As I've drifted in and out of consciousness this Christmastide, I have had the most curious dreams. It's almost been as if spirits have been trying to show me what the future could hold. Dream interpretation goes in and out of fashion, of course. I may be experiencing no more than indigestion, for instance, and some of the dreams I've had lately have been too absurd to take seriously for a moment. Nevertheless, ludicrous fantasies and the promptings of ghosts are all part of the season, and maybe you, gentle reader, will be able to make some sense of them.
Yesterday morning I came to with voices telling me that our Glorious Coalition plan to allow online petitions to be debated in Parliament. One set of spirits were all squeaky and excited at the prospect saying it would be a marvellous way of really connecting with the people while another set of spirits groaned lugubriously that it was all a gimmick. What surprised me was that both sets of spirits thought that the leaders of the squeaky ghosts, Nickerless Clegg and David Clamber-on, were perfectly serious. I can't imagine that an online campaign to get a Jedi Knight into the cabinet would stand a chance, or that Wagner might be made Arts Minister, even if the former at least might be a good idea. In fact, a serious ghost informed me, absurdists would be filtered out so that only the genuine voice of the people could be heard calmly and politely requesting for example the return of hanging. Having already been mandated at a General Election (they were, surely, weren't they?) they would have every right to decide who was serious and who wasn't. And that's the problem right there.
Today I became conscious (I think) with the Ghost of Cricket Present telling me that we had retained the Ashes. Like most people, I don't really understand cricket. You can stare intently at the TV while a number of people dressed in the same white clothes wait for something to happen, and you can listen hard for clues in the murmered reminiscences of the commentators. You can also go on Wikipedia, as I have done, where there is yards and yards of explanation and history, but unless you follow cricket anyway, it's almost impenetrable. For example the Ashes is a little urn reputedly containing the ashes of a cricket bail (or perhaps a woman's veil), presented to the defeated English cricketers by the ladies of Melbourne. This is what all the fuss is about, but actually this is not the official series trophy. The series is five matches, and a match can go on for five days - which is much longer than, say, a horse race, or any other sport. We've retained the Ashes because the Australians can now only equalise the series, England having won two, lost one and drawn another. But actually we haven't won yet. There's another match in Sydney - that is, another five days. So after all this time the result might be that England and Australia are - equal. From the media excitement you might think we had won already though.
Now that I partly understand it, the news about the Ashes is partly pleasing because I remember some Australian cricket captain celebrating a win over England with the words "I never could stick the Poms." That's us. I thought it uncharitable at the time, but as the ghost of Sophocles points out once more: "Those that overbear shall be brought to grief." You can take these things too seriously.
And now the Ghost of Christmas Future reminds me, before I slip into unconsciousness once more, that people are coming round for drinks and nibbles. He shows me a horrid vision of the fire unlit and me opening the door in my dressing gown to shivering uncomprehending neighbours. The cold living room is ankle deep in three days of newspapers all covered in cricket, which I still don't understand or care about, and absurdist Parlimentary motions. The tree is not switched on. In the back room there are socks on the floor and crumbs on the table. The spirit wordlessly points a bony finger towards Fruitcake's litter tray as a small child crawls innocently towards it.
I come too again overwhelmed with gratitude and relief. It's only middday! There is charity in my heart towards Australian cricket fans as I shower and shave, and bustle about emptying the litter tray and washing up cups and glasses. For it is still the festive season - even though I shall never sign an online petition for Parliament to debate the proposal for it to be Christmas every day. I might suggest that Fruitcake becomes Education Minister all the same.