An Aberdeen Nativity by Suzanne Kelly.
Author’s note: Due to some recent developments, it seems the audience for Aberdeen Voice has widened; this is very welcome.
Every year I write an irreverent satirical piece summing up some of the year’s local, occasionally national, issues. Most of this won’t make the blindest bit of sense to those outside our little hamlet; apologies to anyone who invests time reading this, only to wind up scratching their head at the end.
Before recent developments, I had started to write this piece. All previous pieces had steered clear of the religious element of the traditional Christmas story. There were pieces based on Dickens A Christmas Carol, Dr Seuss’ wonderful Grinch, and so on. I hope it doesn’t need to be said I don’t mock anyone’s belief – but I think I’d best go on record as saying such. The story of the Nativity seemed very apt to a country where penniless travellers in need have come seeking shelter; I hope that is clear.
I could have pulled the piece; I could have taken a safer slant for this satire. But as I am determined that recent developments should not change me or what I do, I’m going to keep doing the things I do. Thank you for bearing with me, and even if this won’t be the best piece of satire you’ve ever read (and it certainly won’t be), thank you for understanding the important role satire has in standing up for what’s right, and mocking what is wrong.
Happy holidays, whatever you celebrate.
# # #
And lo, forsooth, result! – It came to pass that travellers from afar came to Aberdeen, a man named Joseph and a woman, Mary.
Verily things were not so good in the region they had come from. This was not far from what is called The Holy Land, where things are even less great, but I digresseth.
The great Caledonian cheiftans had decreed every child would be given a Person Named who would beneficently look into every child’s thoughts and life – for their own good of course.
Mary was heavy with child, and as is of course a good thing, as soon as the couple reached Caledonia, a Person Named was assigned to them. As was the Person Named’s wont, he stayed with them, beneficially watching their every move.
Joseph had come to seek respite from famine and war, which of course were all his personal fault. Perhaps he would landeth one of the many thousands of jobs created in the Shire of the Deen by Caesar Augustus Trumpus Maximus Racist, whose great pleasure palace would be the envy of the civilised world. Placed on the world’s largest dunes of sand, verily the wealthy multitudes would come here for a game of golf and leisure, although it was leagues north of Hadrian’s Wall, in the frozen land of the Picts and Celts. But I digresseth again.
The Person Named had managed to secure a temporary hotel lodging for the homeless couple, a beddeth and breakfasteth which the taxpayer would pay for. Now the taxpayer waxed wroth, for verily they had already paid for a massive number of social homes – some 400 of these were ready for use, but were sitting empty.
Peterus Leonardus Ruminant Vermin-Slayer Totallus Incompetentus, the head of the city’s housing, had decreed it was too complicated to give these homes a good use, and anyway, he was far too busy ridding the city of its roe deer menace. He claimed that a roe deer caused one chariot accident every week. This may in part have been because Leonardus had destroyed every bit of meadow the poor creatures had, but again, I digresseth.
The hotel was, according to the brochure the Person Named had acquired, supposed to be an iconic, smart, forward-looking building breathing new life into the heart of Aberdeen.
However, when Joseph, Mary and the Person Named arrived at their hotel, alas! It was still under construction, although it should have been finished months ago. A giant scraper of the sky, towering over the other buildings in Aberdeen, including some dusty old relic called the Provost’s House – it could not house them. The Person Named exclaimed:
“Behold what mighty works there are here in Aberdeenland. Great towers of glass and concerete so great as to block out the sky and light! Result!”
Joseph whispered to Mary:
“I wonder that the city’s senators would allow such ugly carbuncles to be erected amid the pleasant Granite buildings and suspected some shekels had traded hands. This Square of the Marischal looks like our blighted homeland. What maniacs are these we find ourselves among I wonder?”
Mary, Joseph and the Person Named followed street signs pointing to the tourist board, but verily these all led back to the place where the iron horses sped along tracks of metal, well, the trains did work when the copper wiring had not been stripped away by the Vandals and Ostragoths, or unless the wrong types of leaves lay on the rails – but again I digresseth.
Eventually finding the tourist board office, despite all the signs pointing to either the railway station or a giant bazaar, they spoke with the tourist board staff.
“Och noo, there are nae hotel rooms available, the whole o Scotland’s come to see yon Christmas Village, you see. However, I could get you either a single room in Peterheid, or the Britannia still seems to have lots of space for some reason.”
Joseph was tired and aggrieved:
“Verily I would sooner take my chances in the Sunken Gardens of the Terrace of Union with its murderers, miscreants and n’eer do wells, and Buckfast drinkers than take my wife and the Person Named to the Britannia.”
So off they went.
# # # #
“This is going on your permanent record” saideth the Person Named. Mary was sore afraid.
They headed to the outskirts of town, and found a stable filled with horses, cattle, chickens and sheep – you getteth the idea.
And what kind of a farm was this?
It was a charity farm, one which rescued all kinds of farm animals (no dogs or cats).
Joseph was intrigued. Addressing the farmer he asked her:
“Lo, by what means do you pay for all the food, vet bills, insurance and regular horse-shoeing the horses and ponies need?”
“We’re 100% dependent on the public for donations.” the lady farmer replied, “I don’t have a computer, but I put up ads on fundraising websites with lovely pictures of horses and ponies and sheep, and people send us donations for the animals we rescue.”
“Verily” said the Person Named, “I can see a picture here of a sheep, and another of four little ponies – mind, these ponies look very much like some that I’ve seen in a photograph of yonder Shetlands – ponies which need no rescue.”
“Well!” said the farmer “we are a working farm, and I never said we weren’t. It’s like this: we show photos of fluffy lambs because our supporters want to see them. Then we sell the lambs at auction to people who will probably turn them into lamb chops, but it is none of our business what happens to the animals we raise as a business to support our business, and well all of our supporters know we save animals by raising other animals to get killed, if you know what I mean.”
She continued proudly:
“Sometimes, as I don’t have a camera or a computer, I have to download pictures of other people’s animals, and I’m sure no one minds too much. Anyway, that’ll be £30 for the night. In advance.”
Neither Joseph, Mary or the Person Named were sure they understood this business model.
“Well, it’s still better than staying in the Britannia” Mary said.
All agreed, and began settling down for the night.
“Joseph honey, I think I’m going into labour” said Mary.
“You sure it’s not just indigestion from that all you can eat Chinese on Union Street our Mary?” he asked
“No, it’s the realeth deal”
“Shall we get you to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary then?” asked the Person Named
Joseph and Mary looked at their clip-board bearing travel companion (who refused to give them their name as it happened) and exchanged a look.
“You mean that place where the cleaning staff, nurses and doctors are all on a pittance and toil all day and night, where germs have run rampant, where junior doctors are exhausted, and the ER is crammed on a weekend with people who have had too much wine and mead?” – Joseph was aghast.
“Well, that’s where we’re going, I’ll just call for an ambulance and call to let the midwives know we’re on the way. Then I’m going to find you two immigrants some permanent accommodation and some work. The council will have your home and work straightened out in no time.” said the Person Named.
Joseph and Mary again looked at each other and shook their heads.
# # # #
Meaneth while, some shepherds were out in one of the few fields left, counting their sheep.
“It’s nae use Murray,” Shepherd A spake “Fit wi so many ear tags on each animal nowadays they can barely keep their head up.”
“Agreed,” saideth Shepherd B. “And god help you if your sheep should lose a tag; that’s you stuck with an unsellable sheep, and about a week’s worth of paperwork, and a hefty bill. Things ain’t what they used to be.”
“Perhaps we could do liketh those farmers up the road do, and start also keeping some animals, you know, and saying we’re rescuing them. We’ll still sell our sheep at market, but we’ll tell everyone how kind and loving we are, and we’ll tell them we’re saving farm animals.” Shepherd A was proud of this plan.
“Ach, you’ve been smoking that funny stuff they sell on the Q T down at the farm have ye?” Shepherd B said. “Still, if it turneth a quid, let’s put our heads together and go fer it.”
Just at this moment the heavens lit up.
“Heck’s this?” asked Shepherd A “Aurora Borealis was nae forecast on my Facebook feed tonight.”
Shepherd B said:
“Must be one of those funny light projection things that the city think are so clever and forward looking. They shine a pink or blue light on a tree trunk or on a building, and think they’re Manhattan or London.”
Just then, an angel descended from the heavens, flapping its wings. it spake unto the shepherds:
“Do not be afraid.”
“Am nae bothered me,” said Shepherd B
“Not fashed either; what’s up?” said A.
Somewhat flustered at the unanticipated interruption and lack of awe the pair of shepherds displayed, the angel continued:
“I shall starteth over: Do not be afraid, for I bring you glad tidings of great joy.”
“Oooh, are we getting a new shopping mall?” Asked Shepherd B, rubbing his hands together “We need more cheap goods from other parts of the empire, madeth by the slaves so that we need not spendeth all our pounds and drachma on UK made goods.”
“I know!” Shouted Shepherd A, “It’s a Krispy Kreme Donut shop! I heard on Twitter that we’re getting one in the Empire Square mall. I don’t half fancy a few dozen of those chocolate ones.”
The frustrated angel, his wings flapping furiously as he hovered over the shepherds, flew flusterdly.
“Hey mate, you have a permit for this? All drones have to obey FAA commands.” Said Shepherd A
“It’s not a drone, stupid. It’s what you call one of those genetically modified chickens. Let’s have him and get some tags on those wings.” Shepherd B said
The angel waxed wroth. He pointed at a nearby boulder and it exploded.
“Pretty sure you need a permit for that.” muttered Shepherd A.
“Right. Let’s try this again.” the Angel started. “Do not be afraid, for I bring you glad tidings of great joy. Behold, a child is born tonight in a manger; he will be king of kings. His parents have travelled from afar for this miracle of birth.”
“You what?” said Shepherd B. “Last thing we need are more immigrants round here. That’s more competition for jobs, innit?”
Shepherd A was not impressed.
“King of kings? Look mate, we’re trying to get rid of the monarchy. What did the monarchs ever do for us? Except Robert the Bruce of course; he gave us common good land, foreseeing a day when we’d want to turn it over to private hands to build a granite web on.”
“Right, when you said ‘glad tidings of great joy’ I thought you at least meant a peripheral ring road, more housing in the greenbelt, or jobs creation. I hoped that maybe we’d finally get that granite web everyone wants. Jeez.” Shephderd B was sore disappointed.
Shepherd A waived his hands and arms as if to shoo the Angel away.
“Bugger off, you, and take any foreigners with you.”
The Angel, now veritably incandescent with rage, pointed his arm at the ground by the shepherds, and a vast chasm filled with fire and brimstone opened at their feet. Out popped three people in pinstripe suits armed with mobile phones and clipboards. A mountain of paperwork and forms appeared from the firey depths as well.
“I’m Smith from DEFRA, this is Higgins from EU Agriculture and Rural Development, this is your MEP, and there’s more coming. What’s this about one of your lambs missing one of its ear tags??”
Smith thrust a bale of forms at Shepherd A.
“We’ll start with this. Our call-out fee is £10,000, which we’ll take out of next year’s farm subsidy.”
The Angel said to Shepherd B:
“If you don’t want the same, go and get the three Wise Men, and tell them to get to the barn the star hangs over, and go greet the newborn king.”
“OK OK, whatever; don’t get in a flap” Said Shepherd B, and he was off.
Shepherd A was aghast:
“But we’ve not received this year’s subsidy yet!”
Turning to the Angel, he said:
“Couldn’t you have just turned me into a pillar of salt or something instead?”
But the Angel was gone.
# # # #
The Person Named had called a cab, and had gone off to a five star restaurant/hotel which he’d found on Trippeth Advisor. The cab took winding roads until gigantic signs proclaimed his arrival at ‘Trumpus Maximus Scota Golfus’. He figured he’d make some calls about Joseph and Mary, have a nice steak dinner and in the morning play a round of golf.
Of course, the grateful taxpayer would be happy to pay for the costs of a Person Named, and only the best would do. Making some calls from the club house of this magnificent resort, with its giant sundials and Trumpus crested furniture, he’d sorteth out the work and housing for this couple. The ambulance had never arrived though he waited hours, and then somehow Mary and Joseph didn’t seem to be around anyway.
“If only I could find some kind of jobs for these immigrants.” the Person named sighed aloud into his third martini.
“Hi there – did you say you need to find some housing and work for some immigrants? Well look no further!”
The speaker was a woman with giant hair, giant heels, and a lovely lovely face.
“We are building staff accommodation and I’m sure we can find them some work cleaning rooms and dishes. Shall we talk?”
Verily, it was Sarah Malonia Bates Majora, Face of Aberdeen, Spokeswoman of Trumpus. The Person Named bowed before her.
And thus another successful outcome for the Person Named scheme came to be.
# # # #
Shepherd B arrived at the mighty palace of Marischal College. Rushing to the head of the queue at Reception, he was jostled and jeered by those in line.
“Right.” he said breathlessly to the jaded receptionist,
“I’m looking for Three Wise Men”
“Are you sure you’re in the right place?” the receptionist asked.
“Well, for openers, there’s ACSEF.”
“No, not wiseguys, Wise MEN.” the Shepherd said. “Besides it’s ONE now, not ACSEF. It’s a whole different thing!”
“Sure it is, sure it is,” The receptionist laughed,
“A public/private quango paid for partly by taxes, headed by Sir Ian Wood and Jennifer Claw’s involved, and they want to build stuff in Union Terrace Gardens. Yeah. completely different. Anyway, what do you want wise men for, and where do you expect to find them around here?”
“A baby’s been born that will be king of kings and straighten everything out!” cried the Shepherd,
“And an angel flew down from heaven and told me to get the word around, and find the wise men.”
“NEXT!” said the receptionist, and the shepherd was jostled along out of the line.
# # # #
In the meaneth time, Mary had had her baby right there in the manger, and couldn’t be moved now. She thought the farmer was trying to take snaps of the babe in the manger, and would have sworn the farmer whispered:
“wait til I get this on Go Fundeth Me! I’ll be sheckels in!”
And lo, similar stories were being played out in Gaul, in Brittania, in the very Roman Empire too.
Tired, worn out people were fleeing the four horsemen: Famine had come to the formerly Fertile Crescent, wreaking havoc. He was followed closely by Plague, as the fleeing refugees spilled out from the now barren land. They streamed to their country’s cities where War had been waiting to meet them. As they fled from Famine, Plague and War, many fled straight into the arms of Death, who had also been waiting.
Those who escaped Death were a diverse band. The hugest part were simply people trying to stay alive and keep their wives, husbands, mothers, fathers and children alive. They did what you or I would do. Their options were few, and Death waited everywhere.
A tiny fraction of the people on the move were the very agents of War and Death, who decided that rather than solving problems they would make more problems.
And a smaller number still are the ones who one day will, we hope, try to solve problems with peace, intelligence, kindness, and maybe even Love, who it is rumoured is making something of a comeback.
Mary slept; Joseph kept watch, and the baby smiled in its sleep.
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