Christmas parties normally bring me out with a bad case of the bah-humbugs, but there’s one host whose gatherings I’d love to be invited to. Posy Simmonds, writer and illustrator of Tamara Drewe and The Chocolate Wedding, is a total genius when it comes to capturing the joy and frivolity of a fantastic bash in full swing.
In Mrs Scrooge she remakes Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for the Credit Crunch era. It sounds like an awful prospect, but the accompanying poem by Carol Ann Duffy (who also wrote a brilliant new version of The Night Before Christmas), is sublimely witty, and not at all heavy handed.
Duffy imagines that after Scrooge has his epiphany in A Christmas Carol he finds a soul mate in Mrs Scrooge. But sadly their union is short lived, Scrooge is ‘doornail dead’ and his widow now lives alone, with her distant memories of good Ebenezer. ‘She remembered her first Christmas with Scrooge, the single stripey sweet he’d given her that year, and every year.’
The new setting is much more than a chance to indulge in some festive satire, it offers an inspired backdrop to bring out the story’s message. Mrs Scrooge, it turns out is something of an eco warrior, engaged in a protest against the terrible conditions suffered by the Turkeys at Marley’s Supermarket (Biggest Bargain Birds!) Her green credentials mean that even during the coldest winter on record her little flat is heated by just a small log fire and a hot water bottle. Like her husband she is a miser, but in this new context this is an entirely virtuous way of life.
As the ghosts whisk Mrs Scrooge off to Christmases past, present and those yet to come, she is not filled not with regret, but reminded of how much she loves life and her family. Her joie de vivre is entirely infectious – even when shown her own death she has to restrain herself from dancing with the deathly ghost at her own wake.
Posy Simmonds’ illustrated celebrations are like the best parties you’ve never been to; cross generational shindigs where everyone grins, dances and gets sloshed on Bucks Fizz. And despite the modern dress she still manages to conjure up an authentically Dickensian feeling.
You can read the full poem here