Thursday 20 December

At last! A specifically male dinner at Mr Homous’s Bloodhouse at which women are but dainty smiles crinkling their button noses above succulent meat dishes. An industrious year we all agree, although the specifics are harder to identify. Runs to the Corn Exchange between courses reveal a fluctuating market for both cotton and coal; the brandies before and after doing little to calm the stomach. Makepeace's jaunt to China was his high point, and ours too as the opium he’d acquired was liberally distributed. A toast to those who’d passed away was nevertheless unavoiding of a certain manly melancholy. Marnard Banning, the notoriously ‘near-the-knuckle’ funny man was remembered for his joke regarding Queen Victoria, a half-Albert and three recently freed slaves all applying for the same missionary position; Magnus Magnusbotham for being one of the last great public executioners of our times.

It will be no surprise to you to learn that I invited all six items of living, breathing masculinity up to the flat for a nightcap. As some were also wheezing I suggested the use of our recently installed elevation device, promising as it did to whisk us far above the warehouse where, as they have done since I arrived here, Scarface Jones and Shifty McQuiggin sat valiantly weaving their enormous pairs of cotton stockings for the giants of Timbuktu. But goodness, goodly gentleman do we not require one night off a year from such philanthropy? After some ennobling struggle all were agreed to a man.

Three and a half floors up we were stuck tight in the black hole of Calcutta and no amount of creative cursing could raise a soul. Such were the constraints of space within the contraption that poor Arnold suffered several broken ribs as we all produced our pocket watches simultaneously (it was 01:02). Looking at the maximum load (equating to half a filly and two medium-sized, short-haired gun dogs) we realised that the combined weight of just three of us had tipped the vessel to a standstill, so to speak. Oh how we regretted that last minced humming bird now! Morale sank lower as we remained static and it was only good fortune that brought to the lips of the affected Londoner, Mario, some bawdy music hall songs he’d heard performed by a youthful duo named Chas (sic) and Dave (siccer). So awful were they that in a flash I’d remembered the fire watcher from the New Union and within an instance was expanding my lungs to shrill…well what exactly? All I could see behind Arnold’s increasingly frostbitten leg was the manufacturers’ registration plate, reading - somewhat innocuously - D.I.S.C.O. So, with my old ‘Joanna’ a distant memory, that is exactly what I sang, dear reader, and within twenty minutes we had our heroes. Crawling out between floors, the fire fighters having used their magic nut braces, it was almost impossible to work out how they failed to join in with our increasingly merry tunes. So from us, the survivors sat round the fireside, to you, the survivors of yet another glorious year, all that remains of our duty is to wish you an exceedingly MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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