Wine, Writing and the Wonder of Christmas

On Thursday, my sister’s poor battered and abused car finally passed its NCT. The final step was repairing the bumper that’s been held on with duct tape since I had a parking “incident” about two years ago. In spite of my fear of mechanics, I drove from garage to garage, asking them to fix my bumper. They all said no, because they don’t do “bodywork”. Eventually, I found a burly Polish man to put a screw in my bumper (Oooh-er!) and I got the NCT.

Having had four tests, and at least four more tests which I had scheduled but postponed, it’s a sad statement about adulthood but getting my NCT has been the dominant theme of my life in November and December 2012. Being a grown-up is rubbish.

Probably the second most dominant theme in the last two months has been my investigation into the death of a goldfish in Hall, and I wasn’t particularly happy about having to do that either. But I did get a Christmas present from some of the students involved in the “goldfish affair”. Two first-year girls went out and bought me a One Direction bag, and a 100% unofficial One Direction diary, and a 100% unofficial One Direction calendar. This is one of the best presents I’ve got in my entire life. These girls are poor students and they should be spending their money on important things like naggins of vodka. Instead they bought their Assistant Warden the best present ever. Because people are good. They left it at reception, where three security guards were waiting to mock me for liking One Direction when I collected it. Totally worth it.

The third big theme would have to be Christmas. I’ve written about the decorating and the construction of my amazing Christmas headdress, which is amazing. I’ve now worn it to six different parties. Strange girls keep wandering up to me and stroking it. They ask to take photos next to me. I caught a guy on the bus taking a surreptitious picture of me. Young children tug their mothers’ hands and get them to stop and look at me. Middle-aged women stop me and say things like “Ten out of ten for effort” and “Well, you’re certainly full of the festive spirit” to me.

I’m absolutely wrecked from all the Christmas parties. I can barely cope. I’ve been feeling very tired and sick. I haven’t been eating well or exercising at all. I suspect I’m heavier than I’ve ever been, and I find myself needing twelve or more hours sleep some nights.

But I’ve tried not to let it cramp my style, and I’ve enjoyed my Christmas parties.

Last Sunday, I was at a very male party in the afternoon. There was a Munster rugby match on the telly. Now, I have still never watched a full rugby match, and I have no understanding of it at all. But I now know how you should react while watching a rugby match. You should shout three-word phrases angrily at the telly. I don’t remember any of the specific phrases they shouted, but I’m fairly sure they were all made up of the same structure. You need a verb, a prepostion and an object personal pronoun. “Get him over!” “Throw them around!” “Put it off!” It didn’t really seem to matter what combination of these things you say, so now I know what to say while watching rugby. I’m very adaptable, me.

I left that party very early. The Warden was throwing a party for the Assistant Wardens that evening. We were all contributing a dish. I had been asked to bring a starter. I had decided to bake. I made mini-Yorkshire puddings, with a dollop of horseradish sauce and creme fraiche topped with sliced roast beef. They were going to be amazing.

But then they weren’t. Most of them were burnt black. Of those that weren’t most were too tiny and weren’t Yorkshire pudding shaped. Grease oozed out of them like they were gangrenous sores. Out of forty-eight puddings, I managed to rescue fifteen. It didn’t make for an impressive display. When I arrived at the party, I discovered that my hosts were vegetarians. And no one recognised what I’d made. One person wrinkled up their nose at the “paté”. I didn’t correct her. Another person said “Ooh, bliny!” when he saw my mini-puddings. Sigh. I didn’t win at starters.

It was a great night. I drank for ten hours straight. When we ran out of white wine, I had rosé. And I even had a glass of red. I had a few glasses of my colleague’s friend’s grandfather’s homemade dessert wine. I had a few glasses of the Warden’s madeira. Whatever that is. And when we left the Warden’s house we continued drinking. Three cans of beer? Why not? Downing shots of port? Of course.

I’m genuinely impressed with myself. I didn’t break down in tears once.

I’m fairly sure I was still drunk when I drove to my (third) NCT the next day.

On Wednesday, it was the School of Education party. We started with the very sensible staff-and-students party in a classroom. I was standing in a corner, making small talk with two other students and my supervisor, when one of the other students asked me if I’d been busy recently. I looked at my supervisor, he smiled at me. I decided to tell the truth. I answered the other student. “No, I haven’t done much work recently. I’ve mainly been making this Christmas hat.” My supervisor pretended to be shocked, but his heart wasn’t in it.

At this party we did a present exchange game, and I ended up with Marks and Spencer Women’s Bed Socks. I’m told they’re very comfortable. I don’t know about that, but they’re certainly very purple.

After the official party, the students went to the pub, where I started drinking gin, because I was in a funny mood. I had brilliant chats about the meaning of being. We also gossiped inappropriately about the staff in the Department. I eventually left the party after doing a countdown of my favourite members of One Direction, from my fifth favourite (currently Harry) to my favourite (currently Zayn), including a little trivia about each one, and then having to justify why I like One Direction to three psychologists who are doing PhDs with me. They “just wanted to understand” what my fascination was. I’m sure they all took notes on my “case” after I left.

I took Thursday off from people after all this partying. And yesterday, it started again. The staff party for the school where I teach. At 3:00 in the afternoon, when I arrived, there was a bottle of bubbly wine being passed around and all the teachers were drinking straight from the bottle.  This kind of adulthood I can deal with.

It really is an amazing group of debauched and lovely people. As we sat eating a dinner, bottles of wine kept coming out. And at the “rowdy table” opposite ours, the singing started before 6:00. And then there were the chants. We’d hear, for example, “Paul and Jack, Paul and Jack, Paul and Jack” over and over again, until Paul (a straight man) stood up and kissed Jack (a gay man), then the chant would change to “Jack and Maggie, Jack and Maggie”, until Maggie (a married woman) would kiss Jack. And tongues didn’t always stay in mouths. These are teachers. And adults. It really is a shame that there are workplaces where this doesn’t happen. Being an adult doesn’t have to be all rubbish. In case you’re wondering, I got two kisses.

I bailed on this party at 10:30ish, because I had a house party to go to. I thought I was sober. It is true that I hadn’t had much wine at dinner, but I had been drinking for about seven hours, so I suppose I wouldn’t have been much good at walking the line. This party involved more bubbly wine. Served in half-pints. And also masses and masses of mulled wine with gin-soaked raisins. It was the Christmas-iest of all the parties so far. We danced to Neil Diamond, to Salt’n’Pepa and to S-Club 7. And the most hipster couple I’ve ever clapped eyes on in my life was there. It was seriously like 500 Days of Summer had come to life. Except from County Meath.

I’m not at my best today. I woke up to find my jeans in the kitchen, my key card in the shower and my watch in the bathroom sink.

But I do have good news.

I got an email on Tuesday morning from the writers’ agent that I sent some of my blogposts to a few weeks ago.

She said that I “write really well” and that my blog is “witty, emotional and very true to life”. She said she’s not sure how the blog could be turned into a book, but she suggested that I use her name to approach a magazine editor she knows about writing a column and she said “if you decide to write something else e.g a novel or a non fiction narrative, I would definitely be interested in reading.”

At first, I couldn’t do anything about this. I couldn’t process it. I thought maybe I was reading too much into it. I forwarded her email to two friends, just to check if it actually was positive.

They confirm that it is positive.

An actual professional literary agent thinks I’m a good writer. My friends have told me this before, but she is not my friend. It is her job. And she thinks I could do this.

When I was a child, all I wanted to do was be a writer. Adolescence beat my dreams out of me, like it does to most people. But maybe I shouldn’t stop dreaming. Maybe I can do this. Through all my awful depressive episodes this year, the only thing I continued to do regularly and enthusiastically was write.

I need to strategise. I still haven’t replied to the email I got from the agent on Tuesday. Realising dreams is scary and amazing.

I don’t need any more Christmas presents.

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6 Responses to Wine, Writing and the Wonder of Christmas

  1. Mark Stewart says:

    Who the hell are Paul and Jack? I don't remember kissing either of them. Happy Christmas.Mark from the rowdy table

  2. Merry Christmas, rowdy Jack!

  3. Anonymous says:

    You're a fantastic writer! I can't believe that you're surprised that the agent liked your work. Nollaig shona duit! (:

  4. Thank you, Anonymous! Nollaig Shona duitse!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow, congrats Connor! I must admit, I couldn't read your blog for the first little while after I left Dublin because I didn't want to hear about all of the fun stuff I was missing out on – this post would have killed me! But that is fantastic news – 2013 is YOUR year to get published, I can feel it in my very bones. MB xx

  6. My bones have just the same feeling! I have my fingers crossed doubly hard for 2013. It'll be a big one for both of us! Miss you!

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