Bit Part

“Jesus, don’t cry
You can rely on me, honey
You can combine anything you want
I’ll be around
You were right about the stars
Each one is a setting sun”

  • Tweedy/Bennet

 At first I put it down to the fact that it was raining heavily , and I was soaking wet.

But maybe it was because I hadn’t slept well the night before and looked tired.

Then I thought it was due to the fact that because of my hood, beanie and face mask , that she couldn’t tell who I was, but she’d called me ‘Paul’ , so she knew exactly who I was…..and how old I was. That upset me the most.

All of these thoughts took place in the milliseconds between me handing her a Fanning’s Sliced Wheaten at the counter and asking her to take for a bag of logs as well.

“ Would you like me to help you with the logs ?”

What ?!? You don’t think I’m fit to carry a string bag of logs from outside the shop the whole 2 metres to my car and lift them on my own into the boot ?!?! I could have bought the bread in town you know , in Flemings, when I was in getting the risotto earlier…and Tommy Martin’s logs are drier and cheaper. But I thought I’d support our local shop. And now you treat my like this ?!?!

I didn’t say any  of that.

I said ‘No thanks, I can manage.’

And then I made sure that I manfully stood up straighter puffed my chest out manfully, and manfully took large strides to the exit. And then I made sure to look back at her at the counter as I manfully lifted that string  bag of logs with one hand !

In the 2 metres to the boot of my car the string cut off the blood to my fingers and I nearly gave myself a hernia hoofing the bag into the boot.

I turned again back towards the shop and waved at her…with my unlacerated hand…the other one was hanging limply by my side. I hopped into the car took off my mask , invoked the names of Jesus, Holy Mother Mary, her mother Anne , and the Holy Spirit, interspersed with some agricultural language, all the while holding my lacerated hand under my other armpit and rocking manically back and forward.

There was a tap on the window.

It was her.


I lowered the window.

Christ ! You were right, that bag was heavy, look what I’ve done to my hand. I’m such a fucking idiot.

I didn’t say that either.

Inhaling manfully and composing myself as I did so, and then put on a deep voice before asking manfully and nonchalantly , ‘Yes ?’

“You forgot your bread. You OK ? “

I said yes, thanked her profusely, and rapidly raised the window….

I will refuse an offer of help, no matter how trivial…or seemingly trivial, ever again. She played a bit part in that.

Later in the week I got a call from someone I’d been on a course with a little while back… in TRINITY !

My Soulmate thinks she’s hilarious when she tells everyone we meet “How do you know that someone went to Trinity ? They tell you !”

Anyway, she’d asked one of our lecturers in TRINITY for help with a project she’s working on, and he suggested that she call me.

So she did.

She runs a very cool project , teaching people with intellectual challenges through art and creativity. She’s trying to develop an online version …


I know a chap, also from the True Centre Of The Universe, who happens to run one of the best online learning companies in the world. I introduced them to each other via email an hour later, and this very busy chap, who employs a bajillion people and has clients in Ireland, the functioning parts of the UK, Europe, the decent Yankee States and Stranooden , replied immediately.

I don’t know if anything will come of it, but it felt cool for a minute.

She doesn’t know it yet, but I’ve also found someone to tidy up her FourSquare problem… oh, and a new revenue stream for her artists work…probably should tell her that before I tell you guys…

Anyway, it’s nice to be a bit part in something larger than yourself.

It’s not widely known that Monaghan, the True Centre Of The Universe, played a bit part in giving you the traditional Christmas that you have today.

Really ?

Yes ,, really.

From time immemorial evergreen plants have been used to decorate caves, yurts, hovels, crannogs, castles and huts during winter and particularly around the Winter Solstice, December 21st, the darkest day of the year. The evergreen leaves and branches gave hope that Spring and new life would return soon.

There was also a tradition of the Yule Log, when a large tree was burnt in a communal fire at the Winter Solstice. As time wore on and Christianity adopted existing annual rituals into its own festivals the Yule Log tradition became associated with Christmas instead of the Winter Solstice.

In Riga , capital city of Latvia, it fell to a local business organisation, The Brotherhood of The Blackheads , made up of unmarried merchants and ships captains that were not a member of a guild, to organise the town’s Yule Log. Their bachelor status may be related to their organisation’s name.

“Laima ?”

“Yes, Jurgis ?”

“Laima , I love you.”

“I know Jurgis.”

“Will you marry me Laima ?”

“Will you leave the Brotherhood Of The Blackheads ?”

“Do not ask this of me Laima. I will die a Blackhead Brother !”

“You will die alone Jurgis !”

 Anyway , it was their lonely tradition  to erect the largest fir tree they could find in the town square and burn it in the traditional Yule Log fashion.

However in 1510 the Brotherhood in Riga selected a tree that was too big to get through the city gates and they  left it outside while they debated what to do in a local tavern. Children spotted the tree and started to play with it, hanging thread , brightly coloured paper and ribbons on it. They went home when it got dark and started to freeze. The Blackeads came out later and saw the beautifully decorated tree with a frost sparkling on the decorations and decided that they’d trim it and erect it in the city square with the decorations on it.

When the town folk awoke the next morning they thought it was a miracle and from then on decided that a decorated Christmas Tree was better than burning a Yule Log.

This idea of a  Christmas Tree spread along Northern Europe as a town centre phenomenon.

Before Robert Cunninghame, the future 1st Baron Rossmore, arrived in Ireland , he was sent for a Winter by his father, Colonel David Cunninghame, to visit his old friend Petor von Lacy, in Riga, for military instruction. Peter , or Pyotr as he was known in Russia, had left Ireland with his family after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, in the ‘Flight Of The Wild Geese’. After adventures in France, Italy, and Austria he was introduced to Peter The Great and attained a position in Russian the Imperial Army, fighting with great distinction in the Great Northern War and the Russo –Turkish war. He was made an Imperial Count and appointed as Governor of Livland, modern Estonia and Latvia. He based himself in Riga and that is where he introduced his visiting friend from to the Christmas Tree.

Robert returned home brimming with new military ideas that he soon put into practice, becoming a general by the age of 20 and fighting with distinction in the Battle of Culloden. He was rewarded with land and estates in Ireland, but came to possess Rossmore in Monaghan through marriage to Elizabeth Murray. The hills were full of fir trees and on his first Christmas in Rossmore a memory was triggered of his visit to Riga, and he had the largest tree , cut down and taken to the centre of Monaghan , which was also part of his estate, where it was decorated.

As he got older and infirm he couldn’t make it into Monaghan town to see the Christmas tree , so he had a smaller one cut down which would fit inside the great hall of Rossmore Castle. This became a firm family tradition.

Years later when Warner, the 2nd Baron Rossmore attended the wedding of Victoria and Albert in February 1840 he stayed on for the three day honeymoon at Windsor, a novel concept at the time, and the balls that took place each evening. On one of those evenings he came upon a sombre Albert staring out from the veranda , looking over the frosty tree tops. He asked the young prince what had him so sad.

“I miss home. We know how to celebrate properly. Weddings, funerals, feasts, holidays, especially Christmas, are not the same here. They are so…so…rigid !”

Warner smiled and said that his family celebrated Christmas with a tree , unlike anyone else that he’d ever met. The Prince beamed at him. “Send me one of your trees this Christmas !”.

Warner promised that he would.

So in December 1840 Warner Westenra chopped down an extra tree on the Rossmore estate in Monaghan, decorated it with coloured thread, coloured paper, and sent it to Windsor Castle for Albert to celebrate a proper Christmas with his new bride.

The burgeoning press took a keen interest in the young couple and reported almost every move they made. Her use of a white wedding dress was a first, as was the idea of a honeymoon and both quickly caught on.

The Times reported on the Royal Family’s first Christmas and the Christmas Tree. It became a fashionable feature of the Victorian gentleman’s home at Christmas and spread out from there across England, Ireland, Europe and the Americas.

Monaghan, the True Centre Of The Universe, played a bit part in the creation of the modern Christmas tradition.

So when you see a Christmas Tree this year, stop and think for a moment or two about the bit parts you’ve played in helping others. Not for thanks, not for gain, just because you could. And however many you can think of, I guarantee you that there are countless others that you haven’t even realised that you did. But someone out there looking at another tree does.

Thanks for that.

You rock !


Author: paul

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