Once upon a time, in one of my many jobs, I was a salesman for a specialist bed manufacturing company who made electric beds which could be lowered or heightened to suit the needs of whoever might be sleeping in them. Because of their nature they were aimed at the older, more infirm – and presumably wealthier – section of society.
I cannot say who the company was, because when I tell you how their sales pitch operated, I’d surely be in the High Court. The beds were very expensive – let’s say €5000 – and the first pitch was to try and sell it at the full price. If you could get a sale at that figure, the salesperson would be rewarded with something like a portable telly or a computer (never got one) or some other inducements. However there were a few other figures you could sell at, all the way down to about half the original price, that meant at worst-case scenario you could actually sell at €2,500! However as you lowered your price, your commission also got lowered, ‘till eventually at the lowest allowable sale price you got nothing at all.
And so, one Christmas, to inspire the salesforce for greater efforts in the New Year, the company brought over one of their hot-shot super-successful salespeople all the way from America and he spoke to us all in Buswell’s Hotel up in Dublin. Unfortunately for me (maybe fortunately) I had been out for a few Christmas drinks the night before and neither my enthusiasm or my attention was at the required level. As the great man roared and ranted at us and explained how he was so wonderful at his horrible job, I fell asleep – and, as Carol (and John Crean and Jack the Lower) will tell you – when I snore, the whole room shakes.
Anyway, fairly soon my snoring started and apparently it got louder and louder ‘till at last Mister hot-shot could take no more and he shook me roughly to wake me up. ‘Mr Brandon’ (that’s me, in case you’ve lost me) he shouted, ‘you are not paying attention and if you don’t show more interest I will have to ask you to leave not only this meeting, but the entire company.’
By now I had realised that I didn’t like either him or his company, so I told him what I thought of him and what he could do with his job. Christmas was only a day or two away and I had got the sack. Not Santa’s sack – but the one which meant I didn’t have a whole lot to look forward to in the New Year.
But of course Christmas is such a special time of the year that we carry on regardless. I have to say in my life, although I’ve had some good things happen in the run-up to the festive season, I have also had my share of unwelcome drama.
By a strange coincidence, the town of Ballyhaunis in Co. Mayo features in a couple of unwelcome Christmas memories, each of them associated with my time as proprietor of the Country Furniture store. One time I sold a three-piece suite to a couple on the Knock Road and I said I would deliver it the day before Christmas Eve, the plan being that when I got paid for it I’d have a ball of money for the holidays. Sadly, we couldn’t get it in the door. We tried the windows, the back door and the front door. I was so desperate I’d have put it in the neighbour’s house, but it was all to no avail. The suite had to come home and it was chicken for dinner that year (only joking, we had bacon).
Another year, also in the run-in to Christmas, I had another delivery, this time to a pub on the narrow street you pass through before you get to the Main Street. Now while I’m a passable enough driver, I wouldn’t be the Stig or Lewis Hamilton, and unfortunately in my efforts to park I forgot about the height of my truck and took the sign for the pub clean out of it.
This time I came into Ballyhaunis about £200 in credit – when the bill for the new sign arrived shortly into the New Year, it was for £800, so that trip netted me minus £600.
For some reason, when I go to Knock I start to shake after Ballinlough, and it doesn’t stop ‘till I’m safe in the magnificent Basilica – must be something to do with my previous experiences in Ballyhaunis.
However I’ve also had some good Christmas happenings, the best of which I’ve told you about before, when I won a 26lb turkey in Jimmy’s Christmas Draw in Dundalk and thumbed all the way home on Christmas Eve with the huge turkey over my shoulder. I never thanked all the people who let me and the turkey into their cars, and even though it’s almost 40 years ago, if you were one of them I’m thanking you now.
Another not so pleasant memory of a Christmas Day was one when the children were young. Because the pipe bringing the water into the house was frozen solid, we hadn’t a drop to do any of the normal chores – like wash the dishes or the kids or even go to the loo. That wouldn’t be great on any ordinary day, but on Christmas Day it was a catastrophe.
However, when the going gets tough the tough get going and so, armed with a vice grip and a packet of firelighters (the pipe was overground, which was why it was frozen in the first place, which fact was pointed out to me several times) I spent hours heating up the pipe ‘till some time in the late evening I got that precious liquid flowing. Never was a drop of water so welcome and thank God I heard this morning that temperatures will be in the low teens this 25th of December, so whatever problems we have, frozen pipes won’t be one of them.
Anyway, this Christmas is almost upon us, and so far I’ve been drama-free! I only hope it stays that way, not only for me, but also for you.
As this is my final piece for this year I just want to wish you all a Happy Christmas and New Year and hopefully you’ll make it in one piece through the festive season.
Don’t overdo the eating and the drinking but if you do come to Creggs on Stephen’s Day, do the Barrie Harris Walk, get rid of some of the excess calories, then put them back on at the afternoon session in Mikeen’s, contribute to a number of great causes and have a great day’s fun!
Happy Christmas one and see all see you in 2016.
‘Till next year, Bye for now