On the outskirts of farmland, in a northern country where there are elks and puffins, but no mosquitoes, stands the most wonderful barn.
It is built of stone, its tower is 100 feet tall and it is very old. It’s hard to picture somewhere so lonely, so devoid of natural resources other than the silent rock and glacier water, being a hive of industry but step inside the barn and you’ll see.
The barn smells just like Christmas. And by that I mean booze, old gravy, resentment and sweat. Mr Christmas is no fairytale character.
Inside the barn sit row upon row of people. Many of them are tiny in stature; so short and slight that you could mistake them for children at first glance. They sit only an inch apart, their elbows twisting as they glue and stick and file and sand and build.
Mr Christmas, who has lost a lot of weight these past five years, is down at the far end, leaning over a giant map, swigging mulled wine from a hip flask and frowning. “All year, all fucking year stuck in this godforsaken place. Not so much as a quick City break with the missus and then one night to call in on the whole goddamn world.”
He looks around in despair at the stacks and stacks of ipads, iphones, Frozen merchandise and trainers that his little helpers are churning out, faithful copies to the originals being sweated out in China.
It used to be so much simpler, he thinks. Kids would want a doll, or a book, or even a couple of satsumas. Even those wooden trainsets that were a bit of a bitch to put together were a breeze compared to this. 40 elves with repetitive strain injury this year alone. How did it come to this? Not to mention the population explosion that means he’s having to shove himself down billions, not millions, of chimneys. This insanity can’t last forever…can it?