Christmas Days Of Miracle And Ordinary Wonder

“These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all, oh yeah

The way we look to a distant constellation
That’s dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don’t cry baby, don’t cry
Don’t cry, don’t cry”

Forere Molthohelola /Paul Simon

I love Christmas.

I know its not for everyone.

But it is for me.

It’s about home, family, friends, and most wonderfully a chance to stop.

Routine stops. Work stops. The clock stops. Some days we are so relaxed we don’t even know what day it actually is.

I love that.

It is a chance to pause and reflect….two things I’m excellent at…I can pause and reflect at the drop of a hat.

A lovely chap messaged me a week or so ago. He gives courses, or mentoring to professional males that helps them focus on things for maximum other things, that will ultimately lead to extra double bonus things. He was offering me the chance to take part and make next year my best yet.

After I got over the fact that someone thought I was a professional male, I politely declined.

I told him I was quite content.

He told me I was lucky.

I told him that he was right. And we wished each other well.

This year has been my best year ever.

My Christmas wish is that you and I will get to say the same thing next year.

Christmas Toodles,


P.S. I write a Christmas story each year, this is this years. (Older ones are below if you’re bored  )

Mr.Hamilton’s House

Mr.Hamilton sat on the stairs of his house. He was not tired. He was not tying his shoe laces. He was not chatting to anyone on the phone, he had no phone.

He was simply sitting on the stairs of his house, staring at the front door. Waiting.

Sometimes he would forget what he was waiting for.

Although it was indeed his house, there had been others using it.

After Elizabeth left, and Joshua stopped calling, there had been a long, long time when the door never opened at all.

Then a lot of people arrived, workmen breaking up his house, making all the rooms smaller,and turning them all into bedrooms. Long haired disheveled young people then occupied his house, ignoring him completely, playing strange music, smoking with a proper jacket, and sharing beds when he was quite sure that they were not married, it was a traumatic time.

And then they all left.

There had been no one for quite sometime, the only change was the occasional deposit of post, which accumulated in the hall, none of it was for him, at least he assumed it wasn’t, and to be honest, he didn’t care. He just wanted Elizabeth to come back, and he knew that Joshua would then follow.

One night the door flung open violently and three men came in opening doors and laughing. They smelled of smoke.

“This is perfect.” One of them said.

They returned the next night, and for many nights there after in groups of 2, or 5, or more, and played cards in his good room, smoking and drinking until they were summoned by little boxes bleeping and they would leave to pick up ‘fares’.

Cabbies, his house was a drinking den for cabbies.

But even that was a long time ago now.

No one came at all now.

Windows were broken, plaster had fallen, it was dark and damp.

He didn’t care. He just wanted Elizabeth to come back, and he knew that Joshua would then follow.

Sometimes his mind would wander.

He would think of all of the effort he put into building his business, in order to provide this house for Elizabeth and then Joshua. He knew if he worked harder that they could soon afford an even bigger house, out in the country perhaps, with stables, and a lake, and proper servants quarters, and…

Elizabeth had said that she was quite content, and only wished that he’d spend more time at home with her, and Joshua, at this age, but he had thought he knew better.

He did know better. His duty was to provide for them. His duty was to worry so they did not have to. If he worked hard now, then he would have time later to spend with Elizabeth and Joshua. He missed birthdays, hers and his. But he would make up for it later. He missed school concerts and sports days, but it was his efforts that allowed them to send Joshua to that very school in the first place. He would appreciate it later, and he would spend more time with Elizabeth.

He didn’t like when his mind wandered there, to that time.

He just wanted Elizabeth to come back, and he knew that Joshua would then follow.

Someone was pushing the front door open.

Two men came in, followed by a woman and a small boy. One of the men had a clipboard and seemed to be showing the others around. The other man smiled at the woman, and squeezed her hand and whispered “I think this is the one.” She smiled at him.

They all ignored him as they walked past up the stairs.

Except the boy. He stared at him for a moment, then smiled and said “Hello, my name is Colm. What’s yours ?”

No one had spoken to Mr.Hamilton in…he didn’t know but it felt like a very long time. No one had even acknowledged him.

“Hello Colm. My name is Mr.Hamilton. Welcome to my house.”

“Your house, Dad said that it might be our house….”

“COLM ! Come upstairs , see your new room !” His mother called.

He started to run upstairs, stopped and said “It’s a big house Mr.Hamilton, maybe we could share ?” and he ran on.

Colm’s parents did buy the house. There were several months of builders and tradesmen undoing what the last builders and tradesmen had done, and when they had finished it looked quite similar to the way Mr.Hamilton himself had had it built all those years ago. There was more light, far too much in his opinion, but at least it was a home again, and as Colm always stopped to say ‘Hello’ , he had someone to talk to.

Mr.Hamilton observed that Colm’s father worked long hours, and warmed to him immediately. This was a man who knows how to get things done he thought. Colm and his mother will be well provided for.

When Colm would stop to chat, Mr.Hamilton, he would sometimes ask him why he always sat on the stairs, and even though it made little sense to Colm, and he would wander off again, Mr.Hamilton always answered that he was waiting for Elizabeth to come back, and that he knew that Joshua would then follow.

Other times they would chat about what Colm was doing at school and Mr.Hamilton would tell him about the long haired people that had stayed there, and the men who drank and smelled of smoke.

One day Colm’s mother took him shopping to a nearby street of local shops to both pick up things that she needed and meet neighbours. In the butchers an elderly lady said “It’s so nice to see a family there again. I’m Francesca  from number 39. When I was a child there had been a Hamilton family, the wife’s name was….Oh it escapes me…”

“Elizabeth” Colm interjected.

What a clever boy you are. “ The elderly neighbour replied, tussling his hair. “ They had a son about your age too…”

“Joshua !” Colm answered excitedly.

“Yes ! He was my best friend until…Are you related to them ?” the Francesca asked Colm’s mother.

“No.” She answered, unsure of herself, before asking Colm “ How did you know that Colm ?”

“Mr.Hamilton told me. That’s why he sits on the stairs, waiting for them to return.”

“What stairs ?”

“Our stairs.”

Colm’s mother looked a little embarrassed, “What a vivid imagination he has. He must have overheard someone. What happened to them, did they move somewhere else ?”

“No, now I was only a child myself at the time, but I remember my own mother saying that it was so tragic , Mr.Hamilton arrived home , late, on Christmas Eve , to find his wife at the bottom of the stairs, she’d fallen, and her son Joshua was cradling her. He was only four. She’d allowed the servants home early for Christmas, and they were there on their own for hours. She died in her son’s arms. Hamilton had been working late to finalise buying a new house for them out in the country somewhere. It was very sad. Joshua was sent to boarding school and rarely came home, and Mr.Hamilton never left the house. I was at college when he passed away, my mother said that she, the priest, and the undertaker were the only mourners. No one has lived in the house since.”

“Except the hippies and the cabbies !” Colm said.

“COLM !” his mother snapped.

The elderly neighbour laughed “He’s quite right, although it was student accommodation, bedsits really, for a while, and then a local cabbies used it as an unofficial drinking den. But no family has lived in it since the Hamiltons.”

They parted after a few more pleasantries and on the way home Colm’s mother quizzed him incessantly over who told him about the Hamilton’s and the house, to the point that he grew frustrated that she didn’t believe him that it was Mr.Hamilton, and started to cry.

She felt guilty then and made him his favourite for tea, fishfingers and chips with a very runny fried egg. She put him to bed early and then headed down to get her own tea. On the stairs she noticed that as she neared the bottom she stepped to the side nearest the banister, as if she was going around something, and realised that she’d always done that since they’d moved in. She gently shook her head, and went to get tea ready for herself and Colm’s father.

It was late when he eventually returned. Very late.

Mr.Hamilton stared at him and shivered. He was exactly like him.

She had gone to bed. He went into the kitchen and looked at his cold dinner and quietly popped it into the bin. He made himself a coffee and retired to his study to go over some notes before tomorrow’s meetings. End of year bonuses were on the line.

He pushed open the door with his elbow, whilst looking at his phone, about to reach for the light switch when he saw that someone was sitting at his desk. He dropped his coffee.

“Do come in, and take a seat.”

“Who the hell are you ? And what are you doing in my study ?”

“Mr.Hamilton, and in actuality , this is my study, my house. But please, take a seat.”

It was then that Colm’s father noticed that the fire was lit, when he had had it blocked up and replaced with a radiator, and that the light was being provided by gas lamps.

He sat down.

“You are a busy man, Sir, so I will be brief.” Mr.Hamilton began. “What day is tomorrow ?”

“End of Quarter day.” Colm’s father answered.

“Yes, but also  ?”


“Good God man, it’s Christmas Eve !”

“Oh…oh, yes it is. I mean, of course it is.”

“And you have been thinking of ?”

“Results. It’s bonus time.”

“God help you.” Mr.Hamilton sighed.

“Please tell me what is going on ?”

“You are obsessed with doing better by your wife and son, to the ultimate cost of the love of those very same people.”

“Excuse me ???” Colm’s father stood up, angry.

“Please. I know what I speak of. Sit down and listen. You want what’s best for your wife and your boy, Colm. You are working harder and harder. You have bought this lovely house to be near a good school, and you will work harder and harder still to get them a bigger house, a better school. You have not bought your wife a Christmas present, you have asked your secretary to , on your behalf. You have not helped Colm with his homework, noticed his gift for poetry, or seen his Santa letter. You have not missed his birthday, yet, but you will. You will miss your wife’s birthday. You will cut short holidays, or not go at all, sending them on their own. In your mind, and , indeed, genuinely , in your heart, you are doing it all for them….but….”

“But what ?”

“All they want is you.”

Neither of them spoke for a moment.

Mr.Hamilton stood up. “Here is your desk back. I will leave you now. We will never speak again. On the very day I thought I had achieved it all, I lost everything. I urge you to stay home tomorrow. Spend time with Colm, make your wife breakfast in bed. Before it’s too late.”

Colm’s father was about to speak, but there was a glare of a light and when he opened his eyes he was in his study, with the radiator, the fire and gaslights, and Mr.Hamilton were gone.

He went to bed , but slept very lightly.

Colm came down the stairs the next morning, saying hello to Mr.Hamilton, who didn’t answer him, he simply looked at the door. “Are you OK ?” Colm asked.

“Of course.” Mr.Hamilton replied. “Just disappointed.”

Colm had no idea what he meant and wandered into the kitchen where his mother was looking at her laptop on the kitchen table. Without looking up she said “Morning Sunshine ! Guggy eggs and soldiers are waiting for you, then get dressed, we’re going on an adventure.”

“Where’s Dad ?”

It took a moment before his mother replied “He was gone to work before I woke. He just left a note saying ‘Busy Day’.

At nine o’clock Colm’s mother was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. “Hurry up Colm, we’ll miss the bus.”

“Coming” Colm replied as he made his way down the stairs. He was about to say ‘Goodbye ‘ to Mr.Hamilton, but he looked up at his Mum instead.

“Is he here ?” she asked.

“Who ?” Colm answered.

Colm’s Mum went red, looked around, and then said “Mr.Hamilton ?”

“Yes !” Colm beamed. “He’s always here.”

“Can you tell him that he is very welcome, and that we will try to help.”

Colm nodded and then said “He said thank you, but what do you mean ?”

“I don’t know. But we’ll explain later.”

They left , Colm waving goodbye.

An hour later the door opened and Colm’s father exploded into the hall carrying bags, and boxes full of wrapped Christmas presents. He was beaming from ear to ear.

“Hello ! I’m home ! Merry Christmas !”

There was no reply. He ran from room to room. They were gone.

He stomped down the stairs and sulked into his study.

The fire was lit.

“Mr.Hamilton ? Are you there ?”

“Yes.” He was standing by the window.

“Where are they ?”

“They went out a short while ago. Saying they were going to help.”

“Whatever did they mean ?”

“I don’t know , and I’m not sure they did either. Your wife did speak to me. And since they left and you came back I’ve been in here, and not on the stairs. This is only the second time it’s happened and both times you’ve been here. Rather peculiar really.”

“I woke up this morning, reasoned that I’d just been overtired and dreamt about you and determined to go to work and sort out that bonus. I’d even got to the office, but before I got out of the car, I looked and saw everyone one else hurrying in, up and at work before their wives and kids were even awake, and I thought even if you had been a dream, you were right. So I spent the morning shopping and came home to surprise everyone and…” He shrugged.

“Well if it’s any consolation, you have surprised me. There is hope for you yet.”

“Thank you Mr.Hamil…”

He didn’t finish the sentence, they were both transfixed by a swirl of small bright lights that danced between them , coming together, slowly until….

“Elizabeth !” Mr.Hamilton exclaimed.

The lady ran to him and they embraced kissing warmly.

Colm’s father was mesmerized, but came to when he heard the front door open and Colm shouting “Dad ! Dad! You’re home ! Where are you ? And where’s Mr.Hamilton ? We’ve got a surprise for him!”

Colm’s father opened the study door and Colm and his mother came in. “Elizabeth !” Colm roared.

And then turning to the door he shouted “ Look who we found !”

They all turned towards the door and an elderly gentleman came in slowly. He looked up and gasped, putting his hand over his mouth , and then through tears he whispered “Mother! Father! Is it really you ?”

“Joshua !” they both exclaimed and embraced him together.

Elizabeth came back, and Joshua had followed.

Mr.Hamilton was saying thank you to everyone, asking for forgiveness and Joshua interrupted him and said “I love you Father.” And with that Mr.Hamilton and Elizabeth started to glow gently then coalesce into little dots of light that swirled and intertwined and then faded…

Colm, his Mum and Dad took Joshua down to the kitchen for a cup of tea. Colm’s Mum explained that after their encounter with their elderly neighbour, and Colm’s earnest answers, she decided to look up and see if she could track down a Joshua Hamilton, and lo and behold there he was , only three miles away. They went and explained and he agreed to come visit.

“It was idle curiosity to see the house really. I didn’t believe , or quite follow anything else you said. But I feel a sense of closure and lightness now. Thank you.”

Colm’s Mum turned to her husband “And what are you doing home ?”

“Well, I met Mr.Hamilton last night, and, well, we had a very enlightening chat. I see what’s important now.”

Colm went out into the hall and stood at the bottom of the stairs.

They were empty.

He walked back to the kitchen , and looking out the window, shouted “Look it’s snowing !”

“I really should be getting back in case it gets too heavy.” Joshua said, rising from his seat.

“Is anyone joining you for Christmas ?”

“No. I am on my own.”

“Please stay, we have more than enough, and you can tell us all about the house. Please say you will.” Colm’s Mum placed her hand gently on his arm as she spoke. “It’s your house too.”

He was still gently shaking his head, when Colm said, “And we can ask Francesca from number 39 as well, she said she was your best friend !”.

“My goodness, I haven’t heard that name in too long. Yes that would be wonderful.”

On Christmas Day Colm, with his Mum and Dad, Joshua and Francesca had a wonderful lunch together. Colm saw that his parents were holding hands underneath the table. He saw that Joshua and Francesca were too. After dessert he asked if he could be excused and went into the hall, and as he approached the bottom of the stairs he was sure he saw a swirl of dots of light heading towards the door.

“Merry Christmas Mr.Hamilton.”

There was no reply.

He felt a little sad.

He put his foot on the stairs and then there was a tap on his shoulder. He turned to see Mr.Hamilton and Elizabeth standing in the hall.

“Strictly against the rules old chap.” Mr.Hamilton said. “But we had to say thank you.”

“Look after Joshua for us “ Elizabeth said, smiling.

Then they both tussled his hair, smiled and disappearing into swirls of light and for the last time said together , “Merry Christmas Colm.”

A Different Christmas

I’ve only ever spent Christmas Day away from my family once. It was 1984 and I was in the Holy Ghost Fathers. My group of novitiates were aged between 17 and 30 years of age and most had never lived away from home before. We spent that Christmas in Kilshane in a large old country house with a church built on to it and an extension with 60 small bedrooms from the days when fifty or more young men would join the Holy Ghosts each year. There were 11 of us and Fr.Hugh Boyle who had the misfortune to be responsible for us and another priest who lived in that large house on his own for most of the year, I’ll call him Fr.Brown for the purposes of this.
The old church was no longer in use, we had our daily masses in the oratory in the main house. For Christmas Eve neighbours were invited in so I thought it would be nice to take all of the old candlesticks, candelabras and anything that looked like it would hold a candle from the old church and decorated the oratory with them. I found a stash of old candles and lined three hundred of them all along a small wooden ledge that lined the walls on three sides of the oratory.

It looked stunning.

I was also responsible for the liturgy and the music. I had written out Prayers of the Faithful , had the readings ready and lined up hymns on my red Aiwa dual deck tape recorder. I wanted to play the recordings of the hymns to bolster the feeble warblings of our group. At the best of times Catholics are feeble hymn singers, and with only a few of us there, we needed all of the help we could get.

We would start with ‘Hark The Herald Angel’, have Ag Criost an Siol for the psalm , finish with ‘Silent Night’, and there was an instrumental piece from Handel’s Messiah for  the reflection after communion. Perfect.

The neighbours arrived at 10pm and were shown into the large reception room on the left, where we had tea, mulled wine and mince pies ready beside a roaring fire, and I darted off to the oratory to light my hundreds of candles. It took me 30 minutes to light them all. I switched off the electric lights , it looked stunning. I went and told Fr.Boyle that everything was ready and he asked if everyone would make their way to the oratory. I drank in the ‘ooohs’ and ‘Aaaahs’ everyone made when the saw the candlelit oratory as if it was the finest champagne. I hit play on my red Aiwa dual deck tape recorder and we all joined in with ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’ and I relaxed a little. All was grand.

After the first reading I hit ‘play’ again on my red Aiwa dual deck tape recorder to play ‘Ag Críost an Síol’ and as it started I noticed that one of the candles on the wooden ledge had burned down alarmingly and was leaning dangerously close to the one standing next to it and I had visions of burning candles tumbling in a domino effect setting our congregation alight. I figured there was a verse and a chorus left so I left my seat , left of the altar and made my way along the three sides of the oratory to get to the opposite side without walking across the altar and drawing attention to myself. I made it to the candles before they collided and snuffed the offending one out, burning my thumb and muffling a little moan as I made my way back just in time to stop the tape before it ran into the next hymn.

The next 20 minutes were some of the most stressful of my life. I’d stupidly picked myself to read the second reading and as I read one of St.Paul’s annoying letters, which always remind me as a Holy version of a howler in Harry Potter, I kept stumbling over words as I noticed yet another staggering candle that was veering too close to it’s neighbour. As soon as I finished the reading I proceeded to the back of the oratory rather than my seat, snuffed out three dangerously erratic candles, muffled three more moans and was worried in the half light that my thumb was swelling alarmingly before realising it was simply covered in layers of candle wax. I decide to stay in this position, at the back, so I could observe and attend to an increasing number of willful candles who simply refused to do what I’d intended, stay upright and look lovely, and were rebelling against nature, God…and most importantly , me.

By the time communion arrived I’d extinguished almost half of the candles in the church, and both my thumbs and index fingers were black, numb and three times their normal size. I sat down for a moment and noticed Fr.Brown nodding at me in between serving the communicants, and I realised that I hadn’t started the communion music, Handel’s ‘Messiah’. I hit play once more on my red Aiwa dual deck tape recorder before darting down the back once more to stop three candles joining together in a puddle of molten wax on the floor. As I snuffed out the last candle I realised with horror that the music we were all listening to during our communion reflections wasn’t Handel’s Messiah…it was Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’..I’d pressed play on the wrong deck !

I made it to the tape recorder just as Holly Johnson started to delightfully announce :

“Who-ha who-ha who-ha
In Xanadau did Kublai Khan
A pleasure dome erect”

 As I switched to deck ‘A’ and Handel’s Messiah, I could sense Fr.Brown was glaring at me. At least I think he was, I’d spent the mass snuffing out so many of the candles that it was rather darker than I’d intended. Before the mass ended I hit play for the last time and as Silent Night started I made my way to the back of the oratory once more and switched on the main lights.

When the mass ended Fr.Brown invited everyone back to the reception room for more mulled wine and mince pies. I was left alone in the oratory for a few moments, putting out the last of the candles, and realising that I’d be spending most of tomorrow back in here with sugar soap trying to remove scorch marks on all the walls.
As I entered the reception room I got a round of applause. Everyone thought that I’d deliberately and gradually put out the candles to bring the light down as the mass progressed so that there would be a big contrast at the end when the main lights went on and we roared along to Silent Night.

Everyone applauded.

Everyone except Fr.Brown. He approached me on his own later.

“That was that group that was banned by the BBC wasn’t it ?”

Yes Father, but not for that particular song.

“What was that song called ?”

The one I played at mass or the one about..

“Not that one !” He shuddered involuntarily.” The one you played at mass.”

‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’, Father.

“Hmm,’Pleasure Dome’ you say…Hmmm… it was much catchier than Handel, such a dreary chap I always felt.” And with that he raised his glass of non-alcoholic mulled wine to me and said “Cheers”.

Our novitiate in Tipperary is now a hotel, a wedding hotel no less, Kilshane House. It’s advertised regularly in the Sunday supplements and magazines. Every time I see the advert I think that I almost burnt it to the ground. I think of Fr.Brown living alone in it’s once empty vastness. I think about that Christmas away from home.
I smile. It made me appreciate all of the Christmases that I have spent at home with my family.

Santa Does Not Do DIY

Christmas in Monaghan is magic.

I’m a believer. I come from a long line of believers. I am 54 ½ and I still get a Santa present. My children are 20,18 and 15 respectively and Santa still visits on Christmas Eve with their presents.

Many of my earliest Christmas memories have blended into each other over time, and I scarcely remember what I got, but I do recall it was always received with great excitement. Meccano , Lego, , Hornby, and Scalextric all featured, but one year , I think I was 6, I got a Lone Ranger action figure and Silver, his horse, with saddles, rifles, pistols, hats, holsters, frying pans, chaps, and not one , but two bandanas, one for catching ruffians and one for mass, Dad said.

Christmas was always magic. In the Seventies we had those shiny gold expandable decorations that you thumbtacked into the corner of the ceiling and then stretched it into the light fitting in the middle of the room, repeating the process from all four corners. Each year the distance stretched got shorter as we gradually lost bits.

Christmas Eve was the worst. You couldn’t sleep and you were terrified of not sleeping, because Santa couldn’t visit if you were still awake….and he knew if you were pretending. Somehow we eventually fell asleep, waking at 4.00 am and calling Mam & Dad…going back to bed…getting up at 5.00…going back to bed…6 ? No…7? ALRIGHT ! Dad led the way downstairs to make sure that Santa had finished and that there was no reindeer poo on the rug. ‘All clear !’ and we’d barge past him and survey our presents , we’d be sooo excited that we couldn’t even speak, almost levitating with delight. After the Santa presents we’d open all the wrapped presents under the tree, Aunt Minnie, Dad’s aunt from Belfast who visited every holiday, carefully gathering and  folding the discarded paper …for next year.

Then we’d get dressed and go to mass…the longest mass of the year because you just wanted to get home and play with your new stuff. The dining room would be laid out…the only time in the whole year that we used it. When I was a kid, every house seemed to have a dining room that no one ever seemed to use. We had crackers, starters ! We only ever got starters at Christmas, then soup, homemade by Mam, Dad warning us all as she fetched it to say it was the best soup ever when we tasted it. And then we had the works…..just everything…you name a Christmas dish and it was on our table. Trifle or pudding for desert and then we were told to be quiet while Aunt Minnie watched the Queen’s speech.
And then you’re a teenager, but it’s still class , Now you go to midnight mass at 10pm , so we get to open our presents as soon as we go home, and before Mam and Dad go to bed they tell you that Santa left your presents in the garage…A Nintendo !

Early twenties and our girlfriends started coming to our house after midnight mass, which was now at 9pm, because Christmas was still magic in our house. Santa now left your present under your pillow.
And then you decide to get married. Your first Christmas as a married couple is still months away, but you’re living in a brand new cul-de-sac in Kildare with other newly married, first  home owning couples , none of whom come from Kildare either. And out in the local pub with a gang of them one Saturday night when Barbara , Paddy’s wife, two doors down, tells us that they have decided to spend this Christmas with Paddy’s folks and the next with hers. She asks me innocently “So where will you be spending Christmas ? Yours or Eileen’s ?”.


“No we won’t.” my Soulmate interjects….forcefully.

“But Christmas in your house is….”

“We’re spending it here, in our house.”

“Just the two of us ?”

“It’ll be romantic.”

“Yeah…sure…just the two of us……..but Santa…”

People start to laugh. People are bastards.

Over the next few weeks I mention the odd time, after I’ve done something that slightly resembles someone with two left arms and blindfolded ‘s attempt at a DIY task , like hanging up a bathroom mirror…or a toilet roll holder, which no one told me wouldn’t stay up if you drilled into plaster board…or that there was a difference between wood drill bits or masonry drill bits…on my own..’Are you sure about this Christmas ‘here’ thing ? Every single neighbour is going home.’

My Soulmate would smile sympathetically and explain, again, that she wasn’t getting into the trap of this Christmas at mine, next at yours forever. We’d have our Christmas here, in our own home and then travel up to Monaghan on Boxing Day.

I eventually gave up in October and broke the news to my Mum. ‘Oh’ she said. Then she went quiet for a while. And then I could see her shoulders lift and a smile appear “Well we’ll keep your presents here and we can have another Christmas on Stephen’s Day” She never called it Boxing Day.

I was still a bit underwhelmed. My SoulMate invited her sister Ger and her husband to stay with us for Christmas so we wouldn’t be on our own, which was good….but Santa…..

I woke up on Christmas morning, we were all in great form, we swapped presents and had Champagne. Maybe this adult thing wasn’t so bad.

“You forgot something.” My Soulmate said. There was nothing left under the tree. “Behind the sofa.”
I pulled back the sofa to reveal a brand spanking new Scalextrix set ! I cried.

Dave and I spent an hour setting it up and most of the day playing it. Best .Present EVER !

We went home to Monaghan the next day and had a beautiful Second Christmas. My brothers were very impressed with my SoulMate’s present and told all their mates, two of whom gave me old sets they had in their attics. When Dave and I returned to Kildare we spent a whole day making a new track that went under the sofa , into the kitchen around the dining table and back. It was the best craic . Neighbours called in and we had a championship which I think they let me win so that they could keep coming over. I was made put it away for Valentine’s Day.

And then we had kids and we moved to Belfast…well we had a kid, moved to Belfast and had another two while we were here, it’s that kind of place. We always had Christmas in our house, then Second Christmas in Mum’s the next day. My two brothers both now married and doing the same thing.

We moved back to Monaghan , quite close to Mum & Dad’s , but we still spent the day in our house and the next in Mum’s.

When our daughter Robyn was 4 she asked Santa for a Doll’s House for Christmas. Santa did not let her down. He got her a three story, wooden, Georgian dolls house, with an opening attic, and a hinged front which opened to reveal all three floors, attic and assorted furnished rooms. It came in a beautiful flat box with a gorgeous picture of what it would be like when it was finished. As was/is our custom we go to mass on Christmas Eve, which is now at 7.30pm, return home have Christmassy nibbles , generous amounts of wine and when the kids are safely in their rooms and warned not to dare enter the living room, my Soulmate and I follow Santa’s instructions and arrange the presents. I set Robyn’s Georgian Dolls House box against an armchair so that she’d see it as soon as she entered the room in the morning.

“What are you doing ?”

“Arranging the presents.”

“You have to build it first.”

“But she’ll have great fun building it tomorrow.”

“”She’s 4 !”

“But you saw what I did to the bathroom in Kildare ?”

She just looked at me.

I started building the three-storey wooden Georgian dolls house, with an opening attic, and a hinged front which opened to reveal all three floors, attic and assorted furnished rooms.

After an hour I decided that the instructions would help. I took apart what I’d done and started again. After another hour, its now 2.00am, I’d finished the three-storey wooden Georgian dolls house, with an opening attic, and a hinged front which opened to reveal all three floors, attic and assorted furnished rooms. I went upstairs and woke my Soulmate and she eventually came down to admire my handiwork.

“It’s beautiful , she’ll love it.” She beamed at me. And then she opened the front. Or at least she tried to open it. I tried to open it. I looked at the instructions…I’d hinged it to the left, the picture on the box was hinged to the right.

“Best of luck” she said as she went back to bed.

I took apart the three story wooden Georgian dolls house, with an opening attic, and a hinged front which opened to reveal all three floors, attic and assorted furnished rooms. And slowly put it back together again. I woke up on the rug in front of the fire at 4.30am and crept upstairs and fell fast asleep in our lovely warm bed. Jake , Robyn and Elliott came in at 5.00am.

I was about to tell them to go back to bed, but my Soulmate was already out of bed telling me to hurry up. We went downstairs, me in the lead, like Dad, I went into the living room , on my own like Dad and said, loudly, like Dad “Oh sorry, you’re still here, will I send them back to bed ? Oh, you’re finished. See you next year.” And then I opened the door and the kids barreled past me.

Robyn stopped stock still. She looked at Eileen and I “I Love it !” she said and then knelt in front of it and opened the three story wooden Georgian dolls house, with an opening attic, and a hinged front which opened to reveal all three floors, attic and assorted furnished rooms.

Minding Henry

He’d always meant to go and have a look at the old abbey graveyard in Killeevan but always seemed to be in a rush somewhere else. He took his opportunity this crisp frosty December afternoon after a meeting in Enniskillen had finished early. His father-in-law had hailed from Killeevan and it always struck him as odd that such a tiny place, two miles from Newbliss and seven miles from Clones, was so richly supplied with churches and chapels. There was St.Livinus’ Catholic church, St.Laebhan’s Church of Ireland , the derelict Church of Ireland St.Lukes and the old Abbey up the hill.

He’d never been on the road up the hill before today; it was narrow with the white tipped hedges almost touching the car on both sides until he got to the corner at the top of the hill where it widened out just as he approached the abbey graveyard. His footsteps crunched on the frozen road as he got out of the car. He opened the old metal gate and followed the small gravel path which led the few short yards to all that remained of the old abbey, a small one story gable end. Even in its heyday it must have been a small, simple and unremarkable building. The gravestones however were a different matter altogether. As he looked from the path a rag tag gaggle of skulls peeped out at him through the long grass. The gravestones  were all quite weathered and generally followed a similar design with the skull and crossbones carved in the centre of a stone disc framed by an hourglass on one side and a coffin on the other. As he walked among them he noticed that they all had inscriptions on the other side and they all seemed to date from the early 18th century and all featured old, local Protestant names.

He made his way to a wooden seat at the opposite end of the graveyard to the lonely gable wall, sat down and took a few photographs. He thought he saw something move to his right. It was a robin which had come to light on a gravestone a short distance in front of him. It started to chirp. He stared at it for a while before it flew off towards the abbey wall where it perched and seemed to look back at him and started to chirp again. He got up and walked towards the bird. It flew on to another headstone and chirped and waited again for him to catch up. It did this twice more before finally flying to a grave that he hadn’t noticed before, it was separate from the others and there were the tired remains of an old hedge stump in front of it leaving it almost hidden in the trees at the edge of the graveyard. It also seemed to be on a lower level to the others giving the impression that this solitary grave was in an extension to the main body of the graveyard.

It was of a different size and shape to the others and faced in a different direction. All of the other headstones faced east towards the rising sun in traditional fashion. This one faced south.

He thought initially that perhaps this lonely headstone belonged to a suicide victim, lunatic or a criminal, the old Christian custom being that they were buried outside consecrated ground and not facing possible redemption from the east, which had always struck him as decidedly unchristian.

The robin stopped chirping and flew up into the tree that shaded the grave, allowing him to approach and read the inscription.

                                                    In Loving Memory of

                                             Henry George Granfield Little

                                             Son of William & Wynne Little

                                   Late incumbent of Castle Jordan Co.Meath

                                      Who fell asleep in Jesus Dec.18th 1895

                                                         Aged 12 years

“Twelve ? “ he thought, ‘ How very strange. Very unlikely to be a suicide or criminal at 12 years old, even in 1895. And why is this one almost 100 years later than all of the other graves ?’.

His thoughts were interrupted by the robin once more which had moved back to the seat where he’d been sitting before the bird had led him to young Henry’s final resting place. He went back to the seat and sat down, the robin flew back to Henry. He looked at his phone, no rush. He stretched and yawned and closed his eyes, just for a moment. He dozed.

He thought he heard someone talking in the distance. He lazily opened one eye and in the hazy twilight he noticed two old men leaning on shovels with their backs to him.

“That’s our part done Sam.”

“Aye, least we could do, Sean.”

In front of them, where moments before he’d stood himself and read Henry’s headstone, there was a pile of freshly dug earth beside an empty grave. The headstone and the trees that shaded it were no longer there.

“There’ll be a big crowd tomorrow ,Sam.  Fr.McPhillips told us at mass on Sunday that he’d be attending the Little boy’s funeral tomorrow and that if we promised not to tell Bishop Mulligan on him, he’d not tell on us. He’s a good man.”  Sam nodded and added “ Reverend Jackson said more or less the same.  He was distraught when he had to tell the Littles that Bishop McEntaggart  had refused burial in the new graveyard and then the Littles being so sympathetic toward him nearly broke his heart altogether…..” He trailed off as he and Sean heard the gate open and they saw the clergy men approach.

“Good evening Sean, fine work gentlemen “ Fr.McPhillips said before Rev.Jackson added “ Good evening Sam, thank you both, Susan has a spot of supper ready for you both down at the house.”  Sam and Sean nodded , mumbled their thanks and left them alone. They stood quietly, heads bowed before the grave.

Rev.Robert Jackson broke the silence. “ I thought we’d moved on from all of this. Poor Henry was no more a lunatic than I am. He had a vivid imagination, loved his faerie stories , had a weird charm over animals, was full of wild energy and an unfortunate habit of questioning and showing up his elders, but no more than that.  No one in this parish believes he drowned himself. He was just trying to save that blasted dog of his from the frozen lake. The bishop is just using this to get back at William for marrying one of your lot.”

“I know” Fr.Michael McPhillips replied, “ But just look at what is happening now. Both sides of the parish defying their bishops, risking excommunication and coming together to celebrate the short but sparkling life of that young rascal Henry Little. William and Wynne are overwhelmed with the support they are getting from everyone. This is the start of something and we have Henry to thank.” He put his arm on his friend’s shoulder.

“I’m being moved out of the parish, Michael, McEntaggart thinks I’ve ‘gone native’ and wants me out.  What will happen here , and to Henry after I’ve gone ?” He was pained.

“Listen, my friend, after the ceremony tomorrow there will be no real sign that anything happened at all. No one uses this place anymore. I’ll visit every day and every day I’ll cut one branch of that hedge in front of this grave and plant one sapling behind it. Three of my people, the Greenan’s, have farms up this road and they’ll all do the same every day. Overtime this hedge will be bigger and replace the old one. Henry will be in the graveyard proper. And then we’ll put up the headstone. He won’t be alone, there will always be someone to look over him.” Michael smiled.

The two men shook hands and walked towards the gate.

The sound of the gate closing woke him. It was starting to snow. He looked over to Henry’s grave and the headstone was there once more, the robin sitting on top. He looked around and saw a holly bush to his left in the hedgerow brimming with red berries and went and gathered a few of the branches together and fashioned a simple wreath which he placed on Henry’s grave. He said a prayer, took his glove off and touched his fingers to his lips and then gently touched the top of the grave saying “Happy Christmas Henry, God Bless.”

He returned to the car , he’d need to hurry home, the snow was falling heavier now. He put his key in the ignition and looked up to see the robin land on the snow covered bonnet. It tilted its head to the side looking at him and then seemed to nod in acknowledgement, he nodded back, the robin flew off again.

The Old Pound Loney

Belfast city’s pre-eminence over Dublin as Ireland’s economic capital reached it’s zenith in the mid 19th century due to its thorough embrace of the industrial revolution while it’s southern rival was still licking its wounds after losing it’s parliament to Westminster in the Act of Union in 1801. Men such as Barney Hughes embraced the industrial opportunities the Empire offered and having left Armagh in 1826 as an 18 year old bakers boy became Belfast’s largest baker and miller with three bakeries opened in succession in 1840 in Donegall St, another in 1846 and the third in 1850 in Divis St. The landscape of Belfast shifted and changed to accommodate the new industries and the workers needed to service them.

 A little lane, or loney, ran off Divis St, ending at the city animal pound wall on Barrack St. A small stream ran along another side of the pound. As the factories and workers spilled into the area and a warren of redbrick two up two down filled  streets grew with names reflecting the origin or careers of the occupants, English Street, Scotch Street, Curry Street, Cinnamon Street, Bread Street and Baker Street among them. The area became known as ‘The Pound Loney’.

Dublin reasserted itself in the latter part of the nineteenth century and as the twentieth century progressed Belfast’s empire industries of linen and shipbuilding faded so that by the 1960’s the old Pound Loney had seen better days. Urban renewal was the flavour of the day and as the new Divis flats complex grew up and overshadowed the warren of old Victorian red brick two up two downs there was only one house left on Baker St. that hadn’t been blocked up awaiting its final demolition and clearance.Old Mrs. Rea had held out until the last. No incentive seemed to interest her. She had been a widow for as long as anyone could remember and had no family that anyone could recall, number 33 Baker St. and it’s memories it seemed were all she had. The Corporation’s project manager, Ian Pierce, had done his best to persuade her to leave. He’d had countless cups of tea and slices of madeira cake in her ‘good room’ either on his own or  with the local priest, Fr. McCluskey  as they gently cajoled her to move, extolling the benefits of the new flats with all their mod-cons, heating and indoor plumbing. Local councillors , old neighbours who were already in their new modern flats, and even  the new MP , Gerry Fitt, had all visited to reassure Mrs.Rea of the benefits that awaited her  but it was all to no avail. She simply refused to move. She was very polite about it. She simply didn’t see the need .

Eventually they all agreed that time would take care of everything.

 Ian had liked her immediately; at 79, she was the same age as his own mother, or rather the same age as she would have been if she hadn’t passed away. He took to calling in to see her on his lunch break from the project office in the flats complex  or on his way home for a chat or to see if she wanted for anything. He was always shown in to the good room on the right at the front of the house.

And then one December day, as Ian called in to offer to get her anything she needed from the shops and warn her that the neighbouring row of houses on Bread Street  were due to be demolished the next day so that she wouldn’t be scared. “There’ll be a lot of noise and dust, but you’ll be safe inside.” he’d told her. “Which street’s for the chop ?” she’d enquired from the little kitchen.

“Bread Street, just around the corner.” he replied.

As she shuffled back down the hall with the tea tray to where he was sitting in the good room, he thought he heard her say with a sigh “Elliott will get lost on his way home with all this”. She smiled at him as she came through the door and set the tray down on the wee table between them. She poured his tea and handed him the china cup and saucer and then settled into the chair opposite and reached to pick up her own.

 “Who’s Elliott ? “ he asked.

She looked at him in horror for the briefest of moments as the cup and saucer fell from her hand and smashed on the floor. She recovered immediately “ Ach , would you look at me, the silly old fool. Just give me a moment to get a cloth”. Ian stood up quickly saying “Sure I’ll get it. You stay there” and he was out the door before she could object, which she did, strongly. He went through the sitting room to the little kitchen and grabbed a dishcloth that was neatly folded by the sink. On his way back he was transfixed by the framed photograph on the mantelpiece. It captured a happy family stood outside this very house, he could see the number 33 to the left of the front door. A rosy cheeked man with a moustache , his black hair oiled back and wearing  a tweed blazer stood smiling with one arm around the shoulder of a beautiful lady in a simple pink silk dress wearing a hat with a partial veil at the front.  She looked like a Hollywood star. Both the lady and the gentleman had a hand on each shoulder of the young boy standing in front of them in short pants, blazer and wearing a cap.

He didn’t hear her come in to the room. She turned the photograph to face the wall and gently took the dishcloth from him and headed back to the good room. “Your tea will be cold…” she said quietly but firmly over her shoulder. He followed her and took his seat again. She cleaned up the pieces of china and mopped up the spilt tea with the cloth and then got herself another cup and saucer from the kitchen.  When she finally sat down again he knew better than to mention the photograph. She asked “How long will it take them to knock down Bread  Street ?” .  “A week or two I expect” he answered. “My, my” she sighed, “so fast, so very fast”.

Before the conversation fizzled out awkwardly he made his excuses and left.

 Two days later, on Christmas Eve, Fr.Mc Cluskey called to the site office with news that she’d fallen in the snow on her way back from the shops  and was in The Royal Victoria hospital. “Is it bad, Father ?” he asked, surprising himself, and the priest, with the level of emotion in his voice. “They don’t think she’ll make it, Ian. It was a bad fall and she hit her head. She is in and out of consciousness. I think it would be safe for you to have the house cleared now. She won’t be coming back, and there’s no one to pass anything on to.”

“I’ll do it myself Father.” Ian surprised himself again. Fr.Mc Cluskey smiled as he said “She would appreciate that, you probably spent more time with her this past year than anyone else”. Ian nodded and looked at his feet as he replied “My mother passed away on her own one night when I was away at college in Edinburgh. It was just the two of us and she spent every penny on my education. She’d been ill for months but kept it from everyone. I hadn’t been home or written for weeks. I never got to tell her…..” he stopped. Fr.Mc Cluskey put his hand on his shoulder. “ She knew ,Ian,she knew”. He nodded silently.

Fr.Mc Cluskey got ready to leave. “Just one more thing, Father?” Ian asked, “Whatever happened to her son, Elliott ?”. The priest smiled, replying “I never knew his name. I took over the parish from Fr.Mc Daid twenty years ago and he only mentioned that many years before her son had left home one night and never returned. She always said he would come back but he never had. No one knew where he’d gone or even if he was still alive” he tipped his hat to Ian , handing him the key to number 33 and wished him well.

Ian put the key in his pocket and decided that he’d call in on his way home and in the meantime tried to busy himself with drawings and estimates for the Belfast Regional Survey and Plan that he and Robert Matthew were finalising.

That evening he made his way through the lightly falling snow to number 33 Baker St and let himself in. He went into the sitting room and saw that the framed photograph was the right way round once more. He sat down and stared at it. He didn’t know how long he’d been there when he heard the hammering on the front door. He went and opened it. There was a black cab in the street and a worried looking taxi driver standing there wringing his cap in his hands. “Is this Rea’s?” he blurted. “Yes it is” Ian answered. “Thank Christ……sorry, I was beginning to think she was mad. I didn’t think there was anyone left in the Pound Loney “.

The door of the cab opened and a heavily bandaged Mrs. Rea tried to get out. Ian and the taxi man darted to help her. Ian helped her inside, the taxi driver was glad to get away he hadn’t even asked for payment. They walked to the sitting room in silence. He sat her in her chair beside the fireplace. She looked at the photograph, smiled and looked up at Ian.

“I knew you’d come back Elliott.  I’m so sorry.” She started to cry.

 Ian bent down, kissed the top of her head  and said gently “I know Ma. I love you too.”

She smiled and closed her eyes.

The bells of St.Peter’s cathedral rang out their midnight call announcing Christmas Day.

Hello Minnie

( True story told at TenX9 in Belfast , December 2018 )

When I was very young, growing up in the land that was then and forever shall be the centre of the universe, Monaghan, I only knew of Belfast for two reasons.

Boney M had a number one single called Belfast.

And that’s where our Grand Aunt Minnie came from.

Our Granny, who we called Nanny, lived with us all of our lives and her sister, Aunt Minnie, along with Uncle Hugh would visit and stay with us for a few days every year at Easter. It was always a grand occasion. Minnie and Hugh arrived in a Mercedes, an actual Mercedes! Our family car at the time was a baby blue Fiat 127, and they arrived in a Mercedes, an actual Mercedes.
Aunt Minnie always looked like the posh lady from old black and white Marx Brothers movies. She wore a tiny hat with a little veil and a fox fur around her shoulders, which we would chase each other with when she was down for her afternoon nap. She smelt exotic to us. We later found out that this exotic aroma was actually mothballs.

Uncle Hugh, I remember oiled his hair, wore tweed, rarely said anything and smoked Players Navy Cut cigarettes continuously.

Before they arrived the house would be hoovered to within an inch of its life and we’d have to have baths…well we’d have a bath, myself and my two brothers together…as soon as Dad had finished it…sure you couldn’t be leavin’ the immersion on for two baths…it wasn’t us that drove a Mercedes…an actual Mercedes. And it wasn’t even Saturday!
We would duly line up to greet Aunt Minnie when she arrived and after she’d said hello, pinched us on the cheek, got all of our names wrong, briefly acknowledged Granny and then made a big fuss over Mum…and then a ginormous fuss over Dad…she would feign exhaustion by dabbing her upper lip with her ever-present handkerchief and would be escorted by Dad to the best chair beside the fire.

Tea would be brought to her in a china cup, with a saucer, which we’d only ever seen in the glass press in the good room. And then from her enthroned position, she would bid Hugh to hand her various presents for us.

Tunnocks tea cakes and Snowballs, and white chocolate mice.
It was worth the extra bath.

Although Minnie and our Gran were sisters they had decidedly different accents. Our Nan had a decent honest Market St., Dundalk accent. Aunt Minnie had a quiet, slightly higher pitched and decidedly posh northern accent, well it was posh to us anyway. This combined with her aroma, fox fur, veil, lavish confectionery presents, tweed-clad husband and her Mercedes…an actual Mercedes, led us to believe that she lived in a castle. One day we saw Belfast Castle on the news and we knew in our hearts that that’s where Minnie and Hugh lived. But we never visited.
It was only as the years went by that we realized that although Minnie came to us each year and similarly visited our two sets of cousins in Dundalk, none of us had ever been invited to visit them in Belfast. They had no children, so we assumed that they didn’t want other children running around and messing up their lovely castle.

But we were consoled by our own weight in Tunnocks Tea Cakes and anyway, this was the late ’70s and early 80’s so we weren’t in a great rush to visit Belfast anyway.

And then we were simply told one day that Dad and Nanny were heading off to Belfast as Uncle Hugh had passed away and they were going to the funeral. No one else was invited, Minnie wanted it to be private. This was odd to us as local funerals were great craic altogether with rivers of tea, mountains of sandwiches, piles of apple tarts,minerals, crisps, cakes, staying up ‘til all hours and getting money from distant relatives you’d never seen before. But then we thought that all the lords and ladies of Belfast , maybe the Queen herself would be there and they wouldn’t want us taking up all the seats at the front.

Nanny and Dad didn’t want to talk about it when they came home.
Minnie now visited us at Easter, two weeks in the summer, HallowE’en and Christmas. Dad collected her and left her home each time. Usually, whenever Dad had to go anywhere we were delighted to go with him for the spin, but we weren’t asked to go with him to Belfast.
I think I was 16 before he told me the truth.

When they’d gone to Hugh’s funeral the house they drove to wasn’t Belfast Castle, or any castle. It was one of those two up, two down terraced houses that you saw at the start of Coronation St. , most of the houses on the street were bricked up. Nanny argued with Dad that they were in the wrong place, but then they saw Minnie at the open door of one of the houses. She had a head scarf on and a housecoat. She cried when she saw Dad and ran inside.

They went in and comforted her.

There was a knock at the door, Dad answered it to find an angry young man at the door demanding to see Hugh. Dad told him he’d passed away. The man explained that he was storing Hugh’s old Mercedes and that he was owed money for repairs and storage for over a year. Dad asked him if keeping the car would cover it. “Just about.” the man said. Dad gave him another £20 and that was the last of the Mercedes.

Minnie and Hugh seemingly lived for their annual trips to Dundalk and Monaghan to their only family, us and our cousins. The fox furs and 1950’s posh clothes were pawned between visits.
Minnie passed away in 1989. My Nanny, Mam, Dad, my two brothers and I were at the funeral. We sat in the front. We left room for the Queen, but she didn’t make it.
We have a memento of Aunt Minnie’s time with us at home, it’s a signed photo of Laurel &Hardy with a note saying ‘Hello Minnie’. Minnie had been a nurse, she’d worked in the Royal Victoria here and during the Second World War Laurel & Hardy had toured around US army bases to cheer up the troops. Stan Laurel’s wife had taken ill while they visited Belfast and spent a brief time in the Royal Victoria. Minnie told us that Stan had given her the photo as a ‘Thank You’.
She gave the photo to my Dad saying it would be worth a fortune. She also used to wave a little green notebook at him and smile saying that this too would be his one day. It was her life assurance. When she passed away, she had indeed left everything to Dad, including her life assurance. Dad received a cheque from Norwich Union for £178, a fortune!

We look on the photo fondly now and wonder if she actually met Laurel & Hardy. I like to think that she did.

Such are the twists and turns of life that I with my own Soul Mate, and firstborn, Jake, ended up moving to Belfast in the year 2000 to set up an e-commerce business, roughly 7 years before we should have, but that’s a whole other story.
Our time in Belfast was very happy. We had a daughter there, Robyn, and another son, Elliott. Both were born in Minnie’s Royal Victoria Hospital. Funny how our lives intertwine with those of ours who came before us.

On one of our Belfast Christmases, we received a gilt-edged formal invitation to attend a black tie Christmas reception in…. Belfast Castle …Minnie & Hugh’s house.

We didn’t go.

I wasn’t disappointed and I’ve never wanted to visit Belfast Castle anytime since. I’m more than happy to hold onto the image I had as a 9 year old that Aunt Minnie and Uncle Hugh lived there, entertaining all the lords and ladies of Belfast, feasting on Tunnocks Tea Cakes, washed down with Ice Cream Soda.

And outside in the snow was parked a Mercedes ….an actual Mercedes.

Author: paul

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