Through the keyhole: Christmas disasters
So suddenly we had this baby five weeks early and we were in a complete state of chassis. Chris was trying to finish her term teaching and he was very small, frail and cold – and we couldn’t use the front door of our house. It was chaos. We had to pick our way over the rubble in the back of the house to get in and out.
I became so passive. I was weepy and anxious. I was tearful and worried the baby wouldn’t nurse well. But friends and family rallied round and two friends came over. One filled our freezer with food and the other painted the room and put the crib together, and we went ahead and had visitors for Christmas anyway.
My brother-in-law cooked Christmas dinner. We stuck a picture of the baby on top of the tree instead of an angel. I remember such a feeling of being loved and looked after. We had a great Christmas.
Dustin the Turkey
My best and worst Christmas happened on the same day. I had just moved in with Gráinne Seoige on Christmas Eve (I had been dating her for a couple of months), and everything was running brillo until Caroline Morahan pulled up in her Fiat Panda and told Gráinne that I had been seeing her as well.
Gráinne closed the door on me and Caroline drove off giving a gesture that was not at all ladylike. So there I was, a turkey on Christmas Eve, carrying a few pounds on the belly, homeless and scared in the big bad world. Just then Síle (Gráinne’s much younger sister) pulled up to see her sister.
I gave her a couple of my killer lines, like, “Can I borrow your phone, please? I need to phone God and tell him I have found his missing angel,” and, “Did you fart? Coz you just blew me away.”
I had Síle eating out of me wing, and I spent Christmas Day round her gaff. Plus, as a super bonus, she’s a vegetarian – and a better kisser than her sister.
Dustin is appearing in Cinderella at University Concert Hall in Limerick
The weirdest set of memories I have of Christmas would be of December 1998. I was contributing an occasional article to the Sunday Tribune at the time, and I came up with the idea of writing a feature about the Santas who take up residence in Dublin’s department stores each Yuletide.
I interviewed a few of them briefly, but it soon became disconcertingly clear that this would be an occasion requiring a bit of Pilger-like bravery. In essence, I would have to go the extra mile for the story. I would have to be that Santa.
Thus it was that on a particular Saturday morning, in a particular store in Dublin, I turned up at 8.30am to get into my red suit and fluffy beard. I had attended my publisher’s Christmas party the previous evening and had gone home close to dawn, in a somewhat literary condition. Also, I had a heavy cold, which you mightn’t think would matter. But not many children want to encounter a Santa who is coughing like a broken-down train and reeking faintly of fag ash and gin.
All week the idea had seemed a bit of seasonal fun. Now, as I was led to my throne, sneezing, head pounding, peering in abject horror at the dozens of excited youngsters on the other side of the velvet rope, I could see this was a dreadful mistake. My elves began giving me encouraging beams. The rope was raised. Off we went.
“Santeeeeee!” the mites cheered, a tsunami of glee. “Er, ho ho ho,” I coughed back, somehow resisting the temptation to wipe my streaming nose on my beard or simply to get up and run. I had the feeling that the elves would beat me senseless if I tried to escape, or that amiably chubby Mrs Claus would sit on me. The hour seemed to last about 400 years. I remember every second to this day.
Last Christmas my dad was in hospital, getting a heart bypass. It was kind of strange, because he’d normally be the one who’d be minding everybody, but it was totally a reverse of that. It’s a huge operation where they pretty much stop your body working and start it again to do the heart bypass. It’s really worrying.