Her name was Doris.
Not fuchsia, or petunia, like the pretty flowers. It was as if the gods walking by decided that the other plants and flowers in the great garden were to be given beautiful names, but by the time they reached her they had run out of good ideas. So having exhausted their supply of floral and faunae related names, they assigned the plant the only name left: Doris.
Doris was unhappy but didn’t know why. She wasn’t like the other flowers and plants. The pansies bloomed, the tulips blossomed, the grass grew in withery shoots that whispered gossip, while the roses huffed in their fragrant beauty and ignored her altogether.
Doris felt all alone. She was not a mean plant, far from it. She just hadn’t blossomed or bloomed into anything yet. Day after day she sat planted in the midst of the other flowers in the flower beds, waiting for something that never seemed to happen. All the other flowers bloomed. Why not her?
She wondered, was she in the wrong place? The gardeners had their reasons for putting her into the garden. She knew better than to question. She had felt the earth tremble and shake, and had heard what happened to unruly plants that grew too much or in the wrong place.
They were damned as weeds. Any disliked or unnecessary flower, herb, vegetable, or fruit was pulled from the earth. It was a grim culling, and it happened regularly. Doris hated it. She learned that the roses and flowering plants were safe, for they were beautiful.
She was not.
Doris grew wary when the gardeners approached. She knew they were either on the lookout for weeds or new ground to plant more flowers. She withdrew when they came near, ducking her head and hiding her hideous bulbous spikes.
She bowed her head behind her leaves.
Nothing had actually touched her, yet she felt pain. She had not felt the growing shadow of the giant shape steal over her like an angry raincloud, but she felt hurt, with no fresh rainbows to cheer her.
She sensed the towering presence of the gardeners. Her leaves trembled in the morning sun.
“Come on, don’t be a dull Doris. Perk up and open your leaves,” the gardener said.
Dull Doris, Dull Doris… The other flowers whispered with glee, hiding their mirth behind delicately curled flower petals.
Dull Doris, Dull Doris. Don’t be a Dull Doris...They chanted.
Stop it! She cried, feeling bruised and hurt.
Their laughs and snickers abused her like angry insects, battering her senses with phantom pains.
She would have welcomed the angry clouds at that point. At least then a good storm would frighten and silence the other flowers.
She soaked up the sun as best she could, nestled in the afternoon shade, and yet something was wrong. Something not quite right. She felt slightly weak and fidgety.
Then her spiky bulbous leaves opened.
“Oh look at that!” one of the gardeners said.
She could sense them towering over her. Watching, waiting.
“Look at the colour. It’s like a dusky rose pink. How pretty.”
Pretty? Were they really talking about her?
The other flowers were noticeably silent. Then a fly came and ruined everything. It buzzed by, annoyingly, beating its fragile transparent wings, coming to land on her newly opened leaf.
Its tiny feet stamped and tracked dirt all over her new pink pillowy flower, staining her beauty.
The other flowers laughed and snickered, the grass whispered, Dull Doris. Dull Doris.
Doris grew angry. She wasn’t going to let some stupid fly ruin everything. Her spiky green clawed leaves began slowly to close.
The fly grew wary and tried to buzz away, but it couldn’t move. Her pillowy pink flower grew ever so slightly sticky on the surface, encasing the fly’s intruding feet.
It watched in fright as her clawed leaves rose and curled over it, trapping it within a smooth green clawed cage. It was hers now.
What to do with it?
She felt a part of herself reach out and envelope the fly. It beat a protest with its tiny wings, but its chances of escape were as great as a fresh pickle surviving a summer luncheon.
She felt the fly’s body crush in her embrace and sensed its heart stop. The eyes popped, the wings flattened and tore, and she tasted its bodily juices, running down its small pitiful black body. She swallowed it whole and drank the juices, feeling at all once surprised. Was she meant to do that?
If she’d had lips she would have licked them. It had tasted meaty and exciting and she had found it surprisingly satisfying.
The gardeners were still there. “Look at that. It’s gone. The flower ate it. It ate the entire fly.”
Incredible? The grass whispered.
Doris opened her leaves again, leaving no trace of the intruder. Only a pretty dusky pink pillow.
She welcomed intruders now. She had a purpose. She wasn’t just another pretty flower or fruit.
She was beautiful and deadly. Flies, bees, spiders, mites, she didn’t care. She would welcome them all.
She was hungry.
The gardeners left to observe other plants. She felt the familiar tremble as the earth shook, releasing more weeds into the hands of the gardeners.
The pansies snickered and the roses sniffed. Dull Doris. They spoke. Their favourite new slang word.
Doris turned and said, I may be Doris, but I am not dull.
She gnashed her spiked clawed jaws. And if you ever call me that again, I’ll eat you. Down to the very last leaf.
There was a stunned silence.
Incredible, the grass whispered. Incredible Doris.
Incredible? She asked. Me?
Incredible, the grass agreed.
He did not despise the lights and trees that began appearing in gardens and houses in late November, but the display of Christmas gewgaws in shops since summer had made him immune to their charms.
Down the road he heard an electric pump breathing life into a vast snowman. Reindeer hauled a sleigh along the edge of a roof, Santa looked furtively over his shoulder as he climbed a ladder up the wall, and blue and white icicles hung flashing from the bay window. Tacky, perhaps, but not without humour, and what struck him was the effort and expense that had gone into their purchase, deployment, and the electricity to power them. A few more houses like that and the council could switch off the streetlights until New Year. He might suggest it if he saw his councillor in the pub.
The night had come early, as they did this time of year. Lights draped over a hedge not only flashed on and off in what seemed a random sequence but also danced around in the cold wind. The natural world was co-operating with human efforts to brighten the dark season.
As, day by day, one house after another acknowledged the coming of Christmas he began to wonder if people noticed and judged his own home’s lack of adornment. Was he being marked out as a miserable old git? Well, if people looked carefully, they would see his Christmas cactus carefully tended and in full bloom, even if the daft thing did insist on coming out when the Americans give thanks for the good harvest they enjoyed in 1621. With any luck it would still be flowering at Christmas.
He would bring in the fir tree which had been growing in a pot in the garden for the past few years, but not yet. As the years went by it seemed increasingly perfunctory. He remembered housefuls of people, laughter, excitement. That was how it should be. Now it was fragmented. They would all come, but at different times, on tight schedules.
Perhaps the keen decorators truly believed in what they were doing, that Father Christmas really would be more likely to call at a house where a sign read, “Santa, please call here”. Maybe they just wanted to create some magic for their children, magic they remembered from their own childhood. No doubt they would eat the carrots and mince pies, drink the sherry they encouraged their children to leave by the fireplace. What about those with underfloor heating? What story did they make up for the appearance of presents on Christmas morning?
On the bus people took up more room than usual, their bags stuffed with stuff. One man brought on a Christmas tree, squeezed into stockinette. Now, he thought, that would hold a lot of presents if you tied up the end. A group of teenagers sat at the back, faces all a-glow from their phones, scowling under their Santa’s hats. Must remember to block up the chimney, he thought.
He arrived at work for the late-evening shift and made his way up the back stairs to the staff room, where he changed into his uniform. That it should come to this, he thought. Words from the Scottish play came to mind, “that which should accompany old age, as honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have; but, in their stead, curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath which the poor heart would fain deny and dare not.” He would not utter them, even here, but they steeled him for the fray, grounded him in the art of performance.
He tightened his belt, rouged his cheeks, applied and checked his beard, pulled on his boots and arranged his hood around his yellowy white curls. Assuming a benevolent expression, he made his way into the grotto, his sonorous, “Ho, ho, ho!” evoking gasps from small children queuing for their turn to tell him what they hoped he would bring them in a week’s time.
Old hands had told him of the days when children came in on their own and took possession of Santa, climbed all over you. No physical contact now, even after a Disclosure and Barring Service check, and parents kept up running commentaries, making sure child and Santa knew what to say and how to behave.
Deep breath. Now for it.
Christmas starting in September?!
There was a time that I remember
When December was early enough to see
Lights in Oxford Street; Trafalgar Square the tree
Am I growing grumpy? Is it me? ****
**** It seems to me, (I could be wrong)
The summer’s hardly been and gone
Before the shops drag out their sign
Telling us it’ll be soon be time
To post our cards to foreign climes.
Bah ! Humbug
The television’s just as bad
And makes me feel a little sad
To be told I know I really oughtta
Order now that brand new sofa
For festive visitors to sit and lofa. ****
****Supermarkets say it’s not too early
To sell us cakes with icing swirly
It’s enough to make you wheeze and cough
Cooking programmes? I’ve had enough
So they can go and just Bake-Off.
Bah ! Humbug
Posting signs for poor old Santa
To stop here, is the latest mantra
Competing neighbours lights outbid
Pushing demand on the National Grid
Enough’s enough ! It must be said ! ****
**** Getting gifts is just too trying
In the shops or on-line buying
Keep the receipt; just to be sure
In case it’s returned back through the door
Where you queued hours days before.
Bah ! Humbug
Check names to send cards from last year
Cross out the ones no longer here
Buy the stamp and write the card
It really shouldn’t be that hard
No sonnets - you are not the Bard ****
**** Boxes make it easier to wrap
Those awkward gifts so if you lack
The expertise to be a winner
And your wrapping resembles a dog’s dinner
Disguise with ribbons, tags and shimmer.
Bah ! Humbug
Homemade presents can be more unusual
And can save hours of perusal
But did Granny think her jumper chunky
(Albeit it quite unique and funky)
Needed sleeves to fit a monkey? ****
**** From the kitchen mother’s shouts
Alert us to impending sprouts
As saucepans jostle to form a queue
There really is too much to do
So many owed by all too few.
Extra chairs for extra bums
In-laws, family, neighbours, chums
Dad and brothers disappear
To the pub for Christmas cheer
Just returning when all’s clear. ****
**** Mum’s specs are steaming in the kitchen
While guests are drinking and just sittin’
In the lounge their chatter louder
Children squealing getting hyper
Running, squabbling; what a caper!
Bah ! Humbug
Dad’s now been called to carve the turkey
It’s tradition; not malarkey
Plates piled high with veg and stuffing
Chairs squeezed round with huffing and puffing
Crackers ready now for pulling. ****
**** Children prised away from toys
That flash and whizz for girls and boys
Makes them scream and sometimes cry
I really wonder why oh why
I can’t wait to say “Goodbye.”
Bah ! Humbug
In a flash the dinner’s gone
It’s time for pud with brandy on
Custard, cream or brandy sauce
Cholesterol nightmare which will force
Your heart to falter on its course. ****
**** And not to mention all the calories
You’re chewing on those poor old cavities
All washed down with loads of booze
You seem unable to now choose
But tightening waistbands should be clues.
Bah ! Humbug
It seems the kitchen is a TARDIS
Refilling plates, replenish! Replenish!
There seem no end to all this gluttony
The constant noise of clattering cutlery
Swamps the speech made by the Monarchy ****
**** At last the feasting now subsides
With plates pushed back with gasps and sighs
The cook is thanked for all her work
From washing-up they cannot shirk
From piles of grease out in the murk.
Bah ! Humbug
The tables cleared; chairs put away
Belts are loosened; I’d love to say
That I’d really enjoyed this but
Rather than lie or sit and tut
I’ll refrain; just keep my mouth shut.****
**** Remembering those missed around this table
Who I’d recall if I were able
Finally, I really do digest
The warmth and love of every guest
I realise I am truly blessed
Perhaps I AM - BAH ! HUMBUG
So, CHEERS EVERYONE AND MERRY CHRISTMAS
The new UKNOW party swept to a surprise victory today and is poised to implement its controversial CANCEL CHRISTMAS policy. When challenged by Christmas supporters, the Prime Minister said “Bah Humbug” and set fire to his Santa hat. A gaggle of turkeys on the Minister's farm were reported to be heard gobbling appreciatively apparently wishing each other a “Happy Unchristmas”.
The implications of UKNOW's policy soon came into play… with no play, just work, at Xmas:
No Xmas parties for office hearties
Or drinking to excess
No boss to impress
No Xmas stress
No Xmas crackers with funny jokes in
No pubs with drunken blokes in
No Xmas sweaters of wrong sizes
No stockings filled with surprises
No Xmas bonus
Now the onus
Is on us
to work not play
for there is no Xmas day
No Xmas nativity play
where fond parents say
How Johnny pleased us
When he played baby Jesus
No carols on Xmas eve from King’s
No more of that song of Bing's
No Xmas cards, mince pies or sherry
Nothing that will make us merry
No bells that jingle
No chestnuts roasting in the fire
No Xmas pudding all alight
Not even a Silent Night
No red nosed reindeer
Just no Xmas pain dear
All is not well
When there is No Noel
Xmas cancelled just like by Cromwell
No Xmas carol with old Scrooge
No peace on earth and lots of goodwill
Now all has changed for our own good
When challenged by the Xmas Resistance, the Prime Minister responded with “Bah Humbug – uknow it’s all for a better UK
that we have cancelled Xmas day.
Bah Humbug rules ...OK.”