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The Fight Before Christmas

Sorry, but it really is a fuck-off Christmas tree. Look.

What can I say? More pedestrian adjectives aren’t up to the job, they lack the necessary qualifications. No, as I drove over Royal Tweed Bridge yesterday and into Berwick, the word which hit my windscreen at high speed was ‘fuck’. Or more accurately, “F-f-f-u-u-u-u-u-c-k-k-k!” because there are all sorts of dynamics in play with this kind of stunned amazement; time becomes elastic in order for you to absorb a coniferous over-abundance so extravagant that the Universe finds itself shifting over one buttock to make room.

The Tree dominates Golden Square – a mighty arboreal Titan, an evergreen colossus, an Ent – withering with one look any challenger daring to approach. Sure, the Rotary Club have tried to tame it, tried to break its spirit with a few strands of lights thrown up its north face, but even these lights have the decency to look sheepish, conceding that they’re nothing but an aid to photosynthesis for when The Tree gets peckish.

While blotting out the sun could be considered a negative if you were, say, living next-door to a new kitchen extension that promised to bring the ‘outside in’ for your neighbours while plunging you into a nuclear winter, The Tree, when gazed upon from just the right angle, also serves as a spatial eraser and thus renders invisible the gimcrack carousel which passes for social mobility in Berwick.

And even though it is still only November, the sight of this giant sequoia selflessly scrubbing our streets clean of the stubborn stain of end-of-pier seediness stirred within me a surge of glitter and tinsel, and I swear I could hear angels clearing their throats.

As I turned into the car park, this dizzy sensation of warm Christmas joy rose even further, for lo! There was a reduction in tariff and there was much rejoicing.

But what a shame. There was a chance here for Northumberland County Council (Herod) to ramp up the season of goodwill to another level by accepting the request of Conservative councillor Gordon Castle (Joseph) for free parking for local residents during the week before Christmas, thereby encouraging them to shop locally and boost the economy of Berwick (baby Jesus). Enter Dougie Watkin (innkeeper), Lib Dem member for Norham and Islandshire, who couldn’t find room in his heart to grant the residents of baby Jesus free parking because of ‘unfairness’.

I may be guilty of paraphrasing. What Dougie (is he an MD? Anyone?) actually said to Ian Smith of The Tiser was…

Oh, who cares? It boils down to one of those sneering gloaty things that people whose parents failed to flick them hard enough in the head as children and who never rose higher than milk monitor at school spew out as adults in fury at the world for their own freakish stupidity.

Because to me, Dougie… well. Let’s just say Dougie is one of life’s over-thinkers. I think it’s probably fair to say that Dougie is no stranger to tension headaches and duodenal ulcers. It takes commitment to  think so hard that your argument goes dizzy and falls over.


Innkeeper:  Hello?

Joseph:  My wife is in urgent need of assistance.

Innkeeper:  Indeed, good sir? And what dost thou seek?

Joseph:  A week’s shelter from extortionate parking fees, so our unborn baby doth not have to pay for the parking sins of the rest of Northumberland.

Innkeeper:  Hhm. Seemeth fair and not at all unreasonable. And from which tribe dost thou hail?

Joseph:  We are strangers in this land. We are of the tribe of Conservati—

Innkeeper:  Sorry, I’m full.

Joseph:  But Ashington, Blyth, and a goodly many other towns of Northumberland are exempt from this tax which Herod levies upon us. Verily, canst thou not see thy way to cutting our baby some slack? Just for seven days. One week?

Mary:  Is this going to take long? I feel a bit… damp.

Innkeeper:  Nay, because if I grant thee an exemption that would not be fair on Scottish people. Two words to thee – Highland Clearances. Consider £1.10 for an hour thy comeuppance. Ditto a dearth of long-stay parking.

Joseph:  I beg thee! A mere seven days! Just so we can get on our feet again after the plague of recession that has so decimated our land, and as we even now watch custom flee to safer towns where there is no persecution from Herod’s legions of traffic wardens.

Innkeeper:  No, it would be madness.

Mary:  Why?

Innkeeper:  Because.

Mary:  Because what?

Innkeeper:  Um…

Mary:  Yes?

Innkeeper: Shush, I am thinking.

Mary:  Yes, well, canst thou chivvy things along a bit, I am about to give birth to a town and it is starting to sting a bit.

Innkeeper: (triumphantly) There is to be a census!

Joseph:  ?

Innkeeper:  Yes. Exactly. It would be considered an unfairness equal in magnitude to that suffered by William Wallace to, er, make any decision until we know the result of the Great Scottish Census Referendum thingy.

Joseph:  But that is not until next year. Our child needeth simply to rest for the next seven days and then he will be on his way, picking up Northumberland’s parking bill for Herod as usual.

Innkeeper:  So sayest thou, but I have some words of mine own to say in return – the Battle of Culloden. And, and… Mary Queen of Scots!

Mary:  Art thou feeling quite all right?

Innkeeper: People aren’t daft, y’ken? Half of them hereabouts are Scottish. They see thy bairn having a week’s holiday and they will leaveth him and shop elsewhere to punish him for being so up himself.

Joseph:  Nay, verily. It will bring visitors to come unto him. And I have heard that some will bring gold and there will be a BOGOF on frankincense and myrrh, the perfect Christmas gift. This will bring peace and prosperity unto the area. For seven tiny days.

Innkeeper:  It will be untrammelled chaos, I tell thee! I say nay because I only have thy child’s best interests at heart; because I care. I repeat – if people see him in receipt of a special dispensation they will quite rightly flip thy child the bird and flounce away, taking their custom to—

Joseph:  Towns that already have that dispensation every day of the year?


Innkeeper:  Ow! Did thou just flickest me in the head?

Mary:  Sorry, verily I mistook thee for the ass.

And if anyone could tell me if Dougie really is Scottish I’d be delighted. My reading between the lines can go a bit off-piste on occasion. I mean, we may find that party politics and/or Scottish nationalism have absolutely nothing to do with anything.

Christmas is, after all, the time for miracles.

What are your views on the ongoing disquiet over parking charges? Have you had a ticket since the new policy was put in place earlier this year? Do you think controlled parking is helping with Berwick’s traffic congestion? Share your views by clicking the ‘Comment’ button at the top of this post!  



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