Joe the Butcher was, of course, a butcher, a traditional butcher in those days when proper butchers worked from small shops and chopped the meat up there in front of your eyes and nothing was available already cut, weighed and shrink wrapped from a supermarket shelf.
Joe the Butcher was in our regular domino group in The Bay Horse and every Friday evening we’d assemble and regale each other with the stories of our week while getting increasingly drunk and high on the clouds of snuff that seemed to gather in our corner of the room, those were good nights, beer, dominoes and the company of good men.
And then it was Christmas and it was Joe the Butchers busiest time of year for his local turkey supplier would deliver the fresh birds on the night before Christmas Eve leaving Joe the Butcher just a few hours to tag them all up with the persons name who had ordered that particular weight, and hang them all in his chiller room, for this reason Joe the Butcher wasn’t out for the Doms night just before Christmas.
He was out the next week though and as we went around the table recounting our tales of spending Christmas Day getting drunk in front of the TV he sat there and said nothing until eventually someone asked “So what was your Christmas like then Joe ?”
“Don’t talk to me about Christmas fookin Day is all he’d say”
“No,” we all cried, “this sounds too good, tell us all about Christmas Day Joe”
And so he did.
Christmas Eve had been extremely hectic as always with the people of the district queueing outside the shop to collect their pre-ordered fresh turkeys and Joe had all three of his part time helpers in the shop with him, they’d spent all day on their feet running back and forth to the chilled room collected the correctly tagged birds for sale, the till was over-flowing with money, it had been a good Christmas.
Joe finally shut up shop at around 7pm on Christmas Eve, opened up a bottle of whisky and offered a toast of thanks to his staff then shoved them out the door and bade them a Merry Christmas, watching them wend their way home in the dark. Turning back into his shop he went to get his coat and finally into the chilled room to collect his own turkey for each year he picked out the biggest and best for his own family, tagged it up and put it on the top shelf so that it didn’t get accidentally sold, he had a big family and they all congregated at his house every year, he needed the biggest and best turkey.
The chilled room was empty.
He searched high and low but there was no sign at all of his own turkey, in fact no turkey at all, not even a frozen one, in fact not a scrap of meat to be had anywhere in the shop, they’d had a good day, sold the lot.
All he had left was a couple of pounds of sausage, so he took them home.
For Christmas dinner.
He looked so glum telling us the story in the pub that we had to laugh, indeed we were all clutching our ribs laughing and when he started to explain what his wifes face looked like when she put the sausage in the fridge and asked where the turkey was he started to laugh himself and soon we were all in tears of laughter, his family all sat down to their Christmas dinner of sausages with just the tad of an air of disappointment, “The freeloading buggers won’t be so fookin quick to invite themselves next year” Joe declared, wiping the tears from his eyes.
So Joe, this is in your memory, the drawing of Joe the Butcher.