“University!” he exclaimed, when Dave had asked him for financial support. “Bunch of bloody idlers! Lecturers work a ten-hour week, shag their students and get paid to ponce off to summer conferences in Miami! Waste their time writing arty-farty stuff that never did owt for no one! I’ll not waste money on such foolishness. Get a job lad!”
Dave had recently got engaged to a lovely girl called Jill, but sadly they lacked sufficient funds to set up home together. When Dave told his father about his impending nuptials, the redoubtable curmudgeon was less than impressed.
“Marriage!” he spat out in disgust. “Your mother blighted the best years of my life and took me to cleaners int’ divorce court. I pay 500-a-week so she can live in style in Malaga and lie on her back for local Pedros. Get married if you want, but I’ll not throw good money after bad. You’re on your own lad.”
This was a bit hard on Dave, who hadn’t even been asking for money, but he wasn’t the kind of boy to hold grudges. Early in December, he and Jill asked his Dad over for Christmas lunch with Jill’s parents, who had a humble little home in Hackney. But the cussed Yorshireman wasn’t having any of it.
“Christmas!” he thundered. “Bloody scam! Shops charge a fortune for useless junk that gets thrown out on Boxing Day and then cut prices in half int' New Year. I’ll not give those buggers the satisfaction of being another one of their dupes. I’ll be at home watching Story of Rugby League on DVD.”
His home, as it happens, was a magnificent period building in Effingham, set within two acres of gorgeous greenery. I decided to pay him an unannounced visit on Christmas Eve. A couple of Dave’s workmates drove me to his place in their van and we arrived at one hour to midnight. The lads spent a minute or two admiring the Bentley parked in the drive, before the three of us went to the front door, which was answered by a butler in tails. For some reason the poor man nearly fainted when he saw us, so I told the boys to take him for a drive in the Surrey countryside and return in an hour or so.
I went inside and saw Pricklewood in the drawing room reading The Sporting Life, alternately puffing on a cigar and sipping from a glass of whisky. He didn’t notice me, so I crept up the majestic panelled staircase to the gigantic master bedroom. I sat down on a sturdy armchair with my back facing the window and waited for the Lord of the Manor to join me. The funny thing was he didn’t notice me until after he had brushed his teeth in the en-suite bathroom, taken his clothes off, and got on to the king-size bed with a tub of Vaseline and a life-size “Perfect 10” sex-doll. His eyes met mine just as he had turned the doll over on to its front.
“Fucking ‘ell!” he gasped. Realising he was naked in front of an unfamiliar primate, he threw the doll off the bed and got beneath the covers.
“DUCKWORTH, GET UP HERE PRONTO!” he shouted. “THERE’S A FUCKING ANIMAL IN THE HOUSE!”
“Duckworth is out viewing the Christmas lights,” I said calmly. “And there’s no point shouting because your nearest neighbour is half-a-mile down the road.”
“You can talk?” spluttered Pricklewood. “Who the ‘ell are you and why the fuck are you dressed in a gorilla costume?”
“It’s no costume, Pricklewood, I’m the real McCoy.” I then got down onto the carpet, grasped the feet of the armchair with my toes and lifted it off the ground. “How many humans do you know who can do that?” I asked.
“Ruddy ‘ell, I must be dreaming!” yammered the Yorkshireman. “Whaddya want?
“This is no dream,” I said, getting back into the chair. “You asked me what I want and I’ll give you a straight answer. I’m here to help you. Think of me as your guardian angel.”
“You’re a funny looking guardian angel!” squeaked Pricklewood. “I don’t keep cash int’ property if that’s what you’re after.”
I disregarded these tasteless remarks and got to the issue at hand. “Tonight is Christmas Eve, Pricklewood,” I said. “Would you care to share your plans for tomorrow with me?”
“Well if it’s any of your business, I was going to have a quiet Christmas at home,” he replied.
“I see,” said I. “You are aware, of course, that your son is engaged to be married to a beautiful, warm-hearted girl, who has asked you to have lunch with her family.”
“He told me, yes. I don’t begrudge him his choices in life but I’m not going to pretend I approve of something when I don’t,” said the Yorkshireman defensively. “How d’you know all this anyway?”
“I know many things Pricklewood. Do you believe me when I say I can see into the future – your future, in particular?”
“I might find that a bit hard to believe,” he replied.
“Oh you might, might you? Harder to believe than you’re having a conversation with a gorilla?”
“Fair point,” said Pricklewood meekly.
“The lovely girl who is soon to be your daughter-in-law is pregnant, Pricklewood. Her unborn child is a boy. This boy will be forced to live with his maternal grandparents because his parents can’t afford their own home. He will attend the local school and grow up talking with a cockney accent.”
“A cockney!” exclaimed Pricklewood, visibly shocked. “Dave would never allow that. He’ll send him to a boarding school up north.”
“Dave will not be able to afford the school fees, Pricklewood. He will be in a low-paid job, struggling to make ends meet for his young family.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” said the Yorkshireman pensively.
“When young Brian enters his teenage years he’ll fall in with bad company,” I said. “He’ll join a gang that goes around mugging rich people.”
“They’ll name him Brian?” said Pricklewood, his eyes beginning to moisten. “That’s my own name!”
“One of Brian’s victims will be an elderly man,” I continued. “A female member of the gang will offer to let the old fellow grope her in an alley. Brian will creep up on him while he’s feeling her up and whack him on the head with a cosh.”
“The young bastard!” snorted the Yorkshirman. “I hope the police get him.”
“They will indeed get him, Pricklewood,” I replied. “The girl’s DNA is under the old man’s fingernails. She confesses to everything and is willing to testify. But then a complication arises.”
“What do you mean?” asked Pricklewood.
“The police visit the victim in his grand house in Surrey and tell him that the lad who mugged him was his own grandson.”
“NO!” shouted Pricklewood.
“And when they tell young Brian that he’s mugged his own grandfather the boy says: ‘If I’d known it was that old cunt I d’uv kicked ‘im in the ‘ed ‘n all.’.”
At this point, Mr Brian Pricklewood put his face in his hands and started sobbing. I walked over slowly, picked up a box of Kleenex from the bedside table and placed it on Pricklewood’s lap. He thanked me, blew his nose and addressed me in a voice breaking with emotion.
“Mr Gorilla,” he said. “Are these events you speak of the things that will be, or are they the things that may be?”
“The future is in your hands,” I replied. “Get into that Bentley of yours tomorrow morning and drive to Hackney. You’ve got the address. Give your son the support he needs to find his feet. Accept his lovely bride-to-be as your own daughter and cherish your future grandson as the dearest thing in your life.”
“I’ll do it,” sniffed Pricklewood. “But I haven’t even bought any presents for them and the shops are closed now.”
“You still have your chequebook, don’t you?” I replied, and for the first time that night I saw a smile break out on Mr Pricklewood’s face. I then heard the van pull up on the drive. “I’ll be leaving you now, Pricklewood,” I said. “I suggest you take a sleeping pill, otherwise you might find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.” I walked over to the door and remembered one more thing. “Oh and Pricklewood, give Duckworth a generous tip in the morning. He’s had quite an eventful evening.”
Pricklewood was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. He drove over to Hackney on Christmas Day, full of festive cheer, and presented his astonished son with a cheque with a large number of zeroes on it. Dave went to university, got a degree in mechanical engineering and became a designer of noiseless jet engines. He and Jill moved into a desirable four-bedroom house in Richmond-upon-Thames. Young Brian was sent to a boarding school in Yorkshire and did not speak with a cockney accent. And from that day onward, it was always said of Pricklewood that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
God bless Us, Every One!
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