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A pudding with a bitter taste

Christmas Pudding. Christmas scene and decorations in the background.

A pudding with a bitter taste

Philip Denniel, the Governor of the Bank of England, invited to lunch at his mother-in-law’s house for Christmas Eve of 2021, was slowly chewing a piece of the traditional pudding.

“The pudding does not taste quite like it normally does,” he finally observed.

“It’s the brandy,” replied his mother-in-law. “The French brandy I always bought before is too expensive now. I used a British apple brandy.”

Speechless, Denniel stared at his mother-in-law. If even the Christmas pudding was affected by Brexit, what was the country coming to?

Jane Farrow, though, lived in a comfortable house in an affluent part of the city. It was true that this elegant seventy-six-year-old lady had always been cautious with money, especially since her husband’s death. But this level of austerity was unprecedented.

The elderly lady excused herself to pop down to the ground floor. Denniel finished his pudding with little enthusiasm, alone in the large dining room with floral wallpaper. His wife and their two daughters, keen to do some last-minute shopping, had made good their escape before pudding was served. Big Ben, or rather the miniature replica on the mantelpiece, chimed two o’clock. The Governor, sunk in his thoughts, barely heard it. So this is what it had come to. The mother-in-law of the Governor of the Bank of England, and probably all the mothers-in-law across the country, were too hard up to buy imported ingredients for their puddings.

Christmas Pudding. Christmas scene and decorations in the background.
Christmas Pudding.

“Would you like some more pudding?”

Denniel was roused from his brief distraction by the return of his hostess. He declined politely, got up from the table, and went through into the first floor sitting room next to the dining room. He liked thinking in this room, which was lined with beautiful woodwork and red velvet curtains, well lit by several bay windows, and beautifully decorated with a collection of Chinese ceramics and silver ornaments. Several reproductions of works by Reynolds, Gainsborough and Turner adorned the walls. The Governor had a favourite spot, a leather armchair near the fireplace, where he spent long hours smoking his pipe. But today he was too pre-occupied to sit quietly. Wanting to enjoy the sun that had just come out, he went over to the main window and opened it. In from the quiet London street came December air, chilly, invigorating, freshened by the rain that had fallen that morning.

Rue pittoresque de Chelsea
A colourful row of pastel painted Victorian townhouses in Chelsea, London.

What could be done to rescue his country from the doldrums? Denniel had been asking himself the same question for two years, without arriving at any conclusion. Unemployment, companies failing, devaluation, inflation… The country had been in recession since 2019. Problems were being heaped upon problems. The Governor was now dreading a still darker prospect, a plunge into an even deeper crisis, which would shake the country to its very foundations.

Looking down the street, he saw a taxi passing too fast, splashing a passer-by. The driver stopped immediately, got out, and could be heard apologising, offering to take the passer-by on to his destination for free. The pedestrian accepted gracefully. “All is not lost,” thought Denniel. “We still have a people of great character, able to endure difficulties with phlegm and stoicism.”

He decided to go out for a walk, told his mother-in-law on his way through the kitchen and went down to the ground floor. Having put on his coat and a cap, he opened the front door. It was at that moment that he was hit in the face by something congealed and sticky. A piece of Christmas pudding. “Go on, let them eat pudding! This disaster is all your fault!” shouted the man who had thrown it. Denniel wanted to respond, but the projectile thrower had already disappeared. Returning to the house to clean his face, he considered that perhaps the country was not so phlegmatic after all…

The incident did not prevent him from going on to have an uneventful walk. On his return, an hour later, he noticed that his daughters and his wife had not come back. He could not see his mother-in-law either; she had probably gone out as well. He went back to the sitting room, put a log on the fire, lit a pipe, settled down in the leather chair and turned on the television. He decided to watch the last parliamentary debate of the year, which had taken place two days earlier, and which he had not been able to see at the time. It had been widely discussed in the press.

Chapter 1 of “Brexit XXL” by Vincent Pluchet

Brexit XXL Front Cover
Brexit XXL

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