December 24th 2015 – Ballymena
Reuben and Glenda McCormick
It is a little know fact, long established, that the same wish said, or indeed sung, audibly ten millions times will bring the very thing spoken immediately into being. (This principle is similar to the much better known ‘Genie and three wishes’ principle, only without a lamp).
Unbeknown to any mortal creature, the phrase, “I wish it could be Christmas every day,” was uttered for the ten millionth time on Christmas Eve of this year. Though the perpetrator’s identity has little bearing on the outcome, you might be interested to know that the culprit was a slightly drunken Uncle from Banbridge. He was wearing a cracker hat at the time.
Thereafter, it was Christmas Day, everyday for the rest of time. People soon tired of turkey and there were only so many times the Father Ted Christmas special could be watched before the jokes grew somewhat predictable. Everyone was thoroughly sick of giving and receiving presents. They began to mutter, “I wish it wouldn’t be Christmas everyday,” but it would take years, decades even, to clock up ten million repetitions.
December 25th 2015 – Ballymena
Margaret and Dianne Lowry
On Christmas morning when we sat down beside the tree to open our gifts there was the usual stack of chocolates and fancy candles for Mum, slippers for Dad, (and two of those crime novels by the Scottish writer he particularly enjoys), plastic, shiny things for the kids: dolls and doll parts, lazer guns, robots, cars; every item requiring batteries so we had to sacrifice the television remote and the kitchen clock for fuel.
I received the same pair of striped socks six times from six different relatives. I should have guessed from the shape of my gifts, but even after four identical pairs, I was still hopeful for gloves or a well-folded T-shirt.
At first it was a joke. “No excuse for smelly feet now,” after the third pair.” Then, after the fourth, a kind of muted apology, “sorry Love, we should have coordinated a bit better.” After the sixth and final pair had been revealed I mumbled something incoherent about presents not being the true meaning of Christmas. This was not a lie exactly, but at that moment, in the midst of all those socks, it felt just like one.
December 26th 2015 – Ballymena
In our house it is traditional to make a sandwich from all the Christmas Day leftovers and to eat this sandwich for lunch on Boxing Day. I prefer sandwiches made with processed, white bread and had purchased a fresh loaf on Christmas Eve for this explicit purpose.
I began with meat: turkey, ham, three cocktail sausages lined next to each other like little, naked babies in a bed; a layer of stuffing, cranberry sauce, roast potatoes and mash, a slathering of gravy to ease the sandwich’s passage down my gullet, four round bullets of brussel sprouts, halved to avoid slippage, carrots and parsnips in Balsamic, honey glaze.
I took a long, low sniff of my sandwich but it wasn’t quite complete. There were other Christmas leftovers which I began to pile on top: a generous dollop of pudding, custard, red wine, port and brandy, half a box of Celebrations, (minus the miniature Bounties), two unread paperbacks, torn wrapping paper, a once-worn cracker hat, gift receipts and a sweater which did not fit, after dinner naps and a Morecambe and Wise repeat.
Once complete I couldn’t get the slice of bread to settle on the roof of my sandwich. I couldn’t possibly get my mouth around it. The very sight of it turned my stomach and I understood why we only tolerate Christmas once a year.
December 27th 2015 – Dunadry
It wasn’t as if we were being deliberately cruel. The dog had already eaten the Christmas tree lights by the time we noticed and there was nothing we could do about it. The dog was closed over the holiday weekend and the dog didn’t seem that bothered about the string of light bulbs emerging from his mouth. He was not a particularly smart dog and had previously eaten a pair of washing up gloves, a tennis balls, some ankle socks and the special, Christmas edition of the Radio Times.
Of course we tried to pull the fairy lights out but they were stuck fast, looped around the dog’s intestines and he’d clamped his teeth over the plug end of the string as if determined to eat them right down to the last mouthful.
“What would happen if we plugged the lights in?” asked Mum, and my youngest sister replied, “we’ll be able to see the dog’s skeleton, like a kind of x-ray.”
My dad plugged the dog in and his mouth glowed a little like an underwater disco. The rest of him was just like an ordinary dog but we could tell he was really pleased to be the centre of attention. As I said, we were not being deliberately cruel.
December 28th 2015 – Castlereagh Road, East Belfast
The child was almost two and a half and had not yet made any attempt to speak though all his other skills- walking, eating, dancing along to disco beats- had developed at exactly the right pace and so the pediatrician said there was nothing to worry about.
“Try him on animal noises,” she suggested, “and children’s songs. Chances are he’ll begin to sing along.”
The child did not begin to sing along and when we waved plastic chickens and cows under his nose, quacking and mooing like demented farmhands, he simply looked at us witheringly, glaring all the way down his tiny, button nose as if such antics were beneath him.
By the time he turned three and still hadn’t uttered a single word we’d begun to panic in earnest. “He’s not normal,” we whispered down the phone to friends with children of a similar age. We tried exposing him to Toy Story, Peppa Pig and all the various incarnations of the Gruffalo, and still he would not speak.
It was only on the eve of his fourth Christmas, whilst listening to a Radio 4 adaptation of Dickens, that the child finally piped up from the back seat. “At last,” he said, “something on my level,” and was speaking fluent Latin by the year’s end.
December 29th 2015 – Sydenham Drive, East Belfast
This morning I decided to clean the house. It was greatly needed. I began with hovering. I started at the top of the house and made my way, stair by stair downwards, from the third floor, to the second, to the ground floor. There was something rather satisfying about the tiny clicks and shudders of grit and little pieces of debris thundering up the hoover’s hose.
When I arrived at the front door with a dust-free house behind me, and the entire day ahead, I decided to keep right on hovering. East Belfast was far from spotless and as I progressed down the Holywood Road, sucking twigs and crisp bags and individual leaves into my hoover I couldn’t help but picture myself on the front page of The Telegraph, solely responsible for cleaning up the East.
I was just wondering whether the West might also benefit from a quick run over with the Dirt Devil, when the extension cord ran out. There was still so much cleaning left to do and I was not the sort of girl who accepted limitations. I would come back next week with a cordless hoover, a fancy Dyson ideally.
December 30th 2015 – Belmont Road, East Belfast
When we bought the house we understood that it was not perfect: the kitchen needed replaced, the living room wallpaper was hideous and there was a large stain, like a week old bruise, blushing across the wall of the spare bedroom. It wasn’t damp. You checked. It was just an ordinary stain.
“Wee lick of emulsion and that’ll be grand,” you said, and I believed you.
We put a new kitchen in immediately, wallpapered the living room and started into the spare bedroom with a bucket of magnolia paint. There little point in paying a decorator. It was a rectangle of a room with one small window; the sort of job we could easily manage between us.
On went the first layer of magnolia and the stain seeped through. On went the second and third. The room was brilliantly, brightly clean, save for the tea-coloured stain on the North wall. On went a fourth and fifth coast and when the stain was still visible we had our first argument in the new house.
“Cheap paint,” I said.
“Poor painting technique,” you fired back.
“The problems associated with buying an old house,” I said.
You had nothing to argue back with and the stain actually appeared to have grown larger. I knew then that it would spread to other rooms and eventually take over the house.
December 31st 2015 – Portrush
When the New Year dropped we were on the West Strand; the four of us in high heels with a single glass of red wine, stolen from a moderately priced restaurant. It was bitterly cold. We were wearing sensible coats over our dressed, and winter hats with bobbles which nodded along like second assenting heads, every time we moved.
“We should dance,” you said, and this seemed like the very best way to keep warm. (Several of us had forgotten our gloves). So, we dance to tunes on your mobile, the sound cutting in and out as the phone in your pocket waivered towards us and shied away. Afterwards we raised a glass to the old year and left it, empty, on the steps of a stranger’s house.
The next morning we returned to the beach. The glass was gone and it was still cold enough for dancing but there were other people walking dogs and children across the sand now. So we stuck our hands in our pockets and did our best to keep warm the ordinary way.
“Here’s the place where last night’s footprints should be,” you said, but the tide had already eaten them and it was like a New Year or some such unsullied thing.