It was not long before the heat from my beautiful fire began to waft away out the door. I knew there was little chance of ousting the elf any time soon, especially one as single-minded as this. So I shut the door on the snow, which had been piled six inches thick before my door but had now overflowed onto my doormat. The words "Bah, humbug!" came to mind then, I tell you - but I'm not as bad as Scrooge - well, not quite.
"Well, what a simply marvellous dwelling!" Mary chuntered genially, striding around my hallway. She sounded like an enthusiastic child and an eager old lady all at once. She also spilled snow all over my shagpile, which I wasn't too chuffed about.
"Is this some charity stunt?" I said. "Who're you collecting for?"
"Oh, no-one, no-one at all!" cried Mary happily. "We don't come around begging for money, there'd be plenty of people who do that at Christmas!"
"What are you here for then? I - there are more of you?"
"Certainly! I could invite them to meet you if you like -"
"No, no, that's quite unnecessary, one of you's quite enough."
"I don't blame you, young sir! We are quite a handful, despite being on the small side!"
"Look, why are you here if you're not punting?"
"Isn't it obvious? Open the envelope!"
I found the card had been in my hand for the last few moments. Carefully removing the red paper it seemed there was a bright gold card inside - but it wasn't. It was a slip of shiny paper embossed with gold leaf. It had the words Golden Ticket emblazoned on it, that caught the light from the lamp on my bedside table.
I stared at the letters for a while.
"Is this some bad idea of a joke?" I said curtly.
Whereupon the little elf removed the Santa hat resting jauntily on her head, proving that it was not.
She was, in fact, an Oompa-Loompa.
Overwhelmed, I backed away. Mary looked startled.
"Don't be afraid! I don't bite! And neither does Mr Wonka! Especially at Christmas, when he and Charlie are working double time to make sure everyone gets that bit of festive chocolate!"
This was the last thing I'd expected happening. The one year I'd managed to shake off my unbearable relatives ...
"Mr Wonka and Charlie have invited five people to the factory today in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the biggest chocolate maker in the world behind the scenes at Christmas. All you need to do is -"
"I'm definitely not interested. I've earned a quiet Christmas, away from my family. I'm staying put. Take your Golden Ticket to someone younger - why don't you take them to children? They'd think it was great!"
"Mr Wonka admitted children last time ... he's gone for the older generation this time because he - er - gets a - a nervous twitch when doing the same thing twice ..."
"Barmy. Well, tell him thanks, but no thanks. One of my neighbours might like to go, though! Why don't you go and ask them?"
And before Mary had a chance to reply I had chivvied her back towards the door. I opened it hastily and braced myself against the flurry of snow as she left my house - her face looked like a ripe cherry in the snow. But then again, they had come from the tropical jungles of Loompa-land, this was a freezer to them.
With relief I shut the door. The publicity stunts people went to these days! The weird skin colour was probably some orange pigment, and the green hair looked like grass, it was scarcely realistic.
I had just about got to my living room door, however, when the doorbell rang. Again.
I resolved to ignore it but it was being rung much more insistently. Fearing for my doorbell I turned to the door, once more lifted the latch. If it was that stupid Oompa-Loompa again ...