I used to do technical stage management and had a gig running the Christmas Show at the Tamworth Snowdome. I’d collect the cast in the dark and drive them through the dark, cold snow-covered early morning to arrive at the wonderfully warmed reception, then we’d go into the refrigerated snowdome itself. After tramping through the snow-covered inside, we came to our ‘green room’, which was thankfully heated. And then, like another Russian doll, inside that was a fridge to keep our milk cold. The heat being pumped back and forth was an environmental nightmare.
We did 475 shows over 27 days. Hearing ‘Frostie the Snowman’ made me twitch. Father Christmas was wonderful, but incredibly blue in his anecdotes off-stage. Goodness knows what would have happened if I’d ever forgotten to bring down his mic. I spent the time huddled around a heater (in the snowdome) trying to keep warm and watching it all on a small TV set ready to raise the lights, hit the music cue (not ‘Frostie’ again!) or rush out to head off some disaster or other. But mostly it was just sitting there being cold.
I had to do something to keep sane, so I took in my laptop in to write. But I couldn’t. I needed to be ready for the lighting and sound cues, and it was just too cold to type.
Instead, I spent ages staring at a single screen gradually working out an anti-Christmas story, slowly changing the bullet points during the none button pressing sections of the show.
When it was all over, I thought I’d see if I could type up the story within the twelve days of Christmas. It turned out that this was no challenge at all. I didn’t need the whole dozen, the words just poured out of me.
And it’s not that anti-Christmas either. More a dig at the commercialism.
This was the screenplay. Much later, I rewrote it as a novella. And later still, Tracey Norman of Circle of Spears narrated it to make the quite wonderful audiobook. Go and have a listen, because it’s a story that’s not just for Christmas, but also for this cold, cold June.