It was Christmas morning. Snow had fallen the night before and a cold harsh wind was lashing the back of the North London basement flat. Mr Nopottapissin scratched off the ice lining the inside of the window with his fingernails and peered outside. He watched his breath as it turned into steam with each slow exhalation.
“It’s a cold one today.” Said Mr Nopottapissin as he limped back to the kitchen. Without warning his knee gave way and his thin frail body crashed heavily into the doorframe before he could regain his balance. He bit hard into his bottom lip to suppress a scream as excruciating pain raged up through his lower limbs into his torso.
“Are you OK Daddy?” came a small voice from the kitchen.
“Yes darling I’m fine, don’t worry.” he answered. “Its just Dad being clumsy as usual.”
His legs had not been the same since he fell from scaffolding while working “off the books” as a carpenter on a building site in Hackney. To save money the contractors had cut down on labour costs and increased hours. Many of the workers were delirious with fatigue, so much so that health and safety considerations had been overlooked and Mr Nopottapissin had had the accident that was waiting to happen. The doctor said that he was lucky not to have broken his back, but he would never walk again without limping and there could be complications with arthritis, as he got older, especially in cold weather.
Mr Nopottapissin shuffled back to the kitchen table where he continued to make the small wooden flowerpot holders that he sold from a fly pitch at the edge of Chapel Market. Being a carpenter on a building site was no longer an option and ATOS had declared him fit for work and stopped his benefit.
His three small children Chardonnay, Kai and Tracy were sat on the floor eagerly eating their meagre bowls of porridge, which Mr Nopottapissin had carefully prepared for them. Today was a special day so he had mashed up half a banana into the mixture and added a flat teaspoonful of strawberry jam that he had scraped from the inside of the almost empty jam jar that he had been saving for a special occasion.
At noon, when Mr Nopottapissin had made enough flowerpot holders to sell at the market, they all sat down for their Christmas dinner. It was Tracy’s favourite. She had been looking forward to it all month – 2 slices of bread and drippin’, a pickled onion and, for pudding, a stick of Kit Kat.
“Yum yum” she said as she greedily ate it.
“Daddy” said Chardonnay
“Why don’t we get presents like the other kids?”
“Because” said Mr Nopottapissin, “since Nan died and we had to move out of our nice council flat because of the bedroom tax, the private landlord charges us so much rent we cant even afford to even eat properly let alone buy presents.”
“But the place is a dump.” said Kai
“The doctor said that our Mam wouldn’t have got Tuberculosis and died if our basement flat hadn’t been so cold and damp.”
Everyone was silent as they remembered the passing of their poor mother who could have been saved if the local A and E unit hadn’t been closed because of privatisation and cuts.
Mr. Nopottapissin, in an attempt to cheer everyone up, decided to teach his children a song that his father had sung to him one Christmas when there were no presents.
The song was the most beautiful song in the world and they sang it over and over again.
Unfortunately, the grumpy old Tory landlord who lived above them was trying to sleep after eating a whole turkey, three Christmas puddings and drinking 3 bottles of the finest Cognac. The singing woke him up and he was very very angry. He marched down to the basements and banged on the door loudly.
“If you stop that noise immediately I will give you a tenner – just shut up will you” said MrGreedyToryLandlord.
Mr Nopottapissin, seeing the brand new ten pound note, began to imagine the things he could buy with it: a new pair of flip flops for all his kids, maybe even real shoes from the charity shop so they could go and play out in the snow without getting their feet wet and cold, bread and drippin’ all week with pickled onions and a Kit Kat each for everyone.
“OK Mr Greedytorylandlord we will stop singing.”
Mr Greedytorylandlord begrudgingly handed over the tenner and marched grumpily upstairs muttering something about Chavs and their snotty nose kids with their working class names.
As the Nopottapissin family sat in silence around the one bar electric fire they felt miserable. The song had brought joy to their hearts and they wanted to sing it again.
“Daddy, we want to sing the song again because it brings joy to our hearts and relieves the tedium and hunger.”
As Mr Nopottapissin looked lovingly at his small children sat wrapped in a single second hand old army blanket shivering with cold and hunger, a great anger awoke within him. He shuffled over to the sideboard, grabbed the tea caddy where he had carefully hidden the ten-pound note and removed it. Wincing with pain that had now returned with a vengeance, Mr Nopottapissin dragged himself upstairs as quickly as he could, and rang the apartment door bell several times in succession before the door was opened.
Mr Torygreedylandlord was in a dreadful mood. Nopottapissin had interrupted him while he was looking through catalogues of East Asian women who were willing to work in the West for no money and just board and lodging. He had sent his last one back because he had made her pregnant and the place hadn’t been dusted for two weeks – A terrible inconvenience.
“What do you want? You will get no more money out of me.”
“Take your money back Mr Greedytorylandlord. We would rather be hungry and cold and have joy in our hearts than sit with food in our bellies and be silent and miserable.”
Mr Torygreedylandlord, looking a little confused, took the money and stuffed it back into his wallet brimming with twenty and fifty pound notes
The family began to sing again to the rhythm of slapping flip-flops against bare cold heels. The beautiful sound filled the basement flat and wafted gently upward, through and ceiling and floorboards into the above apartment. As Mr Greedytorylandlord sat in his chair finishing off his 4th bottle of cognac the song washed over him. As he bathed in its beauty a new feeling arose from within him and his eyes filled with tears of joy.
The next day, it was as if the sounds of the Nopottapissins was still with Mr Greedytorylandlord, so he rang his solicitor and arranged for the bailiffs to come round and evict them.
Happy Christmas – God bless us everyone!
A report from the weekly Tory Ham and Low.
Yesterday, three children wearing flip-flops and thin clothing, together with a middle-aged man were found frozen to death in a park in North London. When local Tory councillor, Mr. Neville Fatofftheland, was asked to comment on the lack of provision made for homeless families in Tory boroughs he replied – “It is up to the individual to provide for themselves during lean times. If the feckless working class haven’t the foresight to save, spending their money on booze and fags and holidays in the Costa del Plebo, then why should the burden fall on the taxpayer.”