A Christmas Tale
General Despair’s Mission to Save Christmas — Part 3
“Hello and welcome to the 9 o’clock evening news. Today is the 17th March 2023. The main story tonight, Lord Have-Mercy’s public inquiry into the Ministry of Defence’s controversial delivery of Christmas stockings on December 24th, 2020.
“It has become yet another issue to divide the nation. Allegations of cronyism, corruption and extreme waste have been compounded by evidence that the scheme contributed to the rapid spread of the virus’ most deadly strain.
“But support for the scheme is also strong. Up to one hundred thousand newly employed delivery drivers have rallied behind their leader, Jeff Bezos, who is campaigning, via a go fund me page, for General Despair to be ordained. Mr Bezos claims that December 24th, 2020 was the best night of his life, and that it would simply have not been possible without the compassion of the British State.
“The inquiry itself has also come under fire, after it emerged that Lord Have-Mercy’s step-brother-in-law, Lord Almighty, was himself involved in the scheme. There is not yet any evidence of criminal wrong-doing, and everyone involved has declined to comment.
“In the studio today we have General Despair and his elite team, here to comment on their fate.
The studio was a high tech forest of wires and metal bars. The swivel chairs were comfortable, but the lights were bright and hot, and everyone had started to sweat. It was also impossible to see into the dark beyond them, such that the room may have been large or small, you could not tell. Refreshments were provided on a steel and glass table in the green room. In one plate lay a pile of chopped, fresh, juicy pineapple. The Corporal had inspected with surprise and joy. Perhaps things were finally looking up?
“General, is there anything you would like to say to Mr Bezos?”
“Well, look, the most important thing is that the British people got lots of new stuff. OK, many people died, but I think we can all agree that everyone has a right to new stuff. And it is only right and proper that the British Government did what it could to ensure they got it.”
“Clear and to the point, I like it” replied the news anchor.
“And to Mr Bezos, I would say thank you for doing your bit in society, and of course I am flattered by his suggestion that I be ordained. It’s just another example of British business contributing to British society.”
“Amazon isn’t British.”
“Yes, well, I guess it could have been. But listen, the point is that everyone got new stuff. And that is what we stand for.”
“Thank you General.
“Moving on, if I may, to Private Parts. I understand you are looking to sign a book deal in which you slander the rest of your team and reveal our nation’s top secrets?
“Yes, you will love it. Check out my Medium blog for a taster … It’s great, they will let you post anything there.”
“Indeed they will. Thank you everyone. We will be back soon but I’m getting word that we can now go live to the Royal Courts of Justice where, from the next-door Costa Coffee, Lord Have-Mercy is about to read his statement.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Lord Have-Mercy began. “My team and I have gone through all of the relevant documents. We have listened to both sides of the argument. And we have tried Costa Coffee’s exquisite new Italian Spiced Caramel Skinny Chai Macchiato Latte.
“Some things, with the benefit of hindsight,” he paused, “or foresight, are clear. Without a doubt, General Despair reigned supreme over this whole calamity of an operation, but we can all learn the lessons.
“We were posed with many trade-offs that December of 2020. Our health, or our wellbeing. Our Grandmas, or our economy. Cover our nose and mouth, or scowl at strangers. Learn from the experiences of others, or desperately search for our own solutions.
“These were all tough decisions to make, and anyone who says they got them all right is clearly lying. But I am proud to say that we can go one step further. We got them all wrong.
“General Despair and his elite team forgot that without health, there is no wellbeing. That if too many of us are sick or scared to go outside, there is no economy. That most of a scowl is in the eyebrows. And that many parts of the world had already learnt how much cheaper it was, in terms of money, lives and livelihoods, to control this virus through stricter compliance of social distancing, wearing face masks and good sanitation.
“It is indeed likely that the scheme encouraged some part of the unprecedented rise in cases throughout early 2021. However, we cannot rule out other possibilities, such as a Russian deep fake virus, transmitted via Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Or perhaps a Chinese dance routine shared on TikTok. Bad things are rarely our fault, and this is no exception.
“The cost of the scheme was, indeed, large. £210 billion is the size of Finland or Pakistan’s entire annual economy. Could the money have been spent better? Yes. Was it raised through corrupt practices? Without a doubt. Who will bear the cost? The taxpayer. So, there is not really anything more to say about that.
“It is absolutely blatant to me that General Despair’s mission to save Christmas was extortionately expensive, unambiguously illegal and devastatingly deadly.
“With that in mind, and with great pleasure, I am recommending the General and his team for our nation’s highest military honour — the Charing Cross. I can announce to you that tomorrow morning I will be proposing to Her Majesty the Queen that this elite team of Great British experts be recognised for their unflinching, quick thinking and decisive action in the presence of a most fearful and heartless enemy.
“Oh, wait one moment, I am just checking my notes. Yes, that’s it. In the case of Corporal Punishment, on account of her being an immigrant, I am instead recommending to the Home Office that she be deported with immediate effect. Her actions have brought great harm to British citizens. Erm, and it says here that I am to make that recommendation tonight, on account of its urgency. But the rest will be recommended for the Charing Cross first thing tomorrow morning. I congratulate you all!”
“Wow,” back in the news room. “Isn’t that brilliant news everyone? I guess, other than for you Corporal?”
“What?” the Corporal inquired. “Did he just say I’m being deported?”
“Erm, yes, I believe so.”
To which Corporal Punishment jumped onto the table raised her hands in joy.
“YYYEEEEEEESSSSSSSSS! I am finally going home!”
There was one thing that neither scientists nor journalists nor politicians noticed back in that December of 2020.
In a far-off land, away from brightly lit cityscapes, crowded shopping malls and rainy traffic jams, three shepherds walked the wide and windy desert. The sand had lost the heat it had absorbed throughout the day, and the night’s sky was clear. There was not a sound to be heard, except for the footsteps and shuffles of the three men and their camels. They looked from star to star, knowing all too well what they were seeing.
Two paths were crossing. Two paths that had not crossed for two thousand years. As Jupiter and Saturn tentatively approached each other, the shepherds had started to move. Day by day they got closer. Then, when they finally met, just as before, the effect was glorious. A bright and shining star, guiding them through the night.
They followed this celestial sign to a small and rural dwelling. The cycle of history had come full circle, and was about to start again. A baby had been born, sent to save the world.
To save it from what? Well, that depends on who you ask.