It was seven o’clock at night the week before Christmas and Ian Trestonly was turning off his computer after a hard day’s work mortgage broking.
He’d spent most of the day berating telephone staff at three different lenders for failing to take on a client with a salary in excess of £150,000, who wanted to buy a property worth £110,000 with a 40 per cent deposit.
But the client also had a bounce on an eBay payment nine months previously – which incidentally the website admitted was down to it keying in the wrong bank details – but none the less all of the lenders had given the case the resounding thumbs down.
So it had been a pretty average, typical day for any mortgage broker up and down the country.
He’d just unfastened his tie when there was a knock at the door.
A bearded man and a heavily pregnant woman were standing in his office bathed in light from behind as the deafening sound of choral music was heard.
“Sorry about that,” said Ian, “Radio 3 is having its Christmas carol concert tonight.
Anyway how can I help you?”
“My name is Joseph and this is my wife Mary, and we are trying to purchase a property before Christmas,” the man said.
“Mary and Joseph – are you having some kind of laugh?” said Ian.
“That is what the estate agent said to us as well. I don’t see the funny side,” said Joseph.
“Well whoever you are,” said Ian, “You’ll be lucky to get in anywhere before Christmas. I think 2013 would be your best bet – couldn’t you rent in the meantime?”
“No, no, no – no rent,” said Joseph, slamming his fist on Ian’s desk for emphasis.”It’s just throwing money away – beside my wife is carrying the son of God and it would not be dignified.”
The room was silent as – Ian slapped his hand across his face as Joseph and Mary beamed at him.
“So this child is not yours Joseph and you’re happy about it?” said Ian.
“Of course!” said Joseph, “The son of God man, I’m absolutely ecstatic, why wouldn’t I be?”
“Right right, it’s just I’ve got to ask these types of questions, the lenders and insurers want to know everything these days” responded Ian.
“Maybe when we come to arranging the life insurance and critical illness cover you should each talk to me privately just in case there’s anything you need to um, declare.” Ian winked as sympathetically as he could at Mary.
Mary glared back at him.
“Anyway, what are you looking to buy?” said Ian, who was starting to get annoyed at the couple.
“A barn in London – we need to stay there to give birth to our child,” said Joseph.
“Have you not thought of going for a hospital instead?” said Ian. “What does the actual father of the child think of you wanting to give birth in a barn?”
“He is the one that has guided us to the venue,” said Joseph sternly. “So what can you do for us? We have travelled from Bethlehem on the West Bank to seek sanctuary in the UK. We require a self-cert mortgage – I have yet to be able to get a job yet. And interest-only as well – with your name, we’d thought you’d be our guy.”
“Right,” said Ian smiling to himself, thinking that this conversation wouldn’t be going much further. “I’m afraid that the FSA has changed all of that. There’s no self-cert or interest-only anymore – do you guys even have a deposit?”
“Of course,” said Joseph. “I sold my carpentry shop before I came here and was gifted a large sum of money from my father so in total I have a £10,000 deposit. The barn is worth £100,000.”
“A 10 per cent deposit?” said Ian. “Okay maybe you two will be in luck. But I warn you with your background – just arrived from abroad, pregnant to an unknown father – the lenders might not bite, but I’ll do my best.”
Mary and Joseph smiled at each other and held hands as Ian started to input their information into his sourcing system. When he finished he pressed return and the computer started to rumble and creak.
He pressed return again and this time the monitor started to actually shudder and shake. The hourglass pointer on his screen started to glow red and ping pong across the screen.
“Sorry about this,” said Ian. “Seems to be a bug in the system, bear with me.” And with that he loudly smashed the computer on the side.
Abruptly the hourglass pointer disappeared – but all the lender matches were empty. Instead there was a red box that was gradually getting bigger and bigger until it filled his entire computer screen, with large glowing letters spelling out, “NO MORTGAGE”.
‘We require a self-cert mortgage as I have yet to be able to get a job and interest-only as well’
“Ok they’ve all got back to me and…um, I’m afraid it’s a no-goer,” said Ian.
But there was no reaction from either Joseph or Mary. They both looked at him blankly.
“What is he saying?” Mary asked Joseph.
“I’m not sure Mary – could you phrase it more, um biblically?” says Joseph.
“Oh right – oh usurious lenders, fixed rate for 25 years, have vowed there is no mortgage
Inn…for Mary and Joseph!” he said pointing at them violently for added impact.
His words had the desired effect. Joseph looked down at the floor, his lip curling. Mary let out a high pitched howl.
“How could you say something like that to my wife, she is with child,” screamed Joseph at Ian. “Is there really nothing that can be done? Think man, have you really tried everything?”
“I’ve tried everything Joseph, honest,” said Ian. “Everything apart from…well there is one option, but it could be a long-shot.”
A couple of days later Ian walked towards the barn in Soho on Christmas Eve – he was pushed over by cows, sheep and horses that were all being herded the same way as him.
“Sheep and cows in Soho?” he muttered to himself incredulously. “Now that is weird,” he said taking out his mobile phone and taking a quick snap.
He was laughing to himself as he looked at the picture when he noticed the large beam of light that came down from the heavens on a wooden barn.
“Well I’ll be damned, that’s the barn,” he said and marched across, pushing pigs and horses out of the way.
He opened the door and saw Mary and Joseph sat on some seats and their new born child rocking gently in a Mamas and Papas manger. Around them were stood some hairy Welsh shepherds and three men all wearing Manchester City shirts.
“Sorry to disturb you Mary and Joseph, I can see you’ve got company, I was just checking to see that everything was ok,” he said.
“Ah Ian!” called out Joseph, clearly delighted to see him. “Please come in, come in and sit with us – the back of that pig is free.”
A large pink and black spotted pig was munching on the some slop on the floor. It gave a loud oink as he sat down on its back.
“Sorry about that,” he said, making himself comfortable.
“This is our friend Ian who was able to secure this barn for us,” Joseph said gesturing to the Shephards and football shirt wearing men who were gathered around the couple.
“What was it again? A bridge?” said Joseph.
“That’s it Joseph, a bridge and once you’ve done this property up I should be able to get you on to a normal mortgage,” said Ian.
“Of course, of course, a bridge,” said Joseph, beaming delightedly. “I was just telling our friends Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar who’ve travelled from Russia, China and Libya and are interested in investing in property in London. They also brought us these gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
“Fantastic, sounds like you’ve got three wise men here Joseph, and all of those gifts should certainly make it easier to exit the bridge,” said Ian winking to them.
“If you need a mortgage Melchior, Caspar and Balthazat to get a mortgage then you know where to find me,” said Ian handing out his business cards.
But the smell of the animals was overpowering and so he made his excuses to leave.
“Make sure the little one takes it easy on the money lenders when he’s older,” Ian cried out as he opened the barn door to leave, “the FSA’s chased enough of them away as it is.”
And with that he bade them farewell and a Merry Christmas.