Christmas The Charles Dickens Show


Christmas

Charles Dickens hosts a chat show. He is joined by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to discuss the Victorian Christmas.


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Transcript


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'Ladies and gentlemen, live from the 19th century

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'and the heart of Her Majesty's empire in the city of London,

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'it's the Charles Dickens Show!

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'H-e-e-e-e-ere's Dickens!'

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Hello! And welcome to Queen Victoria's England.

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We have a very special edition of the Charles Dickens Show for you!

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Oh, yes! You wait.

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Mm-hm. Ssh!

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Now, it's just five more shopping days to Christmas.

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So, for the Polish composer Frederic Chopin,

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whose wife tells me she's buying him an axe for Christmas,

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that's just five days Mrs Chopin has to shop for Chopin's chopper!

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I'm Charles Dickens. We've got an especially festive episode for you

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as we're going to be talking all about Christmas

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with some very special guests.

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Yes, that's right! A bit of a coup for the Charles Dickens Show!

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It's Her Majesty Queen Victoria

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and His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort!

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APPLAUSE

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How did we do that?

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Well, the lure of a free mince pie is a powerful thing.

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Now, live from our cubby house kitchen,

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we've celebrity chef Mrs Beeton.

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She's poised to tell us

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how she proposes we should be preparing for Christmas Day.

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And if that wasn't enough, our roving reporter Nelly Trent

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has a special Christmas report for us. What are you up to, Nel?

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Hello, Charles. Your Highnesses.

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When good King Wenceslas looks out this year,

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he'll see more than snow that's deep and crisp and even.

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He'll see a Christmas that's bigger and better than ever.

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And that's thanks in no small part

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to the wonderful Christmas stories of Mr Dickens.

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I'm going to be bringing you all the up-to-the-minute,

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must-have toys to help make your Christmas Day go with a bang.

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-BANG!

-Fantastic!

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A few last-minute stocking fillers for your nine children,

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Your Highnesses.

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We have ten children of our own.

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We would've stopped at nine, but I like a tidy table.

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-LAUGHTER

-No, I'm serious.

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An odd number of children at every meal would drive me crazy.

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Nine?! No, no, no, no, no.

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-I'd have to get rid of one of them.

-LAUGHTER

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Am I going to be in trouble when I get home tonight?! What have you got for us, Nel?

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Well, Charles, I have two special guests.

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Two guests, eh? You'll be after my job next. Ha-ha-ha!

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We'll have to keep an eye on her. Tell us more.

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Helping me to find out what will be poking out

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of rich and poor children's stockings this Christmas morning

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are Mr Ebenezer Scrooge.

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Humbug!

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LAUGHTER

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And young Tiny Tim Cratchit.

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HE COUGHS

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APPLAUSE

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That's my pleasure, Miss Trent.

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I think you're brilliant. And really pretty.

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LAUGHTER

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Right. Let the countdown begin.

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At Number 3, for rich children...

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A toy theatre.

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Children can entertain their whole family with their creations.

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What's the point? Children should be seen and not heard.

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At Number 3 for poor children...

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Well, Miss Trent, I've got something here in my Christmas stocking

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which I think you're going to be really excited about.

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I know I am.

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(It's a lump of coal!)

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Coal's brilliant because you can burn it and it keeps you warm.

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It's a perfect Christmas present

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because Christmas is winter

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and winter is cold.

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At Number 2 for rich children...

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When I was a little boy, we were given a lump of coal as a present

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when we'd been naughty.

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What a rubbish present!

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At Number 2...

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A bilboquet.

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The young fools will waste their entire life

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trying to get this cup on this pin.

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At Number 2 for poor children...

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Look at this!

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This is called an orange.

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And it's a delicious fruit that tastes like...

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sunshine and summertime.

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Saint Nicholas put gold into people's stockings.

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But if you can't afford gold, you could put one of these in.

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Cos... Cos they look a bit like gold, don't they?

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And you could break them up into little pieces

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and share it with your family!

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And at Number 1 for rich children...

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Humbug!

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-A rocking horse.

-And at Number 1 for poor children...

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You're really going to love this one!

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It's a block of wood! Isn't it super!

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And it can be anything you want it to be.

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It can be a castle or a baby

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or a treasure chest on a pirate island.

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And it's cheap, too.

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Well, there you have it, Charles.

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There's a pretty big price range separating those presents.

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If you've got a lot of money, you can buy something truly fantastic.

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But if you don't, as Tiny Tim has shown us,

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all you really need is a bit of imagination.

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Happy Christmas, everyone!

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APPLAUSE

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So, er, that's a signed copy of Mrs Beeton's Household Management,

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for Mrs Dickens, of course,

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and 10 blocks of wood.

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LAUGHTER

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You think I'm joking!

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You don't think I'm joking.

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Now, it's time to go over to Mrs Isabella Beeton

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in the Country House Kitchen,

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where the countdown clock to Christmas is ticking.

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APPLAUSE

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It is the busiest time of year for every Victorian household.

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Your staff will have been hard at it

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so as to greet old Christmas with a happy face,

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a contented mind and a full larder.

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Gladys here has been stoning plums, scrubbing currants

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and zesting lemons since the crack of dawn, haven't you, dear?

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It is most important that your staff start the day early at 5.00am sharp.

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Lose an hour and you'll be chasing it through the day.

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Before any cooking may begin,

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staff must clean and sweep all hallways and stairs to the kitchen,

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polish the front step and set the fire in the range.

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When every area of the kitchen is scrupulously clean,

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Cook can begin to make her dough for the breakfast rolls,

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which you will leave to rise in a cupboard, like this one here.

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COOK SNORES

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This year, the Christmas meat of choice,

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for those who can afford it, that is, has to be turkey.

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Especially since I have heard a rumour

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they'll be serving up a turkey at the Royal table this year.

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If your purse can't run to it,

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goose is plentiful and very reasonably priced.

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Edna here has been mixing the Christmas pudding.

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Which she must stir clockwise with closed eyes for good luck!

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Now, Edna, don't forget to make a wish.

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Um...I-I wish I was back in bed.

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Now, Edna, that's not the spirit.

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(I've put my shoulder out.)

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Oh. Oh, yes, yes. The poor girl's put her shoulder out.

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But fortunately, Edna has two arms, don't you, Edna?

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The Christmas breakfast will be very light and simple.

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Broiled smelts with tartar sauce, lamb chops, blood sausage,

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baked apples with sweet cream, mashed potato, ham omelette,

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griddle cakes with maple syrup,

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Parker rolls, tea and coffee.

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Edna! Edna?

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Edna!

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The 52lb sack of potatoes in the cellar.

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The one that weighs about as much as a six-year-old child.

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Would you go and bring it up and peel them for me? There's a lamb.

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Where's the lamb?

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I thought... I thought we was having turkey.

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-No, dear.

-We're having deer?

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No, you doltish clown! Spuds!

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After breakfast, most of the household will be off to church.

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But on their return, after a long sermon,

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they'll be wanting a restorative lunch.

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But we've still got Christmas dinner to go,

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so, again, keep it simple.

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Oysters.

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Caviar.

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Bouillon. Cow tongue pie.

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Parisienne salad. Mince pies.

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Two and a half gallons of eggnog,

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all washed down with some hot Roman punch.

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That should just about take the edge off their hunger.

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Now, when all the plates and cutlery

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have been washed in thoroughly scalding water,

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as hot as your scullery maids' hands can bear, mind,

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it's time to pick up the pace

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and get ready for the household's big feast of the day, Christmas dinner.

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At this juncture, a lot of the household and their guests

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may well want to take to their rooms for an afternoon nap.

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-Oh, thank you, Mrs Beeton, I think I will.

-Not you, Edna! Get back here!

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Ah! This pudding will have to steam for a good eight hours,

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which means Edna will have to sit and watch it.

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And woe betide her if she lets it boil dry.

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Now, don't forget to put a charm or coin inside it

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which represents health, wealth and happiness to the finder.

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I do hope I find it, ma'am.

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That's unlikely, Edna, since you won't be having any of the pudding.

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Health, wealth and happiness are things you can dream on

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whilst you're peeling the sprouts.

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Honestly, you just can't get the staff these days.

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Now, I must crack on.

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Merry Christmas, Charles.

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And seasonal good tidings to one and all.

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APPLAUSE

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Thank you, Isabella. A pleasure, as always, my dear.

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Now, we'll be talking turkeys with the Royals, right after this...

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'Bob Cratchit was the dreamer with hope in his heart

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'and hunger in his belly.

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'Ebenezer Scrooge, the man who had forgotten what happiness means.

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'This Christmas, from the man who brought you The Pickwick Papers,

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'comes a tale of one man's redemption

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'and of a family's salvation.

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'Now, for the first time,

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'we bring you the ultimate Christmas story

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'in one beautiful volume.

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'Calf leather boards,

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'frontispiece illustrations,

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'gilt page edgings.

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'Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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'can be yours to have and to hold for ever.'

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APPLAUSE

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It's Christmas.

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And we have a magnificent Christmas tree here, waiting to be decorated.

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Here today, we have perhaps the leading expert

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on Christmas trees in Great Britain.

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He only blooming well introduced us to them!

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Prince Albert!

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RAPTUROUS APPLAUSE

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And of course, his wonderful wife and our splendid sovereign,

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Her Majesty Queen Victoria is here!

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We are going to get right into the Christmas festive spirit

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by decorating our magnificence Christmas tree.

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APPLAUSE

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What?

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LAUGHTER

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Is that it? Is this the best we could run to?

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I suppose we'll have to go with what we've got.

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Your Majesties, thank you again for joining us. It is a terrific honour.

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-Not at all.

-I meant for you.

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HE LAUGHS >

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I'm only joking!

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Now, as you know, Christmas is rather important to me.

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I understand you invented it.

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Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Reinvented it.

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I suppose my Christmas Carol has struck a chord with the nation.

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-It has been reprinted 24 times, you know?

-Maybe I should read it.

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Available in all good bookstores.

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Now, when you married our Queen and moved to England from Germany,

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did you miss the Christmas festivities back home?

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Yes, I suppose so, but I have always known Christmas in a certain way

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and it seemed only natural for me to bring my Christmas into my new family home.

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-And you suggested popping a Christmas tree up in the Palace.

-The castle. I did, yes.

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But Ma'am, you have a bit...

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Well, your family is almost, if not entirely, Germanic.

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Presumably, the Christmas tree wasn't anything new to you as an idea?

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Well, of course, one knew about Christmas trees.

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And one knew that some branches, if you'll excuse the play on words,

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of the family dragged them into the house during Christmas time,

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but one had never actually seen one oneself.

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I wonder if you could just tell us, Albert,

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a little bit more about why we have Christmas trees?

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Well, for thousands of years, on the shortest day of the year,

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the German people would bring the branches of the trees into the house and decorate them.

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And why would they do that?

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To encourage the trees to grow again in the spring.

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The Christians adopted the tradition to celebrate Christmas.

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They made it a fir tree because it is like the triangle.

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The triangle is the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

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Ah. Right, well, we've got some Christmas decorations here

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which we could attempt to get near this giant of the forest.

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Now, Ma'am, I wonder if you could tell us

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how does the Royal Family go about sprucing up the tree in the Palace?

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-Castle.

-Of course, yes, the Royal home.

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Right. Do the children gather around and get involved?

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Oh, no. One has the servants do it.

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One's hardly going to run the risk of soiling one's Royal gown.

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Right.

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No.

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Oh, no, we're only joking, Mr Dickens.

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That wouldn't be very Christmassy, would it?

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No, the whole family gets together to decorate it.

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Although, last year Edward tried to eat one of the dried oranges

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and made himself sick, poor lamb.

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That boy is greedy. He will be plump and drunk if he's not careful.

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No, he's going to have your lovely figure, and maybe some of your fine whiskers, too.

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APPLAUSE

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And, um, yes.

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I vunder... Sorry. I wonder, do you think there has been a renewed interest

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amongst our subjects in Christmas in recent years?

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Yes, I think there probably has.

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Until one came to power, we were a frightfully boring nation.

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There were a lot of pious religious people who were out to spoil the fun for everyone.

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They took a very dim view of any kind of celebrating

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around Christ's birthday.

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Banning Christmas carols and such silliness.

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It took quite a while for the old customs to return.

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But I do think as a nation,

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we are rediscovering our joy, our love for life.

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And we want to celebrate it, and we care.

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I think that, as Victorians... Oh dear, it sounds so silly when one says it oneself.

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But I think that we Victorians are interested in each other.

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We are not a nation of Scrooges and we care about the Cratchits.

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At least, I hope so.

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You're referring to two major characters in A Christmas Carol,

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available in all good book stores.

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Now, we are almost at the end of the show,

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but our queen of the kitchen, Mrs Beeton, has heard a rumour

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that you may be having turkey in the Palace this Christmas.

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-The castle.

-Castle.

-The Royal house. Yes.

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Is there any truth in the rumour?

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Has the Royal Telegraph been tapped or is it idle gossip

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and will you be having the usual beef or venison, perhaps?

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Well, I don't know where the rumour came from,

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but yes, it is true.

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We will be having turkey for the first time this year.

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Well, there you are, Isabella, a Royal scoop on the Charles Dickens Show.

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-What will the turkey be replacing?

-Swan.

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-Is one what?

-Nein, swan.

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-Nine schvon?

-He means swan.

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We usually have swan.

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Ah, swan.

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But I thought it was illegal to kill a swan, let alone cook one up for Christmas Day!

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Oh, no, Mr Dickens. They're Royal birds. It's illegal for you to kill one.

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-They belong to me.

-That's put me firmly in my place!

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That's all we have time for this year, I'm afraid.

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But we would like to wish you all a right Royal Christmas

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and a very Happy New Year!

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AULD LYNE SYNE PLAYS

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APPLAUSE

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Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days,

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that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth,

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that can transport the sailor and the traveller

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thousands of miles away back to his own fireside and his quiet home.

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Goodbye.

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APPLAUSE

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Live from the 19th century, Charles Dickens hosts a chat show. His famous Victorian guests include Doctor Barnardo, Mary Seacole and Queen Victoria.

He was vain, quick-witted, and a terrific performer. Here in the 21st century, Charles Dickens would have been the supreme chat show host - which is exactly what he becomes in the Learning Zone's contribution to the 200th anniversary of his birth. With a nod to popular magazine programmes like The One Show - and recorded in its London studio - The Charles Dickens Show sees the celebrated author interview A-list guests of the Victorian era like reformers Lord Shaftesbury and Dr Thomas Barnardo, nurses Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, and even Queen Victoria herself.

What was life really like for Victorians? The Charles Dickens Show bursts with shocks, laughs and fascinating facts. Dickens, his roving reporter Nelly and a string of famous guests telly-port us back into a world that is dirty, dangerous and often deeply strange. Special reports include a video diary shot undercover by an orphan in a workhouse; interviews with mudlarks and purefinders on London's mean streets; Ask The Doctors, where Joseph Lister takes on the traditionalists; and Mrs Beeton's guide to Christmas Day.

In this episode, Charles Dickens is joined by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to discuss the Victorian Christmas. With Mrs Beeton's survival guide to the Christmas kitchen, and a 'Top Three Christmas Presents' countdown for rich and poor children, introduced by Scrooge and Tiny Tim.


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