‘Honor gets dark moods if she’s asked to travel north of College Green – she’s very much my daughter in that regord’
Illustration: Alan Clarke
Honor asks what the fock we’re doing here. There’s literally no Christmas cheer in the girl, even though it’s only however many days to go until the big day. She gets dark moods if she’s asked to travel anywhere north of College Green – she’s very much my daughter in that regord.
“We’re here to wish your brother slash half-brother a Merry Christmas,” Sorcha goes. “I thought you were excited about seeing him.”
Honor’s like, “I am excited. I just don’t see why he couldn’t have come to us? I despise the Northside. It turns my snot black.”
Sorcha goes, “It does not turn your snot black!” and then she turns around and apologises to one or two parents who are standing – like us – in the middle of some random shopping centre, waiting for Santa to arrive. “Children say the funniest things, don’t they?”
Except no one’s laughing.
A voice behind me goes, “There they are!” and I turn around and it ends up being Ronan. He’s home from England for two weeks and I can’t tell you how good it is to see him back home, even though he’s wearing his Manchester United football tracksuit as leisurewear and you know how I feel about that kind of thing.
It ends up being hugs and banter all round – it’s “Sorcha, you’re like a bleaten, Princess, so you are!” and, “Jays, you’re piling on the pounds there, Rosser – big two-seat arse on you!” and all the rest of it.
Honor adores him, but she’s letting him know that she wasn’t happy about having to leave the Vico Road to see him.
“We won’t be staying long,” are her actual words. “If I pick up an accent, it might hurt my future employment prospects.”
She’s genuinely going to get us killed.
Ro goes, “You won’t pick up an accent!” at the same time laughing. “Mon, let’s join the queue for Santy. Shadden’s auld fella is playing him this year.”
I get in there quickly.
I’m there, “Just to clarify, Honor. The Santa we’re about to see is not the real Santa. The real one is obviously in North Pole, making his final preparations.”
She looks me up and down – eight years old, bear in mind – and goes, “Yeah, spare me, would you?” They grow up so fast.
We join the queue. It takes an hour to get to the top of it, which gives me a bit of time to catch up with Ro. He’s dying to tell me all the news from across the way. Angel de Maria said hello to him the other day and Robin Van Persie winked at him. I have no idea who the fock either of those people is – they sound like characters from the Wind in the Willows – so I just smile and nod, so as not to hurt his feelings.
We finally reach the top of the line, where we meet Shadden’s old man, the famous K… K… K… K… Kennet, who’s out of prison for Christmas thanks to a thing called temper doddy release. He’s probably the worst Santa I’ve ever seen, given that he only weighs about seven stone and he’s smoking a Johnny Blue, but according to Ronan he does this job every year.
“Ho, ho, ho!” is his opening line. He lifts Honor up onto his knee and goes, “You look like you’re a long way f… f… f… from howum! Tell me, little girl, have you been a g… g… good girl this year.”
She hasn’t. She’s been a bitch – and that’s not me being biased.
“You can drop the stupid voice,” she goes. “I know you’re Shadden’s dad dressed up in a suit.”
“That’s reet. Ine n… n… n… not the real Santy. Ine one of he’s helpers.”
“Yeah, we’ve covered this ground? Look, I don’t want to be here, okay? I just came to say Merry Christmas to my brother. It’s my mum and dad who are forcing me to take part in the charade of talking to you, so they can take photographs of me with so-called Santa and put them up on Facebook and get their friends to say how cute I am and how like a normal kid I seem. That’s how actually needy they are?”
Kennet looks at me as if to say, ‘She’s a lot of woork, idn’t she?’
Sorcha’s pointing her iPhone at the two of them, going, “Show us that lovely smile of yours, Honor!”
In fairness to Kennet, he ends up being the consummate pro. He goes, “Well, m… m… m… moy little spoys tell me you’re arthur been a v... v… veddy good geerl this year. So Ine gonna give you a veddy speshiddle gift,” and he hands her a present, not out of his sack, but from behind his back all wrapped up in shiny, red paper, with, like, a pink bow on it?
Honor jumps out of his lap. She looks at her old dear and goes, “Finished? Enough photos?” and off she basically trots.
Kennet goes, “And don’t f… f… f… forget to leave out a few auld c… c… c… caddots for me reindeers,” and then he turns to me and goes, “Jays, I wouldn’t envy you her, Rosser.”
I’m like, “Yeah, no, she’s a nightmare.”
I tell him thanks and I tell Ronan I’ll see him out in our gaff on Stephen Zuzz Day and then me and Sorcha set off in pursuit of Honor, who’s heading for the information desk.
I’m like, “Honor, where you are you going?”
I swear to God, she’s there, “I’m going to inform the management of this shopping centre that they have a convicted felon playing the role of Santa Claus.”
I’m, like, chasing after her, going, “Honor, don’t do that. Don’t ruin Christmas for all these kids.”
And as we catch up with her, Sorcha goes, “At least open your present first.”
Honor rolls her eyes and goes, “It’s probably lame anyway,” and then she pulls off the wrapping to find a box, which she opens and inside there’s a Lulu Frost statement necklace, the exact same one she asked us to get her for Christmas, except we told her it was too expensive a gift for a girl of eight.
Fair focks to Kennet.
I’m looking at Honor’s little mouth working, trying to find the words to express her happiness.
See, some people believe in Santa Claus and some don’t. For me, it’s like aliens or dinosaurs – the jury is still very much out. But I believe in Christmas. Because I can actually see it – right now, in the face of my daughter, who is an absolute wagon 300-and-however-many days of the year, but who at this moment in time is just the same as any other little girl at this wonderful time of the year.
“Maybe I won’t tell them he’s a convicted felon,” she goes.
I’m there, “You shouldn’t, Honor. You definitely shouldn’t.”
“Maybe I’ll just tell them I smelled drink on his breath.” ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE