The Ghost Of Christmas Past – @oldpesky
Pedro sat sipping Bollinger contemplating whether or not to open another bottle. It had been a long day, but a fruitful one. He’d quelled the natives’ revolt with their talk of living wages for his subordinates and, with the timing of a true professional, altered the focus and growing resentment of the crowd with a throwaway one-liner.
He chuckled as he replayed the moment in his head. ‘Rory Bremner does a good impression of Tony Blair.’
Mirroring Pedro’s mood, the log fire crackled and danced carefree. Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 floated around the spacious lounge, subtly filling every nook and cranny with an ambience befitting a king.
Swaying his toes to the gentle rhythm, Pedro closed his eyes and reminisced some more. ‘Rory Bremner does a good impression of Tony Blair.’
After throwing another log on the fire Pedro took a large sip of sparkling refreshment and drifted off to La La Lawwell Land.
La La Lawwell Land was a warm and happy world. Everyone knew their place.
A short time later Pedro awoke with a startle.
He rubbed the top of his head. It was definitely sore, and he could feel a lump coming. His ears were also burning. Sweat ran down his face, and under his Lisbon Lion onesie his body was soaking.
The log fire roared to the thunderous beats filling the air.
Rachmaninov had left the building. Replaced by Bon Scott barking from the Bose speakers: ‘YOU’RE ON A HI-I-I-GHWAY TO HELL!’
Pedro tried to leap from his chair to turn the volume down but found he was restrained. Not by ropes or chains, but an old man wearing nothing but a brown robe and huge Celtic Cross.
The old man gave Pedro a disarming smile before whacking him over the head with a lengthy staff. ‘Say hello to my little friend!’
‘Ouch!’ cried Pedro, rubbing his head for further lumps. ‘Who the hell are you?’
The old man smiled again. ‘Don’t you recognise me, Peter?’
Pedro rubbed his eyes. ‘Am I dreaming?’
‘Is this the sort of thing you normally dream about, Pedro?’
‘No. I normally dream about Celtic winning the Champions League and being revered around the world as a visionary.’
‘Mm, both laudable goals, and achievable, too. I can’t fault your ambition. Mind you, Caesar was also ambitious and look what Brutus and Cassius did to him.’
The old man pointed his staff at Pedro’s stereo and with a twist of his wrist turned down the volume to a level that didn’t threaten the windows blowing out. He leaned forward and felt the lumps on Pedro’s head. ‘That’s a good bit of growth you have there. You must be so proud at achieving such a rate in such a short space of time.’
Pedro grimaced. ‘I have friends in the police.’
‘Is that the Dutch police or Scottish police?’
‘Who are you?’ said Peter, unsuccessfully struggling to wriggle free from an invisible force holding him down.
‘Who am I?’ said the old man, tightening his grip on his staff. ‘I am the ghost of Christmas past. I put this club together. That’s who I am.’
Pedro rubbed his eyes again. ‘Walfrid? But he’s…’
The old man gave Pedro another swift blow to the head.
‘Ouch!’ said Pedro. ‘Will you please stop doing that? It’s not fair.’
‘Not fair? You want to talk about what’s not fair?’
The old man stoked the roaring fire with his staff and motioned Pedro to sit forward. ‘Tell me, what do you see?’
After discovering he was loose enough to sit forward in his chair Pedro pushed his luck and tried to stand. However, such was the speed of the old man, Pedro felt the pain of the blow on his leg without actually seeing it.
‘Okay, okay! I get the message.’
‘Hopefully, by the end of the day you do.’
Pedro stared into the fire and noticed how his Norwegian Standard kiln-dried birch produced lovely flames. Such was their beauty he started drifting off again before another blow shot pain racing up his leg.
The old man smiled. ‘You’re not looking deep enough.’
Pedro massaged his thigh and stared deep into the fire. He felt himself dozing off again and even though he knew what was coming, he was too warm and cosy to care. He would only shut his eyes for a few seconds. Not a moment more.
The old man whispered in Pedro’s ear. ‘Open your eyes, Peter.’
Pedro opened his eyes and looked around. The stench of dampness mixed with disinfectant replaced the sweet smell of burning birch. A cold draught replaced the warmth. A screaming child in another room replaced the soundtrack. A young man and woman stormed into the room shouting at each other.
‘Whit dae ye want me tae dae, Sandra?’ said the young man. ‘It’s no ma fault.’
‘Ah’m no saying it’s your fault, Andy, um Ah?’ said Sandra. ‘It’s no ma fault either.’
It was obvious both the young couple had been crying. It was also obvious they were in love. The room was sparsely filled with furniture but the walls were full of family photographs of happier times. The biggest picture sat in the centre of the wall had around thirty people of all ages squeezed into it. A family photo.
The young couple sat on the couch and embraced.
‘Whit we goany dae?’ said Andy. ‘If we don’t pay Wonga this month we wullnae huv any chance of getting a loan fur the wean’s Christmas.’
‘Could ye no get a few extra hours at work or something?’
‘There’s no even a game on in the next couple of weeks.’
The old man snapped his fingers and stirred Pedro from his trance.
The first thing to hit Pedro was the warmth. And the next thing to hit him was also the warmth: the warmth of his Bollinger. As crass as it was he was so thirsty he drunk it anyway. Unfortunately for Pedro the next thing to hit him was the old man’s little friend.
‘Ouch!’ said Pedro. ‘If you don’t stop that I’m going to…’
‘Hush.’ He hit him once more. ‘Do you know who those poor souls are, Peter?’
Pedro shrugged his shoulders. ‘Never seen them before in my life.’
‘They are my people, Peter. They are Celtic. They are the reason Celtic are here.’
Pedro screwed up his eyes. ‘So you are him.’
‘Yes, I am him. You mess with me and you’re messing with the man. The wrong man. You want to mess with me, Peter?’
The old man lifted his staff and laughed as Pedro cowered.
Next morning Pedro received a phone call from Dermot Desmond. He, too, had a visit the night before, as did every other director of Celtic PLC.
A press conference was hastily organised.
Tom English was first to ask the question on everyone’s lips. ‘Why the sudden change of heart with the introduction of paying all employees at Celtic Park the so-called living wage? Surely this will affect the club’s profitability and have a knock-on effect on its chances of further progression in the elite European competitions.’
Peter Lawwell took the floor. ‘Tom, Tom, Tom. A lot has been made recently about impressions. My own joke about Rory Bremner doing a good impression of Tony Blair certainly rattled a few cages, including yours. You need to lighten up, old boy. Not that I or anyone associated with Celtic give your words any weight. By your own admission you are a relative newcomer to life in Scotland and can’t get your head around the importance football and everything that surrounds it is to many, many people. But that’s okay. Like I said, your impression of me, the club or our fans is not important. What is of the utmost importance to Celtic Football Club is the impression our fans have of the club. We sit here, in charge of a multimillion pound business empire, but that’s not what’s important at the end of the day. Sure, we want the club to be as competitive as possible on all fronts. But, as much as I’d like to see the club winning the Champions League every year, I’d rather the people who make this club what it is have not only food on their tables but also hope in their hearts. We can’t solve all society’s ills but we try to do what we can. And, although we do more than any other club, we will continue to look for fresh ways to do more. Introducing the living wage means we’ll have to let a player go. This will undoubtedly weaken the squad, but it will strengthen the bond that has held the Celtic family together since Brother Walfrid first came up with the idea of a football team to aid immigrant integration. Besides, Rory Bremner may well do a good impression of Tony Blair, but it isn’t a patch on Walfrid’s impression of Tony Montana.’