December 2007: Bertie’s Christmas

And so the time came to pass. It was just coming up to the end of the last century and, lo, an angel did appear to Mary and she fell upon her knees in dread. And behold, a load voice did fill the air; “Harney, verily I say unto you that a Taoiseach shall be born tonight. But first you must do a few things. You must become leader of your own party and you must support him in all things, for he is the chosen one. And you shall wrap him in a swaddling anorak and keep all evil spirits away from him …apart from a pint of Bass, of course.”

And, later that same night, Bertie did approach the door of the public house, and it was called Beaumont House. “Do you have any shelter for a poor wandering soul?” he asked the kindly inn keeper. The inn keeper looked suspiciously at him and replied; “are you sure you need to be here at all, Bertie? Did you try the hospital around the corner?”

“Of course I bleedin’ did!” Bertie replied in anger “but they say that they’re full, not even a trolley left. And after all the money I gave to them …”

“Well, you’re welcome to come in for a while but you can’t stay. In fact, now that I think about it, a few lads have been sitting here all night waiting for you. They look like very wise men to me. Are you a carpenter by any chance? One of them is a plasterer so it would be nice if you could swap stories of the trade with him.”
“No, no, I’m afraid I have no expertise in that at all. In fact, I know nothing about building or renovating at all, at all. I’ve been to a few dig outs, but never handled a shovel myself. I leave all that to the missus … sorry, my life partner, I should call her … she prefers to be called that.  I’m in a bit of a spot at the moment, between houses, as you might say.”

And verily, the Innkeeper let Bertie into his house, where he joined the wise men and had a few jars. And, in the fullness of time, Bertie got up to leave, telling his companions that he had to meet Mary, who had promised to buy him a new anorak for Christmas, as the old one was falling to bits, and had holes in all the pockets.

The men nodded wisely, as wise men do, and watched the forlorn figure of Bertie leaving through the side door, in a swirl of snowflakes. “Is he not staying with you tonight, my good shepherd?” one of the men asked. “I thought he was staying with you” the shepherd answered, rather sheepishly.

“Jaysus, lads” said one of the other wise men, “It’s Christmas Eve. We can’t have the poor man wandering about all night in the cold. What about a whip around to give him a few bob? Maybe he’d be able to rent out an oul stable or something for the night. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind spending the night with a few donkeys anyhow, seeing as there are plenty of them around him in the Dáil every day.”

“You’re right. Here, I’ll start the ball rolling with this…” said Paddy the Plasterer. He pulled a brown envelope from his inside pocket. “I hope that didn’t come from that boy, Frank Dunlop?” his mate asked him, suspiciously. “Not at all, not at all” said the plasterer, “sure, I deal in cash all the time. This is certainly not Frank’s cents, more like gold really.” This caused a lot of mirth in the company.

Meanwhile, out in the darkness, Mary and Bertie still wandered. “What are we going to do, Mary, will be ever get a bed for the night?” Bertie asked. “At the rate you’re going, I don’t think so” Mary retorted, “have you no money at all that would pay for a place?”

“No, not really” Bertie said sorrowfully, “unless you count the seventy grand I managed to save from my, eh, pocket money over a few years …but that’s not for spending stupidly on houses and the like. It’s for … for… for the kid’s education. You’d never know, one day maybe one of them might marry a pop star. Or write a silly book that people could read on their holliers to pass the time …”

And so, as the night before Christmas wore on, Mary and Bertie stumbled their way along until they saw a shining light above their heads, seemingly guiding their way. It was brighter than any other star in the sky. “Look, Mary look!” Bertie said excitedly, “God has sent us a guiding light! We’re saved! We’ll be able to get through to the New Year after all! I knew he wouldn’t let me down! We’re saved, Mary, saved!”

And verily, Mary did turn to the Taoiseach and said, rather sourly; “I’m afraid not, Bertie, that’s not the Star of Bethlehem… it’s the spotlight from the Mahon Tribunal and it’s shining right on you…”

Verily, I say unto you, so it is written.



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