Through the keyhole: Christmas disasters
From Aidan Gillen’s peeping Tom to Dustin’s Seoige sisters and Joseph O’Connor’s wheezing, sneezing Santa, PATRICK FREYNE hears about some unusual Yules
A few years back Cathy [Davey] and I were living in a house large enough to accommodate more than just us and a few dogs. We knew this good fortune couldn’t last, so we grabbed the opportunity to invite our extended families to stay for Christmas.
In our heads this is how it would be: beautiful rosy-cheeked children in Victorian attire playing jolly games throughout the house, laughing with joy as they unwrapped hand-carved wooden soldiers under the perfectly decorated tree; well-fed aunts and uncles smiling benevolently as they gathered around the Steinway for a rousing rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, while we, their generous and humble hosts, quaffed port by a roaring fire, congratulating ourselves on our exquisite taste. Simple!
The reality proved a bit less romantic. What follows is a rather blurry summation of my memories of those few glorious days.
Dogs of all scales and varieties arguing, peeing and being generally tripped over. Grandparents scolding anyone who so much as breathed during Miss Marple.
Teenage nieces dying of boredom. Our insanely enormous tree shedding the majority of its needles all over the house long before Christmas Day.
Me showering Cathy with many expensive gifts, then grudgingly handing over a few small crappy ones to everyone else.
Cathy giving me many orders. Cathy asking me whether I had carried out these orders. Cathy being angry with me because I had purposely, and with malice aforethought, misunderstood her orders.
Tripping over the decomposing bodies of sadly expired nieces.
Trying to organise the comings and goings of various parts of our families who, for one reason or another, didn’t want to bump into various other parts of our families.
Cathy’s mother reminding her at two o’clock that the turkey takes six hours to cook, not 45 minutes.
Large dogs finding interesting things to eat on sideboards. Large dogs being thrown out the back door. Cathy feeling sorry for large dogs and letting them back in.
Hideous seating miscalculations resulting in the use of garden furniture, piano stools and bean bags at the dinner table.
Attempting to promote uncontroversial conversation between Cathy’s “artistic” family and my own eminently shockable parents.
Attempting to broker an early evening film deal between the Indiana Jonesites and the Harry Potterists.
And, when it was all over, poor frazzled Catherine receiving a lecture on liberal politics from my squiffy eldest brother while trying to watch Come Dine With Me.
It took us weeks to recover from the Christmas “holiday”, but we did.
And, to be honest, I’m thoroughly proud of what we achieved. We might even do it again some day. Some far distant, barely conceivable day.
Neil Hannon and Cathy Davey have just released the Dogs in Distress charity album, Oscar the Hypno Dog, featuring David O’Doherty, Sharon Shannon and others
Our son, who’s nine now, was due to be born on Christmas Eve. He was our first kid, and we thought we were completely organised. Everything was nicely planned. My partner is an academic, and we thought she’d finish the term and could take her parental leave after that. We’d bought the cot and had the room more or less ready.
Then a tree fell on our house in the middle of the night and I gave birth five weeks early. The night the tree fell I heard a shaking and thought, Oh, a train is passing the house. Then I woke up a bit more and realised there are no train tracks near the house.
We ran down, opened the front door, and giant branches were in our face. It looked like the world was turned sideways. We were very lucky.
If it had fallen at a slightly different angle our bedroom might have been smashed. As it was the parked car in its path was flattened and the porch was ripped off the house – houses in Ontario have wooden porches.
Then next day I gave birth. It was clearly from the shock of it. But I have to tell you that the shock of having a baby is way worse than the shock of having a tree falling on your house.
Even though I’d read all the maternity books, I’d always skipped the section on premature birth because they always had a list of women at risk: women who don’t eat right, women who smoke. I thought, I’m none of them.