In two weeks time, it will be Xmas eve. Like many people, we are making our plans for the festivities. Long time regular readers will know that I always stated that our Xmas starts with The Pogues Xmas gig. After the last one, in 2013, it has become a tradition to see former resident of this parish, Paul Evans in The Pogue Traders, a collective that pays tribute to the music of the Pogues (they are not a tribute band in the sense that they don't pretend to be the characters). There was always a little bit of me that dreamed that Shane would recover and we'd have a last reprise of the tradition. This year we are seeing the Pogue Traders at Dingwalls. I suspect that with the recent passing of Shane, it will be a rather different occasion. I suspect it will be like many Irish family wakes, which start in a mood of sombre reflection and end with raucous recollection and stories, as the Guinness and whiskey flows. Will there be a dry eye for the rendition of 'Fairytale' as we mourn both Shane and Kirsty. In some ways it is bizarre that it was Kirsty who went first. Don't get me wrong, I am not a moraliser, I wasn't one who was expecting the alcohol to do Shane in. I know too many drunks of Irish decent to know that it really doesn't work like that. Many people see me in that catagory! I went to a recent school reunion and I was amazed to note that those of us who, shall we say, have enjoyed life, seem to look ten years younger than the absteemers. Maybe the stress of life passed us by a bit more?
The traditional view of Xmas is one of merryment, fun and frolics. For me, as every year passes, it becomes a little more melancholic. I miss my parents and in laws especially at this time of year. I miss my band mate Paul Hircombe, who spent 28 years in the band, sadly passing in 2012. I miss Ernie Ferebee, who helped my build the studios into what they are, but passed in 2001. I miss Clare's Aunty Jo who was a permanent fixture at our Xmas table, but passed many years ago. I could go on. I tend to have a dream around this time of year, where I am making dinner and my parents turn up unexpectedly. I get flustered and think, how could I have forgotten to include them. Then I remember they've passed on. Dad says something like, don't worry Rog, we've only popped in to have a drink and wish you Merry Christmas. I usually wake up feeling discombobulated for a few days and make sure I get some Guinness for Mum and decent Scotch for Dad, just in case.
We have all sorts of little traditions we've built up over the years. We go to the earliest possible midnight mass, then out for dinner on Xmas Eve. Originally, this was to Leyla's Turkish restaurant. In recent years, this has varied between The Mill Hill Tandoori and Presso's. Not sure where it will be this year. The False Dots always do an Xmas gig, Pre covid, this was either at The Chandos Arms or the Midland Hotel. We'd hold the Barnet Eye Community Awards. As Emily and Are left the Chandos and the Midland has shut, that's not an option. We are not doing the awards anymore, but the gig will be on the 23rd at The Dublin Castle (Click here for tickets). It's a great chance for friends to get together and have a beer or two.
They say, Xmas is a time to be Jolly. To me this is only half the picture. Like the Moon, the adverts we see at Xmas (apart from Charity appeals tugging at the heart strings) show us only one face. Like the dark side of the moon, Christmas for many is a difficult time, recalling times that will not return and loved ones.
Try and remember this. Pick up the phone, nip in and see the lonely neighbour. Today, I attended the 11.30am mass at The Sacred Heart. I saw the most beautiful thing. There's an old lady who attends every week, who is bent over and hunched. She is of Irish descent. At communion, a little girl, maybe of African descent went up with her, holding her hand. One in there latter years, another in their early life, sharing a moment of companionship. When the elderly lady returned to her bench, the little girl returned to her parents a row behind. To me, that is the true spirit of Xmas.