Bali was dead.
It had been a mistake to come here the week before Christmas, mused Paul Scroogeden as he lay on the rattan bed in his beachside hut, sweating as the humid night swirled around him.
But he couldn't have stayed on the island, not whilst the furore over the collapse of Tiny Timberworld was still about. And Bali had been so cheap he'd been able to bring all 17 children, even the ones who still nominally called him Uncle Paul.
At least here he no longer needed to worry about the Santa Parade they had forgotten to organise, or the growing concern over his new heated, covered pool just installed in his back garden. The kids loved that pool, and at 50m long it could happily take all of them.
Fatigue washed over him like a warm, wet flannel, and he felt his eyes begin to close, drowsiness now his friend.
He came awake with a start. A voice, a low, deep resonance, was speaking to him.
"Awake, Paul, it is time for our journey"
Scroogeden rubbed his sleepy eyes, and saw before him a strange spectral figure hovering above the foot of his bed.
"What", he spluttered, "Who are you"?
"I", said the spirit", "am the ghost of Christmas past. Come, Paul, we have but little time"
And she held out her hand, and Scroogeden took it, and to his amazement found himself floating above the bed.
Then with a whoosh they were gone, travelling across the earth and back through the mist of time.
When things settled down, Scroogeden found himself in a room, a strangely familiar room, clearly a lounge.
On the floor, a little boy played with a large number of wooden houses, putting them randomly on a model of a sloping green hillside.
An older man, probably the boy's father, was seated nearby, casually glancing at a book entitled "Litigation for Amateurs".
A small, plump girl wandered in.
"Come on Paul", she said, "Let's go out to the shed and play Naughty girls get what they deserve again"
But the boy was fixated on his houses.
"Daddy", he asked, "do they have to be a certain distance apart? And why can't they be higher? I could get lots more in, if I could change the rules"
His father smiled fondly at the little lad. He was a great boy, even if his weight problems and prematurely thinning hair made him rather unattractive to look at.
Scroogeden turned to the ghost: "That's me, isn't it"?
The ghost gave him a knowing look. "Come on, we have more to see"
And again they whirled through time and across oceans.
They landed, according to a large sign, at somewhere called RAF Chuffingheck.
A smartly uniformed young female was addressing a senior officer in a bleak office across a desk.
"Extra hours over Christmas, sir? Of course, sir. Happy to serve, sir. Always a pleasure to do my duty, sir"
And she saluted, turned on her heel and left.
"I don't understand", said Scroogeden, "Who are these people"?
The ghost just smiled in a knowing and, it must be said, slightly unpleasant way.
"Be patient, Paul. All will be revealed"
Their third, and as it turned out, final visit, took them to a golf course. The same small boy from the first visitation was being held by the ear by a golfer, whilst another caned his backside with what looked like a 7 iron.
"That'll teach you to steal my golf ball, you stupid brat", cursed the golfer.
"I hate you, I hate golf" yelled the boy through his tears.
And then, just like that, they were back in his Bali bedroom.
"Think on all you have seen this night, Paul, for it has shaped your life, and those of others, yet nothing is forever, and nothing cannot be undone."
And then she vanished.