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17 December 2009 Edition

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Julia Carney's festive fun with Santa










Checking his list, and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice...

“I MEAN, it’s just like the Eighties. Everyone’s miserable, the dole queues are getting longer, even that big hair thing you people went through is back. I tell you, it’s like I stepped back in time.”
I’m trying to watch season three of ‘The Wire’ but had to stick on the subtitles while he waffles on.
“And what’s your solution to the economy? Cut spending, cut investment, no stimulus package. I mean, I remember telling Jeffrey Sachs a few years ago...”
Christ, Santa’s such a name-dropping sod. I know for a fact he met Jeffrey Sachs exactly once and that was 50 years ago when he was leaving an abacus under the tree for young Jeff. He met the kid coming out of the kitchen where he’d been eating Santa’s cookies and gave him a clip round the ear.
“... and he agreed with me. You know he used a lot of those ideas when they opened up Russia to private investment.”
My fault really. I gave Santa ‘Economics for Dummies’ a few years ago and he took it awful seriously. On the telly, Baltimore cops are chasing drug-dealers, it’s lashing rain outside and I’m stuck talking, or rather listening, to Santa Claus.
It all goes back to the late 19th century when Great Grandpa Fiachra Carney, a notorious eejit, traded his soul to the Devil in exchange for some ‘magic beans’. The Carneys have always been a morally flexible lot but we’ve long thought it was a poor sort of deal. Anyway, you remember those old Irish legends where some lad does a deal with the Devil and then tricks him at the end? Great Grandpa Carney thought he could do the same but ended up losing to the Devil in a game of rock, paper, scissors and the Carney clan were doomed to serve him for eternity.
Happily, the Devil was in Dublin in ‘23 to celebrate the Free State victory in the Civil War (there’s a story) and he ended up getting into a game of cards with Santa Claus who took him to the cleaners. He might be a boring sod but there’s no ho-ho-ho and jolly old Saint Nick when the fat man’s at the card table and he won us with a flush of clubs, which was a relief. You try farming when you’re a tool of the Devil. Everything rots and dogs go spare when you meet them.
“Anyway, Jules, enough of that, what I really need to do is go through the list again.”
Christ, I hate the list. Almost as much as I hate being called Jules.
“Santa, we’ve been through the list. We decided who was naughty and who was nice. We decided what everyone is getting. That’s what you have us for.”
A sigh at the other end of the phone. Here it comes.
“Jules, we have this every year. You know we have to check it twice, find out who’s been...”
That fecking song. The real story is he did the list in 1928 drunk and gave everyone all they’d asked for. The resultant inflation single-handedly caused the stock market crash of 1929 and ever since then he’s been terrified of messing it up.
“Anyway, it’s just a few I need to check with you.”
I hear papers being rustled. It’s always a sod of a day when he has notes.
“Peter Robinson... Ummm, now you have him down for ‘Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know’ and I’m just wondering are you sure on that one?” “Trust me, Santa, he needs it. The man’s a wreck. He has huge problems with leadership and decision-making; can’t make his mind up on the simplest thing. We’re doing him a favour really. A bit of self-help never hurt anyone.”
He seems satisfied. I decide not to tell him Peter had asked for the Susan Boyle album and a tropical fish.
“And we’re getting his wife... Hold on, what the hell is ‘Grow Your Own Gay Best Friend’?!!”
“It’s a novelty toy, Santa, like those sea monkey things. You put a tiny little gay man in water and he grows in size. I found it on Google. She’ll love it. Iris is really well-known in the Northern gay community. They’re always talking about her and they even gave her an award last year.”
“Huh, growing friends, eh? Whatever will they think of next?”
More papers rustle.
“Okay, now we’ve two more here.
“What have you got down for Nelson McCausland?”
I consult my own list, suspecting it’s got a lot more doodles and expletives than Santa’s.
On the TV screen, Jimmy McNulty pleads “What did I do?”
“He’s down for a packet of dinosaurs and a book on evolution, Santa.”
“Ahh, right. Is that something you think he’d be interested in?” I assure Santa that Nelson, who after all believes the world was formed a week ago last Tuesday, would have hours of fun with a book on evolution. He probably reckons his ancestors hunted dinosaurs through Lisburn. Catholic dinosaurs, I suspect.
“And the last one from that end is Sammy Wilson.”
Ahh, Sammy.
“Now, Julia, you have him down for... two.. raz.. tea.. nghh.”
I put my hand over the phone so he can’t hear me sniggering. Santa’s Irish is notoriously bad.
“Turas Teanga, Santa,” I tell him when I’ve caught my breath. “It’s a really good multimedia course to teach people Irish.”
There’s an awkward silence at the other end of the line. “Umm, isn’t he one of them unionists though? Would he really be interested in the Irish-language stuff? He asked for a new motorcycle, you know.”
“Trust me on this, SC. There’s a lot of unionists learning Irish.” And then my clincher. “He’s a very cultural kind of guy, broad-minded, open to new things and you know with motorcycles you have to be careful.”
“Oh, right, culture, fair play to him. I could throw in a French mime CD as well, I’ve piles of them.”
Mime on CD, why not? I’m sure Sammy will get something out of it.
“Now, down your end...
“We’re getting a toy gun for Willie O’Dea again?”
Bugger! I knew this would come up.
Every year since he did that pose with a handgun for the front pages of the papers I’ve been putting toy guns down for Willie even though he has his heart set on a Scaletrix set. He cried all Christmas Day last year and Santa’s been getting suspicious.
“Ahh, he’s big into the guns, Santa. Seriously.” There’s an unconvinced silence from the North Pole, and then inspiration strikes.
“What about something from Óglaigh na hÉireann?” I suggest. He doesn’t even try to pronounce it.
“What’s that exactly?”
“Well, Santa, it’s an army and Willie likes to play a game where he’s in charge of it but he’s not really. He doesn’t have much Óglaigh na hÉireann stuff and he’s always talking about it. There’s a shop on Parnell Square where you can pick some up.”
“That’s much better. I like that oaklee na hare-ran [spoke too soon] idea. Something a little different for Willie this year.”
I hate you, Willie O’Dea, and I’ll be cold in my grave before you get your car-racing game!
“This one’s a bit of a puzzle, Jules. You’ve Mary Coughlan down for a children’s book.”
“That’s right, Santa, ‘Counting is Fun’.”
“She’s 40-something, Jules. I think she can count.”
“I’d take issue with you on that one, Santa. She got confused about the number of EU Commissioners each state has and last year she told the Dáil that of €100 million euro in savings €86 million is for GPs and €30 million is for pharmacists.”
I can actually hear his lips move as he does the maths. “But that’s €116 million! Feck’s sake! I can throw in this ‘Laugh & Learn Counting Friends Phone’ from Fisher Price, if you want. It’s for ages three and down.”
Now you’re talking, Santa.
“Next we have... Ummm, oh yeah, Brian Lenihan.”
There’s a sigh.
“Julia, you have him down for a lump of coal. You know we don’t do that anymore. Have you any idea of the carbon emissions you get from this stuff? And, besides, it’s just not nice to the poor lad, even if he is messing people about a bit.”
Feckin’ elves. I’d actually told them to put him down for a kick up the hole but ever since Santa privatised the call-centre operation I’ve been dealing with morons.
“Sorry, Santa. We could get him that new book by David McWilliams. He’s a big fan... and maybe some garlic for the stocking?”
I can tell he’s a bit nonplussed.
“What the hell would we get him garlic for?”
“He eats it, Santa. Raw like.”
There’s a vaguely horrified silence at the end following by a lot of humming and hawing.
“He’s an odd one, eh, eating raw garlic. Is this a vampire thing?”
“Possibly, Santa, possibly.
“He hangs around with Cowen a lot and he’s big into the vampires. That’s why we have him down for the director’s cut of that ‘Twilight’ film. There’s something about a parasitic being sucking the blood out of humanity and who cannot die that he just connects with in some way.”
“On that, Jules, in fairness to him, he’s the boss where you live. Isn’t a ‘Twilight’ DVD a little, well, cheap?”
This from the man who spends Christmas Eve eating cookies and drinking full-fat milk for 12 hours straight. The missus told me he burst a button on his red coat one year.
“We could throw in the Bertie Ahern book, Santa,” I suggest. “I’m sure he’d benefit from the wise counsel and keen insight of his political mentor.
“Yeah, not bad, I like it.
“Okay, well, I think that’s it so. The rest are fairly straightforward: ‘Travelling on a Euro a Day’ for John O’Donoghue, that signed portrait of Kim Jong-il for Eamon Gilmore, and a book of jokes about climate change for John Gormley. That’s everyone. Oh, and nothing for Mary Harney again this year, of course.”
Proper order. Santa can be a bit of a silly sod but he knows real hardcore naughtiness when he sees it.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1