No room at the inn
A nativity story for today, with apologies to everywhere and nearly everyone mentioned. A young couple travel to the Isle of Thanet and stumble across an innkeeper with a clear guest policy and some not-so-wise men as their family expands
|Couldn't find my nativity scene so this will have to do|
Mary was heavily pregnant and Joseph was reflecting on the fact he was about to become a dad. He still wasn't sure that Mary was being straight with him. Though in a dream Jeremy Kyle had come to him, saying that DNA and lie-detector tests would not prove anything on a conception like this. He knew Mary was no virgin, indeed, at one time she was viewed as a 'dead cert' by his mates with whom he regularly attended Dartford's Gas & Air night club. But he was beginning his man reconstruction and knew that he too had 'put it about' a bit so he should not judge Mary based on gender.
And also, Mary's GP had miraculously appeared out of nowhere at the front door confirming Kyle's words, reassuring him that all sorts of medical mishaps can occur despite Mary being on the "Jack and Jill," and that the birth of this child would be a "glorious" event. Joseph initially assumed that the doc must have had his hands in the medicine cupboard, to go about reassuring people about births like this, like a sort of negative of Harold Shipman, but he had a curiously calming way with him and Joseph now looked forward to the birth. He had even gone through the Dartford Tunnel, into Essex, and bought a teddy bear in Ikea at Lakeside.
|A new life, away from Southeastern Trains...|
They were to begin a new life in Margate, the jewel of the Isle of Thanet, free of the restrictions of Dartford, with its big city swagger and bright lights that had, in the end, just got in their eyes. Even working in London was not an option as the local train company, Southeastern, had a stranglehold on the area, robbing the locals of fares and keeping them hostage for hours on trains that mysteriously broke down every time Joseph got on them. No, though Margate was still in the Southeastern franchise, Joseph knew that he'd not need to leave Margate again, it had everything they wanted.
Mary's phone bleeped as they passed Gravesend.
"Oh no!" She exclaimed. "The landlord just texted me to say he hasn't managed to evict the people who are in the flat now, but some of his mates are coming round in the morning so it'll be ok then."
"Bollocks!" Said Joseph. He was a man of few words but that one was a favourite.
"We'll have to find a B&B," said Mary, it shouldn't be a problem at this time of year."
Joseph sighed, "You're forgetting one thing," he said: "My tan."
No room at the inn (for some people)As the Daewoo took them from street to street, they tried to find a B&B with vacancies. Neither was the right sort of person to ask, vacancy signs were turned around as they walked up front paths as proprietors saw Mary's visible bump or the tan that Joseph had inherited from his Pakistani great grandmother, whom he had never met.
"Bollocks," exclaimed Joseph: "We can't sleep in the Daewoo. What are we going to do?"
Mary suggested they call the council as she was pregnant, maybe it would find them a shelter?
"No-one from the council answers a phone after 4pm," said Joseph, solemnly. "We'll just have to keep trying."
They drove through Margate and onto the mean streets of Cliftonville, notorious for its sex dungeons and dominatrixes.
A bright security light
|A bright security light lit the recycling bins|
They found themselves following a bright light, which turned to be a security lamp on a house that was stuck on. It was so bright that it blinded them to the gaudy light decorations on the house itself, which in turn blinded them to a sign, which read: 'Virgil Garage's B&B'. Underneath was another sign, saying 'We reserve the right to refuse sluts and men who are too fond of each other'.
"You go this time," said Joseph. "That sign scares me."
"We're desperate Joseph. We should take anything," said Mary, opening the Daewoo door and getting out.
She walked up the path. The garden was laid out very neatly. She could see four empty Spitfire ale bottles neatly arranged in the bottle recycling box, along with a Concord, British wine, bottle by the front door. She pressed the doorbell and heard the first few bars of Land of Hope and Glory. Nothing. She pressed it again and heard the deep voice of a man.
"Is there a war on?!" Called out the voice. The door opened and she could see a figure enveloped in smoke. Through the fug see could see the lit end of a cigarette, glowing and then it moved down as the figure removed the cigarette to speak.
"Yes," said the voice. It was charismatic, warm and scary all at the same time. "Good evening, Virgil Garage at your service. Can I help?"
"Have you got a room for the night?" asked Mary.
"That depends," said the voice. "Are you just in from Calais?"
"No, I'm not Justine," she replied. "Oh, sorry, no, Dartford," answered Mary. "We've been on the road, oh, I don't know for how long. Since just after five this afternoon."
"Only my little joke," said the voice. "Come inside."
"I need to get my boyfriend first," said Mary. He's in the car."
"Oh," said the voice, sounding disappointed. "I thought I saw a car with its lights on."
"That'll be the Daewoo," said Mary.
Mary went and got Joseph from the car.
"This is, er, Mr Garage," She said.
"Call me Virgil," said the B&B proprietor. "We're all friends here. I feel goodwill to all men, and ladies, tonight, even those who don't clean behind their fridges. Not sure why."
He went to shake Joseph's hand, but visibly flinched.
"You're not from around here, are you?" asked Virgil.
"No," said Joseph. "I'm from Dartford."
Virgil looked confused.
"But where are you really from?" He asked again, slowly.
"Dartford," said Joseph again.
"You said you had a room?" interrupted Mary.
"Did I?" replied Virgil. "I don't recall that. I see you're with child too. Does that mean it will get a green card if it's born here? Or will you go back to, er..."
"Dartford," said Joseph.
"Quite," said Garage. "I'm afraid there are no rooms."
"What?!" exclaimed Mary. "You asked us in! Just for a chat?!"
"There's no need to be like that young lady. Ok, I can offer you my garage. It's even named after me."
Joseph could see that Garage's offer of his garage was made to encourage them to go elsewhere, but there was nowhere else now. After a long silence Garage led them to his garage. On the way through the door from the house to the garage Joseph noticed a sign. It said 'rules' at the top. Garage tried to hurry them through and as he did so Joseph said:
"Your rules say that only British passport holders can stay. And that you don't accept Euros."
"It's funny how you instantly pick up on what rival guest houses say about us, the fact is that we're not just a two-rule inn. We have many other rules too in the United Kingdom Inn Party, the B&B critics only ever mention those two rules, but that's because they're paid by European Union of B&B Providers by the back door. Anyway, I'll get a couple of mattresses in here for you."
Mary and Joseph looked around the garage. A single bulb lit the area dimly. Mary started to cry. Joseph comforted her.
"It's ok, it's dry," he said. And we'll ask Garage for a heater. Look at these old cars."
They were surrounded by a number of unfinished car restorations, a Frogeye Sprite, a Jaguar and a Morris Cowley. Virgil reappeared with mattresses, duvets and a fan heater.
"Do you like my girls and boys?" He asked.
"Magnificent showpieces of the British motor industry: before it was ruined by unfair trading practices by foreigners."
"What, like they made better, cheaper cars?" Asked Joseph.
Garage threw down the mattresses and other paraphernalia and left, slamming the door behind him.
Who is Chris Muss?Joseph started to make up some beds.
"Oh, Joseph!" Shouted Mary. "My waters have broken!"
Joseph looked up, panic in his eyes. He ran to the door that Garage had disappeared through, it was locked. He banged on the door, nothing. He ran over to the large metal door and banged on that, nothing. He listened at the door and could only hear a 'mash-up' of songs from the car stereos and discos of Margate, punctuated by a man shouting "It's Chris Muss!"
"Who's Chris Muss?" muttered Joseph. But that would have to wait. Mary needed him now, like never before.
|The safest gynae photo I could find|
"It comes out of there doesn't it?" he said, vaguely pointing at Mary's nether regions.
"No, it comes out of my bloody ears!" screamed Mary, as a contraction grabbed her.
Joseph made her lie down on a mattress and told her to breathe. He'd seen that on the TV. All mothers -to-be should breathe.
Some hours later Mary gave birth to a baby boy. It was a miracle to Joseph and Mary, and they stared at him now tightly wrapped in blankets and the bits of cloth Garage hadn't used to wipe grease from things yet.
The door to the garage opened and Garage stepped in.
"I think I owe you two an apology..." And then he spluttered: "What's this? You've bred? I leave you alone for five minutes and there's one more of you?! We'll be outnumbered! Enoch was right, there'll be blood on the streets!"
Away in the Mazda
|Old Mazda, courtesy of 'In the Pit' at autoshite.com|
"I'm sorry," said Garage. "What am I thinking? You need somewhere better for the child."
Joseph thought they were about to be taken into the house but Garage switched on another light, revealing another car they'd not noticed before in the hitherto gloom.
"Lay him in the Mazda," said Garage. "It's not British but nor is he, and it's more comfortable."
And they did that, laid the child away in the Mazda, whilst the Cowley, Jaguar and Frogeye looked on.
Three menThere was a knock at the big garage door. Garage pressed a button and the door rose, the electric motor humming and then a big click as it reached its destination. There were three men outside.
"What's up Garage? Why didn't you turn up at the councillors' dinner party? You know we always have one at this time of year, worried you might have to sit next to an African?!"
"Some of us have to work you know," answered Garage.
"Anyway, I've been busy tonight. Look, two guests became three."
Away in the Mazda
The three men looked down at the child, lying in the Mazda. Tears started running down their cheeks.
Garage collected himself together.
"These are three fellow councillors, Tory, Labour and Libdem. Those aren't their names of course, I can't remember those as I so rarely go to meetings," he said.
The Labour councillor stepped forward:
"We saw your big security light on, we followed it up the hill, we were sore afraid there might be something up. But this is so wonderful he said, let me give the parents some cash for letting us witness this."
The Tory looked aghast.
"I thought you didn't have any cash? And as soon as you do you give it away to the first person that's fresh off the boat. I'll make a gift too but it's a piece of paper. I will write on it the name of my friend, he's a carpenter and he'll employ you on my recommendation when you're 16, without interviewing any other people. It won't be quite minimum wage of course but it'll be a proper apprenticeship through our new scheme with at least a week's training."
The Libdem stepped forward.
"I know I should give you something, but I'm not sure what it should be."
"What are you going to call him?" asked Garage.
"We haven't thought of anything yet." said Mary. "I know, as you were kind enough to give us this garage for the night, why don't you choose? Is that ok Joseph?"
Joseph nodded, blinded and deafened with love for the new child.
"Not Virgil though, that's a shit name," he said.
"Oh, ok. Er, what about Jezza?" suggested Garage.
"After Corbyn?" asked the Labour man, "Who runs the homeless shelter down in the town, you know, next to Marx & Spencer? I thought you hated him?"
"No!" exclaimed Garage, "After Jeremy Clarkson! Everyone loves Jezza C and a child born of migrants will need all the love it can get in a society like this."
"You're going soft in your old age," said the Tory.
The Libdem shifted nervously, adding nothing.
A mobile phone rang, breaking the spell of adoration, as they all stared into Jezza's Mazda. It was Garage's mobile.
"Yes," said Garage. "Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes, Yes. No. Of course."
He looked at the baby and then at three men. He then covered up the phone.
"It's Neil Herodon," said Garage. "He's the deputy chairman of the UK Inns Party. He says there's been talk of a baby boy born tonight who should be in an asylum-seekers' detention centre. He's worried about the effect it will have on the reputation of the B&B industry if the child is found at my inn by the Margate Express. I've told him that I've seen no such child."
"Well that's ok then isn't it?" said the Labour councillor.
"Yes and no, he wants to speak to you chaps too, in case you've seen anything. You'll have to lie too."
In unison, all three shrugged their shoulders. The Tory snatched the phone away from Garage.
"We have seen him," he said. Everyone gasped.
"He was with his family, going north through the Blackwall tunnel. He could be being radicalised into chain hotel management in a Hertfordshire Premier Inn as we speak so you'd better get looking there. No, I don't want any of your filthy money in a brown envelope, I already get expenses."
He pressed the cancel call button and handed the phone back to Garage.
"Well, I didn't expect that from you," said the Labour councillor.
"What sort of effect would it have on business in the area if people thought there was an asylum-seeker in the area?" said the Tory. "I suggest you people leave town now and go back from whence you came, maybe via Hastings and Brighton.
And Mary and Joseph did just that, with the blessings of all.
In the next instalment, in around 3-4 months, we see how despite Jezza's popularity through his inclusive wine and sundries dinner parties, a misunderstanding leads to him being vilified and punished in a most unpleasant fashion.