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‘Tis that time of year

On the Edge

On the Edge
Áine Ryan

WHAT is it about twinkling lights and conical trees that bring our inner child alive again?  
Is it that they infuse us with a sense of anticipation, tinsel tinted frissons of magic? Or is it that they offer mystery to the humdrum of the daily grind where the strip-lighting of clock-in and clock-out routines dehumanise us into mere cogs in wheels? Christmas, more than ever, may be dominated by a barrage of cleverly composed marketing campaigns determined to leave our bank accounts deeply traumatised by News Year’s Day but it is still a most welcome break from grey reality and the ever-increasing cynicism of a media-manipulated world. It is a special time to give and receive, to celebrate with family and friends, to indulge in those precious late mornings of new fluffy pyjamas and couch reclining, games of Scrabble and charades, poker and whist, Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit. It is a time for leisurely strolls along beaches and greenways and brisk walks up steep hills and craggy mountainsides. It is a time to send a search party into the attic for those boxes of baubles and bells, bows and ornaments, before dangling from the top of the tree to make sure the star, or angel, is properly placed.

Baubles and bells
TIME too to ensure that the tree, with its festive array of decorations is secure in its stand  and will not succumb to assaults by the cat or the playful paws of the new puppy – the one that is not just for Christmas; the one that hasn’t quite been house-trained yet; the one that managed to jump up, with the alacrity of a Bolshoi ballerina, onto the worktop and dismember the turkey with the expertise of an orthopaedic surgeon; the one that doesn’t look as if brandy butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. (Wuff wuff!)
Surely, it shouldn’t be just children who are allowed open Advent calendars and shriek with laughter. Nor should it be just children who – wide-eyed – await as Santa comes down the chimney and delivers perfect presents, eats a mince pie and manages to catapult himself back up onto an icy roof after a neat glass of whiskey and whizz off to the next door neighbour’s house and do the same again.

Fortunate ‘First World’
DESPITE the fact that we here in the western world are so privileged and fortunate not to be living in Aleppo or Afghanistan, Iraq or Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon or Chad where the cumulative deaths in 2016 alone are 81,101, our lives are dominated by other stresses, albeit so-called ‘First World’ problems.
Of course, in the greater scheme of things, these problems are miniscule and fade into insignificance when we reflect on the plight of our fellow human beings, who, simply because of geographical accidents of birth, are terrorised because of their religion, ethnicity or economic vulnerability.
Indeed, while the citizens of County Mayo, and the rest of Ireland, may not be in fear for our lives or those of our families and friends, the diktats of a consumerist and materialist world, where self-sufficiency is an alien concept, dominate daily life. Worries about bank balances and utility bills, mortgage repayments and soaring insurance repayments leave people insomniac and agitated through the dark hours.
The majority of us have felt the cold pall of austerity and the cocktail of anxieties we have been forced to swallow every day since the crash of the Celtic Tiger.  
So what, if Black Friday dupes us into thinking we are getting real bargains at cutdown prices for our Christmas stockings or our Kris Kringles. So what too, if we buy another little black number which, after the office party, will sit in our wardrobes – forlorn and abandoned – with all the other little black numbers.
‘Tis that time of year …. Time for glitz and glamour, mulled wine and hot ports, flaming puddings and iced Christmas cakes, breakfasts at lunchtime, mistletoe and chilled Chardonnay, crackers that pop and cheeses that challenge cholesterol levels. Time too for choirs and carols and sentimental old anthems like The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’.
“It was Christmas Eve babe/ In the drunk tank/ An old man said to me, won’t see another one/ And then he sang a song/ The Rare Old Mountain Dew/ I turned my face away/ And dreamed about you
Got on a lucky one/ Came in at eighteen to one/ I’ve got a feeling/ This year’s for me and you/ So happy Christmas/ I love you baby/ I can see a better time/ When all our dreams come true….”
Ho ho ho!

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