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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

Preparing For Christmas

The secret of a successful Christmas is careful planning.

I commenced Christmas preparations in July when I arranged to have a letter sent to my relatives informing them of my death. To avoid funeral attendance, the letter explained that I had succumbed to salmonella on a cross channel ferry and, for health and safety reasons, had been buried at sea.

This forestalled receipt of family Christmas cards, particularly those containing long, tedious, duplicated, personal chronologies of the year. It also excused me effort and expense on reciprocal Yuletide greetings. Critically, however, it prevented any possibility of an invitation to spend Christmas day with family members.

As a pensioner living alone, invitations to be subjected to this annual, charitable, Christian ordeal are an ever present danger. This is particularly true in my village where residents seem to have sworn a solemn oath that no person who lives alone shall ever have a nice, peaceful Christmas day.

It was to address this diabolic covenant that, from November, I began to inform neighbours that I would be spending Christmas one hundred miles away with my, nonexistent, Cousin Eric. Unfortunately, John and Mavis live in the adjoining semi, and sound passing through the connecting wall would have made it impossible to remain at home without their awareness.

John and Mavis are elderly and might not live much longer, so I initially considered hastening their demise. I concluded, however, that this would be fraught with difficulties: It would have to be executed at the last moment to avoid the possibility of new tenants arriving before Christmas. I also feared that, due to my lack of homicide experience, the police might be more than a match for my cunning. Finally, upon reflection, murdering one’s neighbours seemed somewhat contrary to the Christmas spirit.

Fortunately, these neighbours have a daughter in Australia who they had not seen for five years. The daughter was very grateful for my letter about the declining heath of her parents and the suggestion that this might be the last opportunity to fly them to Australia for Christmas.

John and Mavis were delighted at this invitation, although unfortunately became aware of my part in its planning. They thanked me profusely and insisted that I join them for Christmas dinner next year. At least I have twelve months to carefully revisit my original plan.

So came Christmas Eve. I placed in my windows the life-sized photographs of my deserted rooms. I then reconstructed my living room in the back bedroom. In the fading light, I loaded a suitcase into my car and waved to several neighbours as I drove away.

The lock-up garage is just two miles away, so I soon concealed the car, donned my black tracksuit and balaclava and returned home along footpaths.

Today is Christmas day. I got up late and didn’t bother to dress. I’ve had a brilliant traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings but no effort due to Marks and Spencers and the microwave. I’ll wash up in February.

Now it’s time for the Queen’s speech. I won’t watch that tedious crap, of course. I think I’ll open my second wine box, have a fag and surf some more pornography on the Internet.

Christmas is wonderful and need not be stressful. It’s all a question of planning.