by Hannah Rose
“What do you mean you sacked my team?” Aleksander’s father said to his boss, the operations manager late on Christmas Eve when he finally called him back. “It’s the day before Christmas and we were already behind schedule.”
“Look, mate,” the ops manager said. “the pound has taken a nosedive since Brexit, and your lot were asking for double their hourly rate, and expecting a Christmas bonus.”
“ ‘Your lot’” Aleksander’s father chastised.
The ops manager didn’t hear him.
“I’ve got the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi on my back threatening to pull the whole thing and leave a bunch of half built hotels in Battersea and a whole company of British workers made redundant if I don’t balance the books and get this thing sorted. I did you a favour by keeping you on. I had to let them go and get things level again. Otherwise there might have been a mutiny—sabotage—and how would that look for you, eh?”
‘You did me a favour’ Aleksander’s father silently repeated, bitterly.
“And what about my lot who have no money to send home this month?” He asked.
“Look, mate, we have to look after our own in this post Brexit world of ours. If you get the main building looking relatively ship shape by January 1st and the Sheikh is happy then I will consider bringing the Poles back for phase 2 of the project.”
“But why at Christmas?!” Aleksander’s father was desperate.
“Well it isn’t Christmas for the bloody Sheikh, is it?—he’s an Arab!”
Christmas morning in Aleksander’s house in England felt different from the seven he’d had previously. Firstly, there was no snow like there was in Warsaw, which glittered with promise each Christmas. The sky hung low in England with a blanket of thick grey cloud looking like it might smother them all, and the temperature was unseasonably warm—although Aleksander didn’t know that. He stuck his head out of the window and looked across at south London, the Thames snaking its way across the horizon like a fat, lazy serpent. A single trawler sounded its lonely horn to the sleeping city and sent a black billow of smoke into the sky, like a spell. He went downstairs to find his father already in the kitchen whisking eggs and frying bacon, a pile of warm, crispy bread rolls on the table.
“I’m sorry we didn’t have our traditional twelve dishes last night,” his father said. “But I will make us a hearty breakfast today. Happy Christmas Alek!”
Alek hadn’t minded that they didn’t have Wigilia like they usually did back home—twelve Polish dishes including borscht, herrings and dumplings. It was always too much for him and would eat the first dishes too quickly, often feeling too full by the end and wanting the food to stop coming, eventually falling asleep at the table. What he did miss though was all the people at the dinner table on Christmas Eve: his grandmothers, aunts, cousins and mother. After Aleksander and his father had been to visit the scary wobbly Santa Claus, they had wandered home and his father had had to take a long call. Aleksander had fallen asleep on the sofa to the sound of angry words from the kitchen.
On Christmas morning in Downing Street, the PM padded down the stairs in her nightie—a gift from her husband—and went to her desk first before putting the coffee on in the kitchen. Something was bothering her. She turned to the back of the Impact Assessment she’d been reading the previous night and leafed through the appendices, coming to the interview with the hotel CEO first. Why on earth is this in here? She thought to herself. She’d had an inkling that some of the I.As had been rushed through on deadline anyway, and had been curious about this one in particular. Reading through the interview, she rolled her eyes. It’s been written verbatim! The grammar was poor and it read more like a remain-rant than the ’empirical evidence from experts that Brexit was the right way forward’. Where’s the excruciating detail I told them to include?! She fumed. She punched a number into the phone and waited for the head of Brexit Impact studies to answer the phone. He picked up after nine rings answering the call with “Merry Christmas Prime Minister!”
“Forget Christmas,” the PM snapped. “You’ve got some serious work to do. Go through every Impact Assessment, offline and online, and delete every single daft interview with anyone who has anything derogatory to say about the referendum.”
Beneath the little Christmas tree in Aleksander’s house lay a small bundle of gifts wrapped in brown paper and tied with string bearing a Polish postmark. “These are all for you, Alek,” his father said handing them to him. “But we have to open them with mum and the baby when we’re Skyping together.”
“Thanks dad, I got you one too!” Alek replied, passing over a CD. “We made it at school; it’s my class singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” he said in English. “We all recorded a Christmas message for our family—three wishes for 2018. I can’t wait for you to hear mine!”
“Your English is so good, now, Alek!” said his father proudly. He leaned over and gave his son a hug and a big kiss on the top of his head.
They waited impatiently while Skype bleeped its connection transmission to Warsaw, where Aleksander’s mother and sister were waiting for them, too.
“Boże Narodzenie!” His mother said as soon as she answered. She waved and blew kisses.
“Happy Christmas!” Said Aleksander and his father together. The baby giggled and blew a spit bubble.
Aleksander opened the gift from his parents; it was a tablet with a Polish-English dictionary already installed. “Wow!” Aleksander said, “thanks mum, thanks dad!”
“Now you can do all the translating for all of us when we come and visit.”
“Visit?” Said Aleksander. “You’re coming here?!”
“You’ve ruined the surprise now!” Said his father to his mother.
“Oh, Surprise!” his mother said. “Yes Alek, we are coming to London for New Year, your grandmother helped us out a little and bought us some flights.”
“It’s cheaper and the baby can travel for free,” said Aleksander’s father. “So you don’t have to worry about spending the money I’m earning on going home.”
“This is the best Christmas present ever!” said Aleksander. He couldn’t wait to show his mum and sister around his home in England, even if it was grey and Christmas here felt like a muffled drum.
Featured image CC0 via Pexels
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