Dublin Christmas

Dubliners do Christmas with a vengeance. On Grafton Street the next morning, I joined the throng of last-minute shoppers, each on a special mission, searching for the right digital camera or a choice pair of woolly red socks for Uncle Fergal in Ballymurphy. Ornaments, tinsel, they danced on the breeze. The air was crisp, the sky sparkly. A little boy was belting out “Silent Night” for his supper, while coins clattered into the bucket at his feet. From the Brown Thomas department store wafted the scent of a thousand perfumes, the very aroma of a harem. Somewhere, in one pub or another, I was certain Shane Magowan could be heard singing, “Got a lucky one, came in at eighteen to one . . .”

At Sawers Fish Market on Chatham Street, I bought a side of wild smoked salmon and a dozen Dublin Bay prawns still in their shells, like little lobsters, to be pan-fried with garlic and shallots, then served with crusty bread to mop up the juices. It was Sheridans for cheese, Gubeen and Durrus from Ireland, plus a wedge of Gorgonzola and a tub of mozzarella bocconcini in olive oil spiked with flecks of red pepper, perhaps the handiwork of an artisan in the Apennines, snow falling there now and the poor artisan—underpaid, undervalued, his horse a loser at Grosseto—trembling in his icy studio when the village beauty knocks on his door with a bottle of grappa under her arm, saying in a husky whisper, “Buon Natale, caro.”

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