A Christmas Poem
21 Dec 2017
Posted by: Thomas Barnes
The Old Inspector's Tale
The poem that features in this film was published in United Kingdom Provident's staff magazine, The Ukapian, in December 1936. It recounts the story of an insurance inspector's chance encounter with Father Christmas, late one Christmas Eve. Not much is known about the author, save for their initials, T.E.B.C.
For those interested, here is the poem in full:
It was last Christmas Eve that I met him.
He was old and shrunken and grey;
But his head was erect, and his bearing
Was that of a life in Class A.
He said to me: "Are you insured, sir?"
I nodded, and then broke the news—
How I was, like him, an Inspector,
And quite the wrong prospect to choose.
He laughed, and he said: "Pardon me, sir,
For tackling you thus in the street,
But I owe my success at this game, sir,
To sounding each man that I meet.
Why, the best case I ever secured, sir,
Was one that I got in that way.
It was Christmas, just like it is now, sir—
Forty-one years ago to the day.
Perhaps I might tell you the tale, sir?
Of how, long ago, through my plan
I secured the best case of my life, sir."
I nodded, and so he began.
"I was young, like yourself, at the time, sir,
And keen! Why, you'll scarcely believe
That I 'm speaking the truth when I say, sir,
I even worked late Christmas Eve.
As I sat all alone at my desk, sir,
Calculating new business to date,
I heard a queer sound in the chimney,
Then a whizz!—and a thud in the grate.
I looked up, and there on the hearth, sir,
Bowed down by the weight of his load,
Was an old chap in red with white whiskers—
'Santa Claus!' I exclaimed. 'I'll be blowed!'
He smiled, and I thought he looked sheepish
As he murmured: ' Why, pardon me, son!
It seems that I took the wrong chimney—
I was aiming at one-ninety-one.'
He turned then to go on his way, sir,
But I, notwithstanding my start,
Had the presence of mind to shout 'Hi, there!
One moment before you depart.'
I 'd remembered my rule just in time, sir,
And I added with scarcely a pause:
'I hope you won't think me too personal,
But are you insured, Mr Claus?'
His reaction to that was most strange, sir,
For with wonder too obvious to screen
He stroked his white beard and demanded:
'Young fellow, just what do you mean?'
Well, I've always been able to talk, sir,
And this was a chance rich and rare,
So I took a deep breath and I started,
And old Santa, he pulled up a chair.
I told him how we chaps, like him, sir,
Aimed only to please other folk
By making them free of all worry,
And his eyes lighted up as I spoke—
Of Providence, Pensions, Precaution,
Of Premiums (all ages from nowt),
Percentages, Policies, Payments,
And Profits, both With and Without.
When I'd done he got up from his chair, sir,
His dear old face wrinkled with glee,
And he said: 'Why, that's splendid, young fellow!
Now, what have you got to suit me?'
Well, I had the right answer prepared, sir;
I knew the old chap had no wife,
So ignoring our new D.S.P. Plan,
I strongly advised a Whole Life.
And I added: 'Don't limit your payments,
For then they will not be so high.'
You see, sir, I knew it was certain
That Santa Claus never would die.
My Office has always come first, sir,
And that's why I made him secure
With the policy most beneficial
To us—one that cannot mature!
Well, I gave him a form, and at that, sir,
He picked up the best of my quills,
And he started to make his proposal:
'Santa Claus. Single. Old as the hills.'
Occupation? He wrote 'Joy Provider,'
With a residence 'Near the North Pole.'
Two friends who could vouch for his standing?
Jack Frost, and—why, yes, Old King Cole!
He'd never had any diseases;
He was temperate, too—but of course
I could not offer him special rates, sir,
Since his pudding includes brandy sauce.
Well, he filled up the whole of the form, sir,
And he handed me over his cheque.
Then he said : 'I must rush or the kiddies
Will imagine I've been in a wreck!'
Now, that gave me another idea, sir,
And I kept him from going on his way
Till he'd also insured with my Office
His reindeer—all ten—and his sleigh!"
Happy Christmas from the Archive!