I'm walking down Shop Street in the heart of Galway City, already buzzing with the frenzy of the upcoming celebrations, and who do I not meet but my old friend Christy Dolan, better known as Lugs Dolan to his friends on both Atlantic coasts and beyond and, at least initially, that was a great surprise and a great pleasure. After a 20 year absence I don't meet that many people who I know on Shop Street.
A drink was necessary, even mandatory, and we headed into the great old pub that is Garrahan’s where we often had a jar before. Christy insisted on buying the first drink, and when I said I would have a beer he said, "No, Cormac my son, you'll have a brandy and I'll have one too because this is likely to be our last Christmas and we might as well make the most of it."
"Begod Christy, you look as fit as a fiddle, not any change on you since I saw you last and, dammit, I'm feeling good this winter and I don't intend to leave this world for another 10 or 12 years at least."
He just nodded his head solemnly as we clinked glasses, and there was a lubricated silence for maybe 30 seconds before he spoke again.
"Cormac my son, I'm not talking about your health or mine. I'm talking about the hard fact this is likely to be the last Christmas for all of us on this Earth because of the way things are turning out."
"How is that Christy?"
"You are no fool Cormac even though you often act like one, and the facts are staring us in the face. The truth is that there are more dangerous and even mad fingers in control of the red buttons that will start the atomic war now than ever before. The way things are we might not even get as far as St. Patrick's Day before it's all over."
"Are you not going a bit too far there Christy?"
"Not at all. There's a boyo in Korea who is testing new weapons every second day. This Trump man makes it clear he won't back down from anybody. There could soon be a cracked lady altogether in charge of France, and there's a rare boyo called Nigel something or other making headlines in England. And a boyo called Wilders in Holland.
“And Putin in Russia and the Chinese are all spoiling for a fight. Mark my words Cormac my son, some fine day long before next Christmas, for whatever reason, one of them will hit the red button and then we will all be cold turkey!"
Shocked to the core, I ordered another pair of brandies. "Commonsense might prevail yet Christy?"
"Too late by far. Even if they all stayed away from the red buttons --which they won't -- our world, Cormac my son, is going to blow up all by itself anyway. Sure look at the television and read the papers. There's an earthquake happening somewhere in the world every day.
“If it is not an earthquake it is a volcano erupting and roasting whole towns of people in their beds. Volcanoes that were quiet for centuries. We have destroyed our own world.
“The Poles are melting by the hour because of our pollution day and night, and even as we are drinking here in Garrahan’s there are hurricanes and tornadoes and tidal waves attacking coasts were safe before. The sea is rising every hour because of the melted Poles. Dammit Garrahan’s and Galway could be under water the day after tomorrow the way things are going."
A stranger leaned in past me and shook Christy's hand warmly and said he was talking real wisdom. I was wise enough to call son Dara to come in and collect me in an hour before we started the third drink.
Says Christy, "Cormac you write for a lot of papers and a lot of decent people. For God's sake tell them to enjoy every second of every minute of this Christmas and the New Year and, if they were born Catholics like you and I, to start going to Sunday Mass again in January."
I promised I would do that and, as ye see, I have kept that promise.
Dara arrived to bring me home and, when I told him my story, he said, "Dad you know and I know that brandy and you don't agree so well.”
I'll leave it there. Happy (last?) Christmas to all.