Thursday 8 December 2016

A scare on Christmas Eve . . .

John Masterson

Published 21/12/2015 | 02:30

A visit from Santa induced fear in a young John Masterson.
A visit from Santa induced fear in a young John Masterson.

When I was about four years old my parents told me a dreadful lie. I have never fully recovered from this and my emotional growth is most definitely stunted as a result. They meant well. I have been gifted with a fairly vivid imagination. I have never been able to watch horror movies, so real is my terror.

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As a four-year-old I was no different and the idea of a man with a red suit coming down the chimney, however kind his motives, filled me with dread. To make matters worse, we were visiting my grandmother in Limerick, where all of the bedrooms did indeed have a chimney. The chances of me going asleep were zero, and after many hours of putting up with a very cranky, and genuinely fearful, brat my parents cracked. I was told with great sincerity that there was no such person as Santa and that on no account was I to discuss this with ANYONE on pain of execution. Like a fool, I believed them and in no time I was fast asleep with a beatific smile on my face, deeply enjoying the pleasure of knowing something that my peers were unaware of.

With Santa sidelined it was fairly easy to see the crib etc as a nice story and no more. From the time I was about 12 the first fixture on Christmas Day was the golf course. My father and I would usually play nine holes. Golf was my religion and it needed to be attended to daily. Those who watch me hacking around the place now will not believe I played off four when I was a schoolboy. That takes practice.

Dad and I would return home for an 'all the frills' Christmas dinner. He steadfastly refused to host, or attend, Christmas morning drinks as he loved his Christmas dinner and never wanted to begin it after a G&T too many. It is a practice I have continued. I tried to re-introduce our family routine of opening Christmas presents at midnight on Christmas Eve but have failed.

Sister Stan lived in Kilkenny years ago and always visited my mother coming up to Christmas. It was always the same request: There was somebody who had no place to go that Christmas and could they come to us? My mother never refused Stan anything. Come to think of it no one can refuse her. Looking back, we had many fascinating guests for Christmas that I would not otherwise have met.

Dinner, at three-ish, began with a prawn cocktail, which was about as posh as we ever got. One Christmas, my sister introduced the man she later married and we had to add brandy butter and spiced beef - two major departures. I got as much of the dark turkey meat as I could get my hands on, loved every bit of ham, and always had seconds. We finished with my mother pouring the whisky over the back of a hot spoon and lighting her Christmas pudding, which I demolished with a year's ration of whipped cream before falling into a deep sleep.

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