Cotswold Voice: The unsung hero of The Nativity

Despite his ‘No Vacancies’ sign, it was the humble publican who found Joseph and Mary somewhere to k

Despite his ‘No Vacancies’ sign, it was the humble publican who found Joseph and Mary somewhere to kip and sorted out a makeshift cot for the Son of God - Credit: Archant

Bizarrely, the most important figure in The Nativity is always overlooked. If it wasn’t for the inkeeper, the Christmas story wouldn’t have happened at all, says Adam Edwards

It’s the Christmas issue and so I thought I’d write about The Nativity.

“OMG,” I hear you cry. But hang on - spare a bit of Xmas goodwill for us media johnnies. Every Indian summer, when Noddy Holder is still in his budgie smugglers, editors demand festive stories. And conjuring up seasonal ideas before the first flu jab is akin to turning water into wine.

Anyway, struggling for a Christmas idea hundreds of miles from the Cotswolds, in balmy south west France, I was inspired by the café in which I was sipping a Pastis or three - Bar Marie’s. As I watched the barman polishing glasses it occurred to me that when it comes to the hoary old tale of Mary and Joseph nobody bothers about the publican.

The annual bout of publicity for the Posh and Becks of the New Testament in carols, cards and cheesy cribs, is unremitting. Furthermore, Herod gets good coverage for his classic baddie role, the Angel Gabriel has the rock star walk-on part while the wise men and shepherds enjoy their moment in the limelight. There is even a bit of glory for the lowly ass. Yet, bizarrely, the most important figure in the whole shebang is always overlooked – the innkeeper.

If it hadn’t been for the man behind the pumps the Christmas story would not have happened as it did. Mine Host, despite his ‘No Vacancies’ sign, found Joseph and Mary somewhere to kip and sorted out a makeshift cot for the Son of God.

Furthermore he risked his career doing so. If the Judean Home Office had known that a couple of illegal immigrants from Galilee were dossing in the tavern’s stables he would have been for the high jump. Social Services would have been called, Health and Safety informed and the local fire department would have done him for the lack of Frankincense smoke alarms. The Food Standard Agency would have reported him for serving grub in the same room as animals and the VAT man would have investigated the Wise Men’s gold. And you can be sure someone would have tweeted that Syrian terrorists were headquartered in the Bethlehem boozer.

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And what has been his legacy for this act of selflessness? ... zilch. This glaring omission in the Christmas story should be put right in an updated version of the story.

It would open with Joseph in a fleece and low slung jeans sitting next to Mary (with a cushion underneath her One Direction t-shirt) staring at a laptop. A narrator (the Angel Gabriel decked out to resemble Steve Jobs) would explain that the expectant parents of Jesus Christ were filling in their tax returns online when their broadband failed and, to beat the January 31 deadline, the couple set off for the local tax office.

The next scene sees Joe and Molly (as they have been renamed) refused a room at both the Premier Inn and the nearby Travel Lodge. Searching on TripAdvisor for somewhere to crash, they are interrupted by the ejection of binge drinkers from The Bethlehem Star. They rush over to the pub landlord to see if he can accommodate them and our ruddy-faced hero takes pity on them, offers the couple temporary use of his mobile home and then calls an ambulance.

The action then moves to an NHS hospital ward with Molly (Mary) giving birth on a trolley in the corridor with the shepherds reborn as hospital porters carrying soft toys. The Wise Men, dressed as Apple technical ‘geniuses’ in blue T-shirts, arrive bearing iPads and iPhones and then upload the news of The Birth before the final denouement when Mine Host, carrying a celebratory bottle of Prosecco, arrives to the strains of Kayne West’s rap song Jesus Walks.

I would go even further in praise of the heroic innkeeper and suggest that he, not Santa, should become Britian’s tradional Christmas figure. In his wasitcoat and with his cheery manner he could dispense shots of liquor to adults and hand out cola and crisps to children in shopping malls and department stores across the country.

Christmas tunes could also reflect his revised standing with songs such as Rudolph The Red-Nosed Barman, It Came Upon a Martini Clear and Jingle Bells and Gordons. Hollywood might re-make the movie A Christmas Carol with Scrooge as a landlord and the Spirit of Christmas Past and Present nestling in the optics, while the Christmas Nutcracker ballet could be recast to include a princely publican fighting a fierce battle against a dangerous salted peanut.

Of course the above may be fanciful. It is, as I said earlier, difficult to ponder the upcoming festivities while the French sun beats down on my Panama.

Garcon, another Pastis, s’il vous plait. On Cotswold Life expenses, naturally.


This article by Adam Edwards is from the Christmas issue of Cotswold Life, on sale this November.