Wayward Uncle Brendan
“We’d better invite him!” said Ma, “It’ll be the right thing to do. I mean he won’t be grateful, but.”
“Uncle Brendan! Whoop!” That’s the kid me talking now! Excited that something, anything was going to happen on Christmas that wasn’t my parents and God and Charity.
Amazingly, despite Da’s severe reservations he only fecking came! Turning up on the doorstep looking uncharacteristically sheepish and grateful. He continued to disappoint me at Christmas Eve dinner.
I was heartbroken. Who was this sober clean shaven man I’d been ejected from my room for? Not the Wayward Uncle Brendan of legend, who had conned Father Murphy out of the church candlesticks and blown the money on 3.30 from Lingfield.
He hadn’t seemed to mind drinking nothing but juice, saying grace, eating with table manners, or letting Da have the toffee Quality Streets. Ma meanwhile had been in a surprisingly good mood throughout as the two of them told their stories of childhood in the old country. For once, it was myself and Da who allied in boredom having not been around when cousin Ernie swallowed a brown tiddlywink thinking it was a chocolate button.
“God be praised. He has totally behaved himself!” trilled Mum on Christmas morning “Like a proper gentleman. I do believe we’re seeing the benefits of Christian charity. It’s a little miracle!” As she talked, she danced round the kitchen clutching her Rosary beads and finishing the half-drunk orange juice slops from the night before
I was aghast at the spineless descent of my former co-conspirator.
I’d been told not to visit my room while he was there but felt the need to prove that this sad shell of a rogue still contained my hero, I could always say I was getting some presents out.
I needn’t have worried for the real Uncle Brendan was sitting on my bed covered with mars bar wrappers, service-station samosa crumbs and empty strongbow cans. He was wanking over my Pamela Anderson poster. “Sure Pammie you’re the girl for me.” He blurted as a sticky stain burst through the clutch of toilet paper in his right hand.
“Hello there sunny Jim” he cried out merrily. “Now help me get cleaned up.”
And when he was only slightly cleaner, we played scalextrix on my floor and he gave me his Christmas Present, a copy of Viz! Then he let me smoke some of his Christmas stash out of the window.
“What did you give Ma?” I asked, pleased that he was back to himself but struggling to align their differing tastes. “Oh just a couple of Mimosas” he said. Despite my suspicion that he might have stolen them from a garden centre I knew how much Ma liked trees. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” concluded Uncle Brendan quizzically.
It was years later, after Uncle Brendan had gone off to cause trouble in hell, that I first heard of the Mimosa cocktail, made from Champagne and Orange Juice. I thought back to exactly how much juice Ma had knocked back that Christmas. And how few trees had ever been planted in our garden. And how on that day, Ma and Wayward Uncle Brendan had laughed like a proper brother and sister while he demonstrated to me the different ways of cat-skinning.