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Smallville: Never Too Early - For Christmas

“Number 10 - Tony‘s den;” was followed by a raucous “He‘s never there.” “Two fat persons - 88.“ followed by cries of “Wobble, wobble....'' In this screamingly funny column Peter B Farrell tells how he and his wife Margaret entered into the spirit of Christmas in October at an East Coast holiday venue.

The weather was surprisingly mild and sunny for this time of year, mid October.

“Pass the sunglasses.“ My wife Margaret obliged as we sped towards our holiday venue, a resort on the East Coast catering mainly for the retired. Originally we had hope to be entertained by the best of British Dance Bands, but a change of program meant we would be celebrating Christmas early. This week would be the start of the three-month ‘Turkey and Tinsel’ program.

A couple of motor coaches in the car park were disembarking; mainly the aged, infirm and disabled. I stood well back as a succession of motorised wheelchairs headed towards Reception. The non-motorised were well catered for by an army of uniformed carers, some of them not exactly in the peak of condition. Soon we were following the wheelchairs.

Everywhere to be seen, the staff were busily putting up Christmas decorations.

“Bit of a rush, but the job will be done in time.“ A young man was cheerfully hammering nails in the wall and festooning streamers in the coffee lounge; apparently today was Christmas Eve. After taking up our accommodation I studied the program; an excellent dinner would be provided followed by Bingo, dancing to the resident band and cabaret .

Our dinner companions proved to be an 85 year old Yoga teacher and his carer/minder/companion. I could only marvel at his daily routine, which came out in the course of conversation. Getting into the spirit of the occasion I tried my own particular brand of wit on the staff; unfortunately the waitress - newly arrived from Eastern Europe - found me incomprehensible.

“I’ll order in future if you don’t mind or we‘ll never get served.” This from Margaret.

Silence was called for during the Bingo. Although I was a non-participant I derived some amusement from the caller.

“Number 10 - Tony‘s den;” was followed by a raucous “He‘s never there.”
“Two fat persons - 88.“ followed by cries of “Wobble, wobble.“ A sign of the times; years ago it was two fat ladies, but political correctness abounds and I looked round for signs of Mr Blair’s thought-police.

“77 - Sunset strip, screech screech“ This high pitched yell from the caller got a reaction from a guide-dog; surely its blind owner couldn‘t be playing?

Later we enjoyed some music from the dance band. The female singer did a solo spot and dragged someone out of the audience. The young man - slightly disabled - made a creditable effort to join in and was roundly cheered for his effort and left the floor star-struck.

Jollied on by the compère, everyone seemed in the Party mood and we joined in the dancing.

The cabaret artiste proved to be a comedian whose main prop was a stuffed duck and I kept well out of eye contact, as I was sitting fairly close to the edge of the dance floor.

“Not a bad day, I’ve had worse Christmas Eves.“ We had just retired for the night and I led the way back to our chalet.

“Since when?“ Margaret wasn’t convinced of my choice of holiday and could see the evidence of the onset of old age all around.

The following day Christmas music was played at breakfast.

“Merry Christmas everyone.” We exchanged greetings with our table companions and all agreed we had had an enjoyable time the night before.

During the morning Margaret happened on a lady from her home town in the North and struck up an acquaintance. We were taken by Jean’s bubbly personality and blunt humour. She was much younger than anyone we had met so far and we hoped to see more of her and her companion Harry or ‘Aitch‘ in the evening. The main attraction was a 60s pop group who had had few big hits. .

“We must have been out of the country.” We had never heard of them. Margaret agreed, while spending six years abroad the 60s had passed us by.

Before Christmas dinner was served, entertainment was being provided by the resident keyboard player for singing and dancing.

“Albert’s volunteered to do a couple of songs,” he announced. Albert, in his 80s and apparently one of the regulars, had come prepared, with his banjo.

“...My, my, my, Delilah...” I had not heard this particular version and listened in fascinated disbelief. After loud applause followed by... “...the most beautiful fish you can have on your dish are Soles, are Soles, are Soles...”

Margaret was already long gone as Albert was being encored.

The dining table was set with the obligatory decorations, we wore paper hats, pulled crackers and it was left to me - with my new varifocals - to read out all the tame jokes. The stirring sound of the bagpipes ceremoniously brought in the traditional pudding - a bumper package of cholesterol - carried by the head chef accompanied by a bagpiper in kilt and full regalia.

“Over here.” This was later as we entered the ballroom. Someone was waving, it was Jean and Harry. We joined them on the edge of the floor, close to the stage.

“Two little ducks - 22.” followed by “Quack, quack” from the audience.
“Thank you quackers.” Yes, it was Bingo and again I sat in silence until the dancing started.

The entrance of the Pop group was deafening as we were adjacent to the huge speakers. As the first song boomed out a number of wheelchairs stirred. As it climaxed a steady stream headed for the entrance. Not to be fazed the group belted out another forgotten tune. As it ended the clientele left in droves.

Exasperation now.

“What do you want?” the leader asked.

“Play something we b***** know for a start.” Jean shouted. This got some response and the band started down memory lane; the young man who had danced with the singer the night before jumped onto the floor and did a frantic solo.

“...ksake, what’s that?“ More heckling from Jean brought a reaction from the group leader; they mistakenly thought Margaret was the culprit and she became the target of their banter. We didn’t help matters by pointing to Margaret every time Jean heckled. The music was now back in the forties and the band stuck at it, but the steady stream continued leaving only the diehards determined to have a good time.

However, everyone took it with good humour and the band stoically performed to the bitter end. Deafened, we left the ballroom after an eventful day.

Next morning we rose early with plenty to look forward to.

“What day is it?“ Margaret was confused by the bright warm sunshine as we left for breakfast.

“Boxing Day, Wednesday; according to the program Pantomime, dancing and the staff are putting on a Christmas spectacular.”

“Good morning.” As I turned after locking the door I hurled myself across at the couple next door who were out enjoying the morning sunshine. I had tripped over the low dividing wall and ended up sprawled on their patio.

“Those b***** varifocals, they told you to be careful.” Margaret was probably right

“Must have a blind spot.” I muttered while mopping up the blood from my leg and torn trousers.

“You might need a walking stick” Our disabled neighbour added.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em.


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