Page 22 - The Kerry News 2018
P. 22

A CHRISTMAS HAVEN By Patrick O’Sullivan
  It was lovely to go and visit Jack at any time of year but Tespecially so at Christmas.
crackled in the hearth and the old-fashioned jugs shone on the dresser, one in particular the darkest of blues and whites that might have come straight from the pages of some old Victorian storybook. Above the hearth
a quaint and colourful Father Christmas decoration that pre- sented Father Christmas as the kindly, avuncular character we imagined him to be but without the portly, rotund figure of old.
Rather his elongated form was pleated like an accordion so that he seemed very different
to so many other images of him then. Needless to say, there were sprays, generous sprays of holly round the pictures and on the window sill, holly which Jack had gathered for himself in the nearby grove. Gathering the holly was very much part of the tradition, the ritual of Christmas in those days, so that we could hardly have imagined the season without it. Also, on the window the candle in its tin, the latter lapped in green crepe paper: paper fans with the old fashioned honeycomb effect strewn here and there.
I liked the fans because each of the four quarters came in a dif- ferent colour : the colours bright and vibrant and Christmassy too. A cluster of Christmas cards including one from ourselves which we always posted rather than slipped under the door of Jacks Cottage was on the incline of the hill : the flowers of summer , the roses and sweet Williams no more than a memory then.
the latter framing the view of the garden beyond: the garden itself teeming with colour in summer but inevitably more muted as Christmas drew near. Even then though Jack liked
to speak of the flowers and all that they meant to him still, the little gate that gave access to the garden very much in keeping with the character of the place. When the Yanks, my aunts Nora and Mary came home from America one summer , Jack came with a great bunch of roses for them , the rose red and peachand pink, the latter the dewy pink of old moss
song bird too. Inside a clutter of needles that had never been used but that were still redolent, so redolent of a bygone age.
In a moment I was transport- ed back in time ,so that Jack was fetching the gramophone from the bedroom beyond and setting it gingerly on the table before the window .The way he carried it spoke volumes of just how much it meant to him: the music of the gramophone like the scent of the flowers stitched into the fabric of the place for longer than anyone cared to re- member. The dark wood of the gramophone bearing the patina,
and brighter at Christmastime. There were other delights too,like Nash’s Wonder Orange that came in dark brown bottles, and Marietta biscuits on a plate :the warmth of the fire and the music sometimes fusing seam- lessly together so that it would have been hard to tell them apart at all: the candle shining in the window, the fans on the sill like so much else in the place like tokens of times past. Sometimes frost shimmered
on the window glass, trimming it with silver so that it seemed more Christmassy still: the cold outside and the warmth inside moulding and shaping and de- fining each other too. It was in a way as if we had found a haven, A Christmas haven of our own, the voice of John McCormack like the touchstone of all the joy and delight that the season held in store. And ‘when we went home my father talking of the great boat races between the fishermen of Steelroe and their counterparts in Callinafercy :’the boys from Steelroe in the Laune Ranger, the boys from Callinafercy in the Blackbird. ‘Smiles in his eyes when he conjured up images of the race from the bridge to Cloon Island and back again. My mother re- membering her own childhood Christmases when aunts from the city came with baskets of oranges and chocolate, the scent of the oranges tangy and sweet.
hen the fire danced and
   I loved the sweet Williams, everything about them evocative, so evocative of the little cottage gardens
in a second-hand shop. There among the lustre jugs and the antique bottles was a little tin of gramophone needles, the very sight of which filled me with longing again. I marveled at the little slim blue tin , that bore the manufacturer ‘s brand Songster on the hinged cover, an image of a handsome little
the essential preliminaries but part of the ritual of the moment too. Then, when one of the old seventy eights was taken from its place in the plum-coloured folder he eased the needle gen- tly down, the sound wonder- fully crackly and atmospheric. Most of the songs and tunes were ‘traditional favourites like The Star of the County Down and The Kerry Dances. It hardly mattered that we had heard them all a hundred times before, for they too seemed strangely warmer and lighter
it then but the moon might have been a charm, a token left by the angels on their way to Bethlehem: The stars stretching far and away in the midnight blue of the sky .
of yesteryear. I remember standing at Jack ‘s window,
Stars brighten in the night Sky over South Kerry
roses that had stood the test of time. At Christmas though there was the comfort of the fire,
the peaty smell of the turf and the woody incense of the logs filling the kitchen then. Most of all there was the music of the gramophone, the magic music box that was such an iconic part of Jacks little cottage we could hardly have imagined the place without it.I thought of all of this of late when I was browsing
the sheen, not just of time but of all that careful handling down through the years. Sometimes Jack replaced the needle, but more often than not he set about cranking the handle at once: this cranking not just one of
And when we went to bed on Christmas Eve, the moon some- times flooding the room with light, signalling as it did that joy like a parcel would be wrapped at the ends of our beds in the morning. We did not think of
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Wishing all our customers and friends a Happy & Peaceful Christmas

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