Old Matthew sat and stared into the log-fire at the pub. He was on his own ‘cos everyone had heard his moans once too often. But this year, there was a stranger, who’d kindly bought Old Matthew a pint of ale before sitting down with him.
Old Matthew’s voice drifted out across the pub: “It all started in 2017 when they outlawed glitter. Yes … and it quickly snow-balled from there.” The stranger managed a chuckle at the terrible pun and rewarded with a broad smile from Old Matthew. “I was never much for an over-the-top Christmas, but it never did no-one else no harm. ‘Cept all too soon, it became non-PC. Then slowly but surely, it was outlawed.”
Mary pulled up a chair and joined them. She put another pint of ale in front of Old Matthew and one in front of the stranger before warming her hands and her mulled wine by the flames. She added her quiet voice to the discussion: “‘Tis true. And before you knew what was happening, here we are in 2025, having to celebrate Christmas …” Mary’s voice dropped to a whisper – “… without sparkle.”
Mary continued, a bit braver and louder now: “Course, the little kids never experienced anything different, so they don’t care. They still get excited on Christmas Eve. They’re not bothered that their gifts come wrapped in brown paper, all tied up in vegetable-dyed string.” Old Matthew supped his ale and nodded in agreement before adding: “And who’d have believed that stockings would be replaced by those big old padded envelopes?” Mary sighed: “I hold my breath each year hoping they don’t get ripped or torn, they’re so hard to come by now.”
None of them noticed Angela till she spoke: “But what I really miss is the glittering lights. No strings of little flashing bulbs, and no candles. All that stuff about lights being frivolous nonsense and candles too dangerous except during power cuts! Makes me mad to think about it.”
They all fell quiet for a moment, till Mary laughed: “Makes me remember how poncy I could be about Christmas lights – nothing multi-coloured, no blue, nor that bright white – only warm, golden white. These days I’d put up with anything I could get. But the only way to get ’em is on the black market and I’m too old to go to jail for something that stupid.”
And with that they all fell silent once more … and stared sadly into the flames.
© Debra Carey, 2017