a Millionaire with a swimming pool." Well it wasn't my scene, but they seemed pretty keen.
And I had nothing else to do.

So we drove through the mountains of Spain – to Wayne's.

We pulled up at the villa. There stood two gorillas, with handlebar moustaches and a gun apiece.
With a jolly Hola! they inspected the car..."Oh that's Wayne's Bodyguards" my friend said to me –
"And there's Cheryl, his wife, she's ever so nice, she'll look after ya
"But we did mean to say at some point on the way... well he's had a slight brush with the Mafia!"

Christmas Day in Andalucia
The sky is bright and clear
It's the Merriest Christmas on the Mafia hit-list
Arriba! Get me outahere!

There we met Wayne, he was sporting gold chains and designer gear.
And then I saw this angry red scar that stretched from his ear – to his other ear
He explained that the mob had burst in at his job, and tried to kill him with a great big knife.
Till the brave office cleaner, armed with a fire extinguisher, battled – and saved his life.
He said it was mistaken identity. He'd done nothing to antagonise 'em
Then he ushered us in with a tight little grin. And one eye on the  distant horizon.

His mother was nice, she gave us mince pies, and told us we'd have a good Christmas.
"Have a nice paper crown – oh and keep your head down
If you happen to pass any windows."

So we did.

Falala la la lalalalala!

Christmas Day in Andalucia
The sky is bright and clear
It's the Merriest Christmas on the Mafia hit-list
Arriba! Get me outahere!

The tree was festive, the food was impressive, the old Christmas spirit came reeling in
We found comedy hats for the Bodyguard chaps
That were skulking outside by the wheeliebin.
Wayne took us to the garage to show off his cars
With the Bodyguards almost on top of us –
In case of harassing from passing assassins, intent on dispatching the lot of us.

That did it for me, I was ready to flee – but I had no means of escape.
I'd have got out of there if I'd known where we were,
But I didn' I had to stay.
Well I checked my bed – there was no horse’s head – so I got in it.
But I couldn't rest, I'd no bullet-proof vest – I'd forgotten it.

So I hid in the wardrobe for a bit

Falala la la lalalala

Christmas Day in Andalucia
The sky is bright and clear
It's the Merriest Christmas on the Mafia hit-list
Arriba! Get me outahere!

Wayne offered us one of his luxury villas for a couple of nights free of rent.
But I'd done enough time on the Costa del Crime...

I spent Boxing Day


In my tent

Yes I did, falala la la lalalaa!

PS from Eliza: I am aware that they do not ordinarily have wheelie bins in the mountainous regions of Spain... But it rhymed so well and I figured he would be inclined and rich enough to import one! ;-)

Eliza is on Facebook, of course, and believe me, she's well worth a click.  

There are some good pix of her, which I couldn't download onto this blog for some reason beyond my understanding. Songs, as well.

You can also find pix and listen to some songs at and

ANOTHER UNEXPECTED CHRISTMAS TREAT came not from the great traditions of music and song, but the internet. There in my inbox was a message from someone I didn’t know called Barry Hutchison. ‘I’m doing an advent calendar on my blog this year,’ it said – ‘and you’re the Sixth Day. Click here.’

So I did (as Eliza P might sing). And discovered this:

WAGSTAFFE THE WIND-UP BOY by Jan Needle was one of those books that really had an impact on me when I first read it. I discovered the book when I was nine years old. This was the same year I decided I wanted to be an author, and I honestly think the two things are directly connected.
To nine-year-old me, this story of a robotic boy who can pee through his finger was just the bee's knees.

 and got the calendar in all its glory.

Barry’s a writer now, as he always wanted to be, and his blog styles him as ‘the king of apocalyptic comedy. Allegedly.’ I’m signed up to the blog, and his newsletter, and I’ll be heading into his books asap. Great thing the internet, innit?

Merry Christmas!

PS: Just got a letter from Amazon. The most defamatory (and dishonest) "crit" (a whole one star!) of Killing Time at Catterick has been removed by their legal department. Wonder what the team of orchestrated literary assassins at ARRSE will make of that.


julia jones said…
Only just got here - end of the day. Loved it, shared it tweeted it. Thanks for the cheer -
Pauline Fisk said…
I love it too. something to smile at as I fall asleep, here in sleepy 1.00 am Shrewsbury. Thank you.Goodnight.

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