‘My daughter is possibly psychotic, but she’s also terribly funny’


My wife’s latest scheme to suck all of the joy out of Christmas is called degifting? It’s basically a no-present amnesty you agree with your nearest and dearest. People you would have bought a James Joyce first edition for back in 2006, and who would have bought you a two-week heli-skiing holiday in British Columbia in return, you go to them and you say – in Sorcha’s words – oh my God, enough already?

“It’s the recessionary equivalent of nuclear disarmament,” she goes – this is over, like, dinner in our gaff. We’ve invited her old pair, then my old man and his – I suppose – portner, Helen, around to watch Honor switch on the Christmas lights, then enjoy a plate of Sorcha’s famous Vegetarian Beef Wellington. “Two years ago, I spent €1,700 on a piece of pottery for a friend of mine and I realised, when I was writing the cord, that I didn’t actually know any of her children’s names.”

Her old man goes, “This degifting sounds like a wonderful, socially responsible idea, Sorcha!” because he can literally see no wrong in the girl. “Let’s hope it catches on.”

But my old man’s there, “Let’s hope it doesn’t!” because at this point he’s about two brandies shy of soiling himself. “Buying things we don’t need is the rock on which capitalist economies are built! Young Ross there will tell you – when he was still a mere babe in arms, I used to take him to the cash and carry in Sallynoggin as a special treat. We’d stand there for an hour, sometimes two, listening – just listening – to the tills ringing . . . Oh, commerce!”

With Sorcha’s old man, though, it always ends up being a competition? He’s like, “Do you remember the year, Sorcha – I think you must have been around 11 – and you decided, in your infinite wisdom, that we should give our Christmas dinner to the homeless. You made this speech – I’ve still got it on the camcorder – about the true spirit of Christmas and how, if we really believed in it, we’d go out and we’d give this feast of food to people who really needed it.”

See, she was a sap, even then.

My old man goes, “Well, this is all beginning to sound a bit like communist talk to me. I remember the good old days when that kind of rhetoric could have got you shot in the bloody street – or at least fitted up for robbing a mail train. I mean, was all of that for nothing?”

Helen goes, “Maybe we should agree not to discuss politics over dinner,” and then everyone laughs and the tension suddenly goes out of the room and Sorcha says she’s going to go upstairs to find out what’s keeping Honor.

Ten seconds later, the house is full of my wife’s screams. They’re, like, panicked screams, as if she’s walked in on a murder scene. In a split second, my orse is up off the chair, but not before Sorcha’s old man’s. He leads the race upstairs to find out what’s wrong, followed by me, Helen, Sorcha’s old dear, then my old man, who’s taking care not to spill his Cognac.

Into the room we go and I have to admit – as a father who thought he’d seen it all? – I am not ready for the scene that greets my eyes. Filling one entire half of Honor’s room, piled from floor to pretty much ceiling, are dozens and dozens of singing Snow Glow Elsa dolls.

I’m like, “What the fock?” speaking, I think it’s fair to say, for all of us.

Honor, I should mention, hates Frozen. I’ll never forget her turning around to me while we were watching the Late Late Toy Show – her jaw set hord and her fists closed tight – going, “Frozen really pisses me off.”

Sorcha’s old man goes, “What on earth are all of these?”

But Sorcha cops it immediately. “They’re the must-have toy for Christmas this year. People are literally fighting over them. Honor, why have you got these?”

Honor stares at Sorcha, then stares at us for confirmation that the woman has totally lost it.

“Er, to sell them for a massive profit?” she goes.

My old man’s like, “Enter-prise!” and I’ve honestly never seen him look more impressed – the day of the 1999 Leinster Schools Cup final being an obvious exception.

Sorcha’s like, “Where did you get them? Parents are having to fly to Beijing for them.”

Honor’s there, “I don’t wish to reveal my source in case the information gets into the hands of a rival.”

My daughter is possibly psychotic, but she’s also terribly funny.

I’m there, “How many are there? And bear in mind that I’m on your side in all of this.”

She’s like, “Two hundred. I bought them for €40 each and I’m going to sell them on the internet for €500 each.”

The old man – at the top of his voice – goes, “Free market economics, how are you! And to think that five years ago, people were prepared to write this country off! Oh, Ireland’s future is very much in safe hands!”

Sorcha’s old dear tries to get in on the act then. She’s there, “I’d be more interested in knowing how a little girl gets her hands on the money to buy this many dolls,” and there’s definite judgment in her voice.

Honor’s there, “My dad gives me a thousand euros a week pocket money.”

It’s more like protection money, if we’re being honest about it.

Sorcha’s there, “Okay, do you know what we’re going to do with these dolls?”

I’m like, “We’re going to sell them for serious focking wedge,” because I’m very much my old man’s son.

“No,” Sorcha goes. “We’re going to make Christmas for 200 lucky little girls! We’re going to visit hospitals on Christmas Eve and we’re going to give them out as gifts!”

There’s, like, silence in the room. It’s a definite tumbleweed moment.

The old man goes, “Of course, the economically sensible thing to do, since you control the supply, would be to take a hammer and smash up maybe 50 of these dolls. That way, you increase the demand and thus the price. One hundred and fifty dolls at €1,000 each is more money than 200 dolls at €500 each.”

Sorcha goes, “Okay, Honor, I’m going to leave it up to you and your conscience to decide what’s the actual right thing to do here?”

Honor looks at my old man, then at Sorcha, then back at my old man.

And she goes, “Let’s get the hammer.”

illustration: alan clarke

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