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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, December 16, 2016

An Irish Country Christmas--Perfect For This or Any Time of Year

An Irish Country ChristmasAn Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is Christmastime in little Ballybucklebo and the doctors, Fingal Flahertie O' Reilly and his young assistant, Barry Laverty find themselves in the thick of things as usual. A former classmate of O'Reilly's has set up a practice in town and employing less than scientifically proven practices causing stress to both of our heroes--first for the possibly harmful but definitely non-helpful methods but also, in Barry's case, worry that the small town cannot support three full time doctors. There are the usual sniffles and coughs of the winter season with which to deal but also a home delivery of a breech birth and the discovery that the local dressmaker is less a heartless employer than she presents herself. Then, too, there is the burning of put away Christmas money of the widow Eileen who struggles to put something by for the three children she wishes Santa to visit.
Other than the professional, we find our men in the throes of romantic quandaries as well. Barry's girl, Patricia, who has embarked on a three year course of study in far off Cambridge, England appears to be quite engrossed in her new studies, her new friends and the offerings of an academic town and its proximity to London, where even more cultural and social opportunities exist. She seems less than Barry would hope in keeping her promise to return to Ireland for Christmas. This worries Barry that there may be another man and he wonders if he should perhaps think about finding a new interest, such as the young teacher in town. He is heart-sore and anguished, believing Patricia is the one and she, perhaps, not feeling the same about him.
Fingal, on the other hand, long a widower, who is still deeply in love with Dierdre, finds himself wondering if he should take up the pretty clear offer of a second chance with Caitlin O'Halloran, the love of his student days. He'd been dating when he met Dierdre and she, Kitty, had never married. Now, she is back in his life and he is enjoying her company. Should he commit more deeply? Is it time to move on?
Lastly, there are all the community dos--the big pageant where the children reenact the Christmas story--I laughed out loud for several minutes as that rolled out before my mind's eye! O' Reilly plays Santa passing out gifts to each of Ballybucklebo's chisellers. ( My Dad used that term for us kids and I never understood it. I couldn't figure out how we had chiselled anything. Through these stories I realize it is an Irish expression for kids! He must have gotten it from his Irish born mother, who died before I was born.) And the marvelous Kinky, Mrs Kinkaid, provides some of the food on the baquet tables.
Not to be forgotten, there are the two more fancy gatherings--party at Ballybucklebo House, home of the local Marquis and the party at the Councillor's, Bertie and Flo Bishops. These on Christmas morning after roast goose and Midnight Mass the night before. All culminates with Christmas dinner at One Main, where Kinky presents a roast turkey, a roast ham and all the fixings. No wonder Fingal needed his Santa pants let out and Kinky tried, to no avail to put him on a diet before all the holiday feast began.
And so, the year of 1964 is coming to an end for our friends. The Canadians have a new flag--the maple leaf--I remember when that happened. Catholic Masses would soon be said in the vernacular--a decision I always hated-loving the elegance of the Latin Mass. What will 1965 bring for them? I cannot wait to see in the next installment of Patrick Taylor's wonderful series.

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