Now winter is deepening its hold. The first of the gales have come and gone. Some of the trees have, finally, lost their leaves, whilst still others are growing new ones in this confused climate
Christmas fever is beginning to be felt. The americanised carols blaring from the shop P.A. systems panic the consumer into ever newer heights of unthinking folly as they jostle to buy the overpriced scented candles and tasteless decorations wasting the shelf space that, at saner times of the year, bore goods that had at least the excuse of being useful.
Early in the month of December, the rural shops quieten as the shoppers head into the cities and larger towns to buy the presents. Of course, while they are there they go to big supermarkets and buy industrial quantities of food, fully 33% of which will not be eaten. The latest figures I’ve seen assert that we will, each of us, spend in excess of 800 euro on Christmas presents. I would love to know what percentage of that figure will be found in the rubbish bin come January.
It is a dangerous time of year for those brave fishermen who venture out in the uncertain weather. Already this month two have died at sea. It seems a heavy price to pay for lobster. But times are harder for these workers, squeezed between regulation from the E.U. and the cost of being tied up at dock. Small wonder that safety considerations are coming second to catch size.
From the appearance of the very first evidence of Christmas in the shops and on the television, the children start to be wound up. They squeal with delight as the retail outlets fill up with brightly coloured nonsense. They whinge as the television advertisements tell them what they should want; what all their peers will have, what they must have.
For many, this is a stressful time. Money has to be found in quantities that cannot come out of a weekly wage. Many will go into debt to buy the fripperies that are deemed necessary now. Many will face a difficult New Year as they economise to rob a few euros from the weekly budget to pay back the loan, long after the object bought has been forgotten or thrown out.
The gardaí will be out in force, attempting once again to stem the tide of drunken driving that hits the roads at festive times. Many Christmases will be ruined as some family member is mourned, jailed or shamed. Many families will face violence and drunkenness, rape and incest. Most of this will never come to the attention of the police or social services.
What a curmudgeonly old b*****d he is, you say. Is that the best he can do for the season that’s in it?
Well no, actually, it is not. Whether you are a believer or not, this is also a season when people try to bring some happiness into other people’s lives. It is a time for generosity, for kindness, for togetherness and for remembering what great potential is there in the birth of a child.
That there is happiness in the world should not blind us to the fact that there is also evil. Even at Christmas.
Autumn trees bend over the river in the National Park where there are still vestiges of the primordial oak forests
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