Magazine article The Spectator

My Uncle Scrooge

Magazine article The Spectator

My Uncle Scrooge

Article excerpt

It was blowing a hooligan outside. There was a knock at the door, which was open, and there was this doctor - the biggest doctor we'd ever seen - stamping his big brown brogues on the doormat. He'd come to examine Uncle Jack, who we sincerely hoped might be dying at last. Before he went in, the gigantic doctor shared a joke with us. He was getting out of his car just now, he said, when a gust of wind tugged the computer print-out of Uncle Jack's medical record out of his hand and blew it away. Hoping it was some kind of a portent, I went outside in my slippers to make sure it had gone, but found it flapping madly on a blackcurrant bush.

Having examined Uncle Jack, the doctor's opinion was that, if the infection in Uncle Jack's lungs wasn't checked immediately, he could be lying on a mortuary slab by Christmas Day. All we could do, he said, was hit it with a powerful dose of antibiotic and hope for the best. As the best that we could possibly hope for that dirty, demanding, senile, abusive, wealthy old man was that the infection would rout the antibiotic completely, and that he was indeed lying on a mortuary slab for the Christmas festivities, we felt his statement was a slightly contradictory one - but we let it go.

As soon as the doctor's car pulled away I marched in to Uncle Jack's room, determined to get him to open his wallet. With nearly a million quid in his current account, yet unable to bring himself to spend 50 pence on a newspaper, let alone a Christmas present, Uncle Jack is a perfect example of a miser. There's nothing he would enjoy more, for example, than dying suddenly just before Christmas, thereby saving himself the few quid he might otherwise have been forced to spend on gifts.

But I wasn't going to let him get away with it this time. Mortuary slab or no mortuary slab, I was going to make him prise open that wallet of his and hand over enough money to buy a Christmas present, on his behalf, for the part-time care assistant who looks after him. The calm, polite impoverished woman whom he shouts abuse at all the time, and who assiduously clears up the faeces and urine he uses sometimes as weapons of psychological warfare.

'Who?' he said. I reminded him. …

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