So – yeah, no – I shout up the stairs to my daughter. I'm like, "Honor, come on, we're going to write to Santa Claus!" because I'm an actual sucker for the old Christmas traditions?
“Santa Claus?” comes her reply. “Er, how old do you think I am?”
I’m there, “Yeah, no, I thought it’d be a nice thing for us to do it as a family – we’re talking me, Sorcha, you and your brothers.”
She goes, "I emailed you my list of demands three weeks ago. Work from that. If there's anything else I want, I'll let you know as and when I decide. And don't focking disturb me again. I'm trying to watch Strictly."
To which, speaking as a South Dublin parent, there is no actual answer, except, “Er, okay, fair enough.”
I go back into the living room, where Sorcha is dressing the tree, while Leo, Brian and Johnny are stamping the glass baubles into the wooden floor and trying to strangle each other with the gorlands.
Sorcha’s like, “Ross, what’s wrong?” because she can see that I’m upset.
And I go, “When did our daughter become too old to write to Santa Claus?”
Sorcha smiles at me in, like, a sad way?
"Oh, Ross," she goes. "Honor has never been sentimental about Christmas. Do you remember the first time we ever watched the Late Late Toy Show together as a family? And she said she wanted to smash all of the toys with a hammer just to make all the other children cry?"
“I do remember that. I think we still have it on the video camera.”
I've decided I'm not going to bother my hole with it anymore. Wake me for dinner on the day, then I'm going back to bed afterwards.
I was actually saving it for her wedding day.
“She was five years old,” Sorcha goes. “I’m just making the point, if she didn’t believe in the magic of Christmas then, she’s hordly going to stort now, is she?”
I'm there, "I suppose you're right," but I have to admit that it still makes me feel a little bit, I don't know, sad?
She’s there, “You do this every year, Ross. You build Christmas up in your head to be this major thing and it never lives up to your expectations.”
“Well, not this year,” I go. “I’ve decided I’m not going to bother my hole with it anymore. Wake me for dinner on the day, then I’m going back to bed afterwards.”
Sorcha picks up an old, familiar-looking wooden chest. “By the way,” she goes, “your mother dropped this around earlier. It’s a box of all the decorations she said you loved as a kid.”
I’m there, “Like I said, I’m not interested anymore. I’m tired of celebrating it by myself.”
Sorcha opens it up, then storts rooting around inside it. “Oh! My God!” she suddenly goes. “Ross, look what I found!”
I’m there, “If it’s half a bottle of Tanqueray, I wouldn’t worry about it. She had them stashed all over the gaff when I was a kid.”
“No, Ross, look! It’s a letter from Santa Claus! And it’s addressed to you!”
But I’m having none of it. Like I said, I’m finished with Christmas. I’m sick of trying to make it a special time of year for everyone only to have it consistently thrown back in my face.
“Do you want to read it?” she goes.
I’m like, “No, just fock it in the bin along with whatever else is in that box.”
“I’ll read it to you.”
“Don’t waste your breath. I’m not going to be listening anyway.”
“Dear Ross. Christmas time is an exciting time of the year and I know, like all little boys, that you are looking forward to my visit on the night of Christmas Eve! Your father tells me that you have been an especially good boy this year! He says you have been quite the model student, working hard to improve both your passing and kicking, the – inverted commas – fundamentals of the game! He also tells me that you have been eating your dinner every day to ensure you grow up to be a big, strong chap, who can not only play at fly-half but who is equally capable of doing a job in the back row if so called upon!
“I just wanted to let you know that my elves have drawn my attention to your letter dated December 3rd, 1985, requesting a brand new Ireland jersey, a new Gilbert ball and tickets to Ireland’s home matches against Wales and Scotland in the forthcoming Five Nations Championship! I shall see what I can do! I may also throw in a couple of surprises because I can tell from your letter and from the way your father speaks about you that you are a lovely little boy!
“He tells me that you asked him recently if it’s true that Santa Claus really exists! I want to tell you, Ross, that I most assuredly do exist! And don’t you ever doubt it! I am as real as the wonderful passing movement that led to Trevor Ringland’s late try in Edinburgh and Michael Kiernan’s second-half drop goal that secured the victory against England and delivered Ireland its second Triple Crown in just three years!
“I exist, Ross, as certainly as love and hope and kindness exist. Alas, how dreary would the world be if there was no Santa Claus! It would be like a world with no rugby to shorten the winter! It would be like a world stripped of the hope, nay expectation, that this year, finally, Ireland will deliver a first Grand Slam since 1948! It would be as dreary as if there was no Dean, no Bradley, no Lenihan, no Fitzgerald, no Orr – no Willie bloody well Anderson, for Heaven’s sakes! Good God, can you imagine?
“Remember, Ross, there is magic in this world that is far, far beyond our understanding! Sleep well, little chap! And don’t forget to leave a very, very large gin and tonic out for, ahem, Rudolph!”
I stand up and I walk out to the bottom of the stairs. I stort shouting, “Honor? Honor? HONOR?”
She appears on the landing. She goes, "What the fock do you want? I told you I was watching Strictly."
I’m like, “No, you’re not.”
“Oh my God, have you been crying?”
“Quite possibly, yes. Come downstairs now. We’re writing to Santa Claus whether you like it or not.”