I wake up to the sound of Michael Bublé singing downstairs. I obviously don't mean that literally. At least I don't think I do? Yeah, no, it's the CD that I wowed Sorcha with – her big present – eight or nine Christmases ago.
I really am some catch when you think about it.
The dude is singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town, so I throw on my Leinster performance T-shirt and my Cantos and I tip downstairs. There's a strong smell of rum coming from the kitchen, which means that either my old dear has called over in breach of the Covid-19 rules on household visits, or Sorcha is making the Christmas cake.
When I push the door, it turns out to be the – I think it's a word – latter? Sorcha is sweating like Paul Hollywood is on his way round with his big focking judgy head.
The boys are helping. Well, Johnny is eating handfuls of the cake mix, Brian is wearing a baking tin on his head while trying to pick his nose with an icing-smoother and Leo has the bottle of Captain Morgan’s pressed to his five-year-old lips. There’s so much of my old dear in him.
I’m like, “No alcohol for you,” whipping the bottle out of his little hands. “You can wait until you’re 14 like your sister.”
Sorcha looks up from her mixing bowl and goes, “Morning, Ross! I was thinking we might put up the Christmas decorations today!”
I'm like, "The decorations? Er, it's November?"
“So?” she goes.
“So? You go apeshit if I crack into the Quality Street before Halloween. What’s going on, Sorcha – as in, what the fock?”
I'm trying to remember did I wrap the tree lights neatly around a piece of cordboard or just fock the whole tangled mess into a box
“I just think, after the year we’ve had, we all deserve some joy. It might be good for our mental health if we storted Christmas a little bit earlier this year. Everyone else is doing it.”
"Okay, did you say good for our mental health?"
“Come on, Ross, stop being such a Scrooge.”
“Focking Scrooge,” Leo goes, making a grab for the bottle, although I manage to wrestle it from him again.
Sorcha’s there, “Go out to the coach house and stort bringing the decorations in,” and I suddenly get that sense of dread that every husband experiences around this time of year. I’m trying to remember did I wrap the tree lights neatly around a piece of cordboard like my wife suggested (unlikely) or did I just fock the whole tangled mess into a box, thinking I wouldn’t be seeing them again for another 11 months (highly likely).
I’m there, “I was thinking we might treat ourselves to new tree lights this year. It could be one of my Christmas presents to you – maybe even your big one.”
Sorcha goes, “Forget about the tree lights. We don’t have an actual tree yet.”
“Oh, thank God! Thank! God!”
"Yeah, no, I'm talking about putting up the outdoor decorations?"
"Outdoor decorations? We don't own outdoor decorations. You always say they're C as M."
“I used to think that, but I don’t anymore.”
“Hold on,” I go, the penny suddenly dropping, “this wouldn’t have anything to do with Fanchea Rowley, would it?”
Yeah, no, Fanchea Rowley is a woman who lives about eight houses down from us on the Vico Road. Last Christmas, she filled her gorden with, like, giant Santa Clauses and reindeer and snowmen and the whole shebang – and then she lit it up like Vegas.
Even the private security firm that patrols the road were ordered not to Taser non-residents found in the area after dork
Sorcha predicted there would be repercussions. At the very least, the Vico Road Residents' Association would summon up a posse to go and tell Fanchea that, while this kind of thing was considered acceptable – maybe even gas! – in certain ports of Dublin, this was definitely not one of those places. She even took out her good Max Mara coat while she waited for the call.
But it didn't come. Instead, all of the various neighbourhood WhatsApp groups were abuzz with excited talk about Fanchea's – the word that kept getting used – magical gorden. People were flocking to the Vico Road from miles and miles around. And, while that kind of thing is generally discouraged by the locals, they decided for once to embrace it. They handed out cups of hot chocolate to total strangers, and even the private security firm that patrols the road were ordered not to Taser non-residents found in the area after dork.
It actually made Christmas last year. The feeling of festive goodwill rubbed off on everyone. Everyone, that is, except Sorcha, who said, "I can't believe these are the same people who told us that our trampoline was bringing down the tone of the neighbourhood and the value of their houses!"
Fanchea's gorden didn't just go viral – it went pan-focking-demic. It was all over Instagram and Twitter in the lead-up to Christmas. One of the Kordashians – who wasn't Kim, Kylie or Khloe – gave it a like. And then – the big one – Ellen DeGeneres showed a photograph of it on her actual TV show. I suspect that may have been the moment when Sorcha changed her tune about outdoor decorations.
There are quite literally hundreds of life-size figures – of Santa Clauses and Nutcrackers and polar bears and penguins
I’m there, “So what brought about this change of hort?”
She goes, “I just remember the – oh my God – joy that Fanchea’s gorden brought to the children of the area last year and I wanted to do something similar.”
"Hang on, where did we even get outdoor decorations?"
“I’ve been buying them online during the lockdown. Come on,” she goes, “I’ll show you,” and she leads me outside and down to the coach house at the bottom of the gorden.
I have to tell you, I am not prepared for the scene that greets me when I step inside. There are quite literally hundreds of life-size figures – of Santa Clauses and Nutcrackers and polar bears and penguins. There’s, like, seven full-sized reindeer and a sleigh that’s bigger than any of our cors. There’s, like, camels and sheep and shepherds and dudes wearing crowns. There’s, like, six-foot high baubles and decorations that look like presents and giant letters that spell out words like “JOY” and “PEACE” and “MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE ON THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW!”
I’m there, “Sorcha, I worry when I see this competitive side of you coming out.”
Yeah, no, that school of hers has a lot to answer for.
She goes, “I’m not doing it to be competitive, Ross. Although let’s see who focking wins Christmas this year!”