The Trouble With Scrooge

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

Christmas is a-coming and the geese are getting fat

Please put a penny in the poor man’s hat

If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do

If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you.

I hate to complain (say, that would be a great title for a book – The Dundurn Group  ISBN 0-8882-214-6) but, I’m afraid some of our time-honoured Christmas carols are hopelessly out of date and need some serious revision. This one in particular stands out for so many reasons. Take the goose business, for instance.

When was the last time you had a goose? Perhaps I should reword that. When was the last time you cooked a goose? That’s better, and if you did, where in the world did you buy it? If you remember in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Scrooge sent a young lad to the poulterer on the next street to buy one for the Cratchets, which I thought was ridiculous since a goose was hardly a rarity for the Cratchets, Bob and the Missus had fourteen children.

That may have been fine in 1843 when there were poultry shops all over London but as far as I know, we don’t have a poulterer in Orillia. They might have one in Barrie, they have everything else. They even have bars where ladies dance without their undershirts, but we won’t get into that today as we are discussing outdated Christmas carols. Maybe we should look into the undershirt business in January. Just out of curiosity, when a dancer is almost bare naked does she have to wear a mask?

Oh, the goose… not only did Scrooge buy a goose he bought it on Christmas morning.  Now think about that for a moment. Here we have Ebenezer Scrooge, the cheapest man in all of London, giving Bob Cratchet the day off, granted begrudgingly, but the local poulterer was open for business as usual.

Obviously his poultry shop must have been part of the Loblaw chain and owned by Galen Weston’s great-great grandfather.

While we are on the subject of Scrooge’s goose; as I understand it from intensive research, the Cratchets did not have a microwave oven in their hovel, nor did they have a deep fryer or one of those big suckers Cajun chefs use to cook whole pigs, plus a side of beef, and ten pounds of okra whatever that crap is.

It’s Christmas Day, Mrs. Cratchet has just rolled out of bed when some bozo knocks on the door and hands her a big flippin’ goose. How in blazes is she going to cook the thing in time for dinner? Dickens was a good writer but he obviously didn’t think this through.

If I remember my mother used to put a turkey in the oven in the middle of the night so it would be done before the 11 o’clock news came on the next day. The Cratchet’s goose might have been ready for New Year’s Eve but I doubt it. And was there a bakery open where she could buy a loaf of bread for the stuffing?

I also have a problem with the money involved, the carol asks us to put a penny in some poor man’s hat. Not today we won’t. In 2021 actually handling money is risky without surgical gloves and a squirt of chemical spray. Even the Horton’s drive-through doesn’t want your cash.

Oh they will take it, but they would much prefer you tap your bank card. So not only does the poor man in the carol not have any money, he has to scrape up enough cash to buy one of those bank thingies so we can tap our card and transfer a penny into his bank account, an account he probably doesn’t have in the first place. If you e-transfer the money the bank will charge you a dollar to send a flipping penny. The bank makes 99 cents and the poor guy gets a lousy penny.

All we really know is all this must have happened in England where they have pennies and ha’pennies. We don’t have either one. The government tossed them out because we couldn’t buy anything with them. All they were good for was to wear holes in your pocket. The nickels will go next, then the dimes. Mark my words, by this time next year, the carolers will be singing, ‘Please throw a twenty in the poor man’s hat.’

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