Wednesday 7 December 2016

Taking a festive trip down memory lane

Published 21/12/2015 | 02:30

Fond memories: Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a trip to Roches Stores for the finest culinary delights
Fond memories: Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a trip to Roches Stores for the finest culinary delights

A guy talking recently about why Europe has not produced a tech giant on a par with Google or Facebook observed that Europe is obsessed with the past whereas America is obsessed with the future. And I've decided to take it on as my motto.

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Who needs the past when you have the future? Christmas tends to be a time for obsessing about the past, and perhaps not coincidentally, it can also be a deeply depressing time. I don't have any huge memories of Christmas past. I remember that Santa, who has very similar handwriting to my mother, used to leave us notes telling us not to be fighting with each other. I remember we took it in the spirit in which it was intended. I remember too how aunts and uncles would come in the evening and there would be bottles of beer, and then it was gradually whittled down until there was just us. See what I mean? Slightly depressing.

But Christmas can be sad in a nice way too. For some reason, at this time of year, my late aunt Eileen becomes very vivid to me at Christmas. She lived down the road from us, and, having no children of her own in Cork, she became a second mother to us. And at various stages of our lives we all did our stint as a kind of surrogate only child at Wilton Road, not least because the grub was always good down there - as it was at home I hasten to add. Eileen would send you off over to Roches Stores in Wilton. It had to be Roches Stores. There was a slightly old-fashioned grandness to Roches Stores then, as there was to Eileen. You'd be dispatched over to get the best of everything, and then you'd come back, and manage to be pleasantly surprised every time that most of it was to be eaten there and then by you, after you'd been instructed in great detail in how to cook it, under supervision. Lamb chops, prawn cocktail, brie before anyone ate brie, and of course the Irish Times, a habit she brought with her from Dublin. (She spoke longingly of Clontarf. I always wondered why she ever left there. I suspect that she did too at times.)

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