Christmas dinner that was duck

Christmas dinner that was duck
Published: Dec 19, 2013
More in our series on what is special about the winter holidays, and what we can do better. "As a small child I did not know . . ."

In loving memory of my uncle, Richard O'Neill

For the nineteen hundred and seventy third time,
at least, the Tannoy cranked out at full blast:

"You won’t find another fool like me babe,


Sat on a dismal sea damp day
Pontins' dining hall in Southport
for Christmas dinner that was not turkey
when the chef set himself alight
and half his festive kitchen too

I must have thought, I hope I thought,
YES I truly have found that fool

We were unreconstructed
working class, our doggedness in full affect,
being made to wait outside
after a 'temporary' evacuation

Giving up a pricey bit of grub
saved and strived for after
all or part of a year?
NO, not a chance!

As the tension built over our fate
sphinx like my Uncle Richard
a world weary sophisticate
I imagined he leaned over to my mum

'It’s like this Sahn
It was the shame of
him serving up
duck a l'orange, not turkey,
that led him to setting
himself on fire.’

Before retreating to sup at his rescued pint
A froth on his wishfully 'tached top lip.

Here was a man who’d gone abroad
Worn unfeasibly small speedos
to impress the locals with
Southport or the Costas it was all the same to him
Here was a man who knew a thing or two

With a big bandage on his hand,
a half hearted cheer
and distinct lack of Seasonal bonhomie
Here was the chef striding
thunderously back to his galley

Panic over, a greasy bit
of duck, orange-less, the bird in hand

I remember being glad Richard was there
unaware that me, mum, dad and my sister
were all he had that Yuletide

As a small child I did not know
what it was to be lonely
I never got to be on my own
So it never once occurred to me that a grown up
could risk ending up at Christmas alone

back then I had more immediate
culinary concerns

A Christmas dinner that was NOT turkey!


JOHN PAUL O'NEILL is a poet and poetical impresario of the highest order, most specifically, founder of Farrago Poetry and the longest running poetry slam in Europe.

John Paul's Facebook page.

Photo credit.


©2013, John Paul O'Neill.

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