The streets are full. Boys and girls giggle and laugh. The town is alive. The air is icy but our hearts feel warm. Two lovers sit on a park bench and as the hordes of Dubliners pass by they sit, speaking and listening. His hand in hers, hers in his. His warm heart beats faster while she laughs angelically. He feels warm, gentle love. This is not reciprocated. As caring as her eyes seem, they are cold, bleak. She feels nothing. The closer they become the lonelier she is. Her heartbeat never stops, her eyes never flash. But she won't break him - not before his Merry Christmas.
All of us sitting around a table. A technicoloured feast of sights and smells is arrayed before us. The first succulent slice of turkey is cut. The juice dribble and pool on the plate.
Hours later. People begin to stumble up to bed, content and smiling. Red wine stains the staircase. The pillows are so soft, and my eyes begin to close. Outside the window, a tiny star shines through the curtains. A memory arises unbidden from the depths of a fogged mind. I wonder why we have forgotten another little boy lying under star, on his birthday.
Every Christmas before going through the ritual of Christmas lunch, and opening oddly-shaped wrapped items, we would go and pick up my grandfather.
Tall and gaunt, he was always the dominant character at our festivities, telling interesting stories from his trips around the world and his time when posted in Hamburg in World War II. Sitting there with his poison of choice - Angostura Bitters and Coke - he would calm any family arguments and was always the merriest (and drunkest) when the day came to an end.
Two years ago we went to pick him up as usual, only to find an ambulance waiting outside his house. It transpired that the night before he had choked on one of the larger raisins in his Christmas pudding.
Churchill said in World War I that 'every house has its empty chair', and this could not be more true in our house at Christmas. It seems that for the years to come Christmas will be a little quieter, a little less merry and we will no longer have his own version of brandy butter, made up of one part butter, nine parts brandy.