What Would I Like For Christmas

What would I like for Christmas


Oh God, aren’t you just sick of that cliché,’ I just want peace and happiness for everyone’. So why everyone? Why do they deserve it? Do I really mean ‘every one’ or am I just using them as a bargaining chip with ‘himself above’ to steer good things in my direction.

What I want for Christmas is also what I want for the other 364 days of the year. But what is that? Do I really know?

Who am I referring to when say ‘I’? I mean my mind. Our bodies just do what our minds allow them to do. If we have a disability or fail to perform, it is our mind that caused it. Our mind creates the guilt, it makes us feel unfulfilled, it makes us doubt ourselves. Our mind is deciding what we would like for Christmas.

So what makes us really happy and fulfilled? The truth is we really don’t know because we always see ‘the glass half empty’.

We tell our children to try harder, to be the best that they can be – but is it their best you mean or what you perceive to be their best? Maybe it would be better to support them in what they do and who they really are. Perhaps promoting a sense of fulfilment in them would give them a feeling of happiness and contentment and in turn infect you with the same positives.

Will life in the material world that we are exposed to, ever allow us to feel happy and content? If we succumb to this ideology, it is fair to say that we can never feel these feelings as we will always be striving for our next fix.

Here I go again – ‘You never know what you had it until you lose it’. Words and phrases came about through the need to communicate life experiences with others; they were not just invented by an idle mind. These minds had to be influenced.

The truth is we always, wait for it, believe ‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’. Well perhaps it is or it may just look better and when you hop over the fence to have a closer look, it may only be a lawn that has no roots and will die away as soon as it is walked upon.

So ‘What would I like for Christmas?’The truth is I probably already have all I need, thanks anyway.

Tom Cullen






‘Hurry up’ my father said ’If we want to go to the zoo, we will have to get the 11 o’clock train’.

As we started putting our coats and packed lunches into the car for the journey to the station, Mrs Kilhooley came to the fence.

‘Hello Jim’ she said.

‘Hello Mary’ replied by father

‘Where are ye off to?’

‘I’m bringing the lads to the zoo.’

‘I suppose you heard that Lilly Mae Maguire died?’

‘No, when did that happen.’

‘I don’t know, it wasn’t mentioned in this morning’s paper or at mass but she was in America for the last fifty years and they are bringing her home to be buried. You could ask Paddy McKilicuddy, he’ll know.’

‘That’s right; Paddy Tombstone Mckilicuddy would be a fair bet.’

My father looked at me and said ‘Johnny go down to paddy and asked him about Mrs Maguire’s arrangements.

As I cycled down the village to Mr McKilicuddy’s house, I had visions of us having to stay at home and eat our packed lunch at the kitchen table. Nice one Mrs Kilhooley, you nosey ould bat.

Paddy McKilicuddy was sitting on the window ledge of his terraced house smoking a woodbine. watching the world go by.

I got off my bicycle and said ‘Hello Mr McKilicuddy, my father was wondering was there any news about Mrs Maguire?’

He stared at me and said’ Aren’t you Jim Ryan’s young fella, Johnny?

‘That’s right, is there any news?’ I had a train to catch

‘Did you know that the last time Lilly Mae Maguire or Obama as she is known as now, was home was for her mother’s funeral .I remembers it like it only yesterday. God it was a great day altogether. I remember her mother being laid out in the funeral parlour.

I never saw her looking as well. They had tea and sandwiches at the rosary, the removal and a sit down lunch in Egan’s hotel for everyone that went to the funeral. I bet you they will do the same this time; there might even be free drink in Delaney’s bar afterwards’.

‘Anyway, Mr McKilicuddy, do you know when that will be?’

‘Well, she died on Monday last at midday. They will have to arrange to bring her home. You know that can send her by aeroplane now, Isn’t that fantastic. She has a brother in Australia and two sisters in England and I suppose her husband’s family will come .She had two children of her own you know.’

‘And that would mean?’ For God’s sake we have a train to catch

‘Today is Thursday, so they left Chicago yesterday. I didn’t see the hearse leave the undertakers yard yet so Tom Dwyer is still at home. Let me think’

‘So would it be fair to say that it won’t be today?’

‘No, it won’t and might not even be tomorrow and you can’t be buried on a Sunday so…….’

I left and cycled like a lunatic back home. As I passed the graveyard. I looked in and wondered how many people never looked better the day before they went into that earth. Well, Tombstone was the judge of that.

As I arrived home my brothers and sisters were waiting anxiously for my news.

‘Well, what did Mr. Mckilicuddy say?’ my father asked.

I decided that I would give him the shortened version as Tombstone was probable still analysing the funeral arrangements while smoking a woodbine sitting on his window ledge waiting for the next member of the parish to enquire.

So I replied ‘You’re grand’.

In later years I came to understand that death needed to be celebrated the same as life. Christenings, Holy Communions, Confirmations, Weddings and Funerals were all ways by which families and communities acknowledged each other.

Saying that ‘I never saw her looking as well ‘when viewing the corpse in the funeral home was in fact another way of celebrating her life. A life that like all lives, had happiness, sadness, despair, worry and rewards. She had led a good life and she now would celebrate the next life. The look that Tombstone saw was perhaps the contentment that Lilly Mae’s mother felt at the end of this journey and the beginning of another.



A Christmas Tale

A Christmas Tale

“Come in quick” Stagecoach is on the telly. John Wayne was there in all his glory killing the bad guys, and saving the day. John Wayne was our window to a whole different world, the world that small boys could only dream about; the world of Cowboys and Indians.

As it was summer, we all rushed out after breakfast to meet up for the day’s game of Cowboys and Indians. You were either an Indian or a Cowboy and you were lucky if you were either John Wayne or Geronimo. We were all armed with Winchester Rifles in the form of Hurley’s if you were a Cowboy, and Bows and Arrows in the form of sticks with strings if you were an Indian.

We had no uniforms to distinguish us as either an ‘Injun or Paleface’.

It was going to take a pleading letter to Santa and an exemplary conduct rating to sort it out. So as Christmas approached, out came the pencil and the letter was written.

Dear Santa,

My name is Jimmy Ryan and I am eight and three quarters. Can I have:

A Cowboy Suit with a hat

An Indian Suit with Feathers

Two Pistols (Six Guns) a Belt and two holsters

A Bow and Arrow set

A Rifle

And a Selection Box

I have been really good this year.

I wonder should I tell him about killing Mrs Kennedy’s cat or breaking Mrs Murray’s window with the football. I think I will leave it out no point upsetting him



Don’t worry about the Selection Box if it’s a problem, as my aunt Eileen will be giving me one anyway. You concentrate on the rest.

When Christmas morning arrived, I did get some of what I wished for and as I rushed out into the streets to see what Santa brought everyone else, It looked like there was going to be twenty John Wayne’s next summer, and poor ould Micky Mockler, who was the only that Santa brought an Indian Suit and a Bow and Arrow, was going to be chased the length and breadth of the village until next Christmas.

Tom Cullen © 2013



12 o’clock
Dear Diary,
Just got out of bed and weighed myself. 18 stone even.
I think it’s time to do something about it.

3 o’clock
Dear Diary,
Just finished brunch.

5 o’clock
Dear Diary,
Those sausage rolls I had for my tea were gorgeous. Must remember where I got them for the future.

8 o’clock
Dear Diary,
Turned on Operation Transformation on the telly. This is the start of the new me.

9 o’clock
Dear Diary,
That was very interesting. I was glad that I only had chicken curry with breast meat and only one portion of fried rice as I watched it; it’s difficult to manoeuvre a starter on the tray when watching telly.   I think it’s important to eat what you normally eat before you begin a diet. I’m sure that the panel would agree.


11 o’clock
Dear Diary,
Got up early. Just about to turn on the computer so that I can follow the plan, looking forward to this.

1 o’clock
Dear Diary,
Just back from shop with the ingredients for my meals. God I’m starving can’t wait to taste them.

3 0’clock
Dear Diary,
Finished the first meal. It tasted like crap.

5 o’clock
Dear Diary,
Getting ready for my first workout in 3, 2, 1…..

3 minutes past 5 o’clock

Dear Diary,
I thought that went well.


7o’clock in the morning

Dear Diary
God I ‘m starving, I can’t believe that it’s still dark. Do people really get out of bed this early? Anyway, I can’t stay in bed any longer; I’ll nap during the day.

10 minutes past 7 o’clock

Dear Diary,
Just had breakfast. I have often thrown out worse. Seriously!!!

8 o’clock

Dear Diary,
Just started my exercise plan for the day. It’s going great, up to 4 minutes.

3 o’clock in the afternoon

Dear Diary,
Just woke up, still in my pyjamas, can’t believe that I slept for over 5 hours. That’s what I get for waking up early. I’ve only myself to blame.

4 o’clock
Dear Diary,
For God’s Sake who invented these ingredients? 2 ounces of this, 4 fluid ounces of that and in the end after an hour’s work you get a plate full of muck. Horse meat would be tastier than this even if I did know it was in the packet.

8 o’clock
Dear Diary,
Just turned on the second episode of Operation Transformation. They make it look so easy. Try eating it. I’ll bet that panel aren’t.


7 o’clock in the morning
Dear Diary,
I am beside myself with the hunger. It’s time for my first weigh in. As they say on the telly, Last Tuesday you weighed 18 stone exactly, today you weigh 17 stone 13 lbs that’s an actual loss of 1 lb. one fucking pound.

2 0’clock

Dear Diary,
Well you can’t say that I didn’t give it a try. Maybe I am just naturally big. I do have a broad frame and my mother always said that I was big boned growing up. Sorry but I have to sign off now as the door bell has just rung with my takeaway.

Tom Cullen


So you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. What! I watched Mario Rosenstock the other night and I laughed at his characters, particularly Michael Flatley.He showed the stereotypical image that is perceived of us in some areas of the world; where they think of a fairy tale land full of leprechauns, rainbows and sayings like the above. I wonder did these sayings ever have real meaning or were they made up to attract our long lost cousins.

In fairness, they would have to be at least ten generations gone from the country to still believe in Finnegan’s Rainbow or would they? The Gathering scheduled to run for the whole of 2013 is a brilliant idea, designed to promote the country in a positive way and generate much needed interest in us as a nation that is open for business.

But I guarantee you there are poor souls out there, who having bought their airline tickets and booked their hotel rooms, dusting off their copy of Garby O’Gill and the little People so that they can hit the ground running, fully briefed on who we are.

So who are we, the modern Irish? Well I can tell you if you walk down any street in Ireland and say to a stranger ‘Isn’t a fine soft day we’re having?’ the chances are you would get no reply or one you didn’t expect. Because we all know that a ‘soft day’ is pissing rain and unless you live on the Serengeti where rain is the difference between life and death, how could you be happy with it.

Ireland is a country destroyed by a financial greed that only benefited a few and brought misery down on the rest.’ We will bounce back’. ‘We are the Poster Boys of Europe’. These are the sayings of modern Ireland. It’s easy to speak with optimism when you don’t really need it, as you already have what you are telling everyone else to be looking forward to. Try having the feeling of terror as you hear the postman opening your front gate and hoping that he doesn’t leave you the letter or letters that you were dreading. But don’t worry you will bounce back.

So stop now and put back your copy of Garby into the press. Have a real look at Ireland of 2013 and come and enjoy but remember that if you don’t get the one hundred thousand welcomes, don’t judge us unfairly. As the saying goes ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ – that is true about Ireland but it’s because of all the soft days.

Tom Cullen ©


Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights
Last year I put away all the christmas decorations in an orderly fashion, placing them in boxes according to the rooms that they furnished. It only took me 28 years to get around to it. Anyway, when I opened the box with the christmas lights in it, I was very pleased with myself. Normally it would be a tangled mess that took both of us an evening to sort out and cause stress that many a time brought us to the brink of divorce.
No problem this year, they were laid in groups of ten and layered so that they could be removed as they were needed. They went directly from the box to the tree. Easy, peasy japanesey. After the effortless task, all that was left to do was switch them on. I flicked the switch……….nothing happened. I flicked it again ………still nothing happened. This can’t be, I packed them, arranged them in groups of, you know, layered them as well. BUT it was the case. The lights were broke.
For feck sake, what was that all about last year, planning and preparation my arse. I stormed out and into the car to buy new ones. As I went over the railway bridge I saw the canopy of lights in front of me. As I drove along, passing the Christmas Lights on my way, my anger melted away.
There is something about Christmas Lights, something magical, something serene. I stopped in the square; turning off the engine I no longer had a priority to buy lights as I looked up in admiration at the lights over my head. Over the last week, I have been in most of the cities around the country and have taken the time to look at the lights.
To me, the lights give us the opportunity to imagine, to dream, to feel safe. Everything that surrounds them, all the other material things, disappear into the darkness. The lights give the impression of warmth, which generates a feeling of goodwill in us all. No matter what town or city you are in, Christmas Lights have the same effect on us.
Christmas Lights create an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity over the streets. This gives people a ‘feel good factor’ in a time that has both happiness and sadness for us all. The Christmas Lights on your tree, when they work that is, also gives that feeling.
As night falls, lights are the only common thing that you see, no matter where you look. We may not take the time to observe this but we will take the time to look at the Christmas Lights.
Christmas Lights have the added dimension of anticipation. Children waiting for christmas morning, parents waiting for children to return home for ‘the holidays’, friends waiting to meet up again.
To me, Christmas Lights are the signal that the season of goodwill has begun and that we should embrace it as it is all too soon that they are switched off and the realities of life begin to take hold again.
Happy Christmas to you all.
Tom Cullen © thesourcewritersgroup

2012-A Reflection

2012 – A Reflection

It’s funny how as you get older, you tend to reflect on the past. You would never have thought to do this when you were young. You were never going to get old. You would never be like the rest of those over there in the corner. You would be different. But alas we all grow old, if we are lucky.  ‘Death lays its icy hands on kings’.
So what did 2012 mean to me? My first thought would be that it was like any other year, it just passed me by. However when I gave myself the time to reflect on it, I have the following to say.
2012 was the year when our oldest son got engaged. I don’t think at the time that I realised what a momentous event this was but now I am so proud and happy. I can’t wait to celebrate their marriage and look forward to watching their life’s develope with the excitement of moving from a house and into a home and hopefully having a family.
2012 was the year when our second oldest son’s career has catapulted into a position where he now in a place that most of his profession would only reach ten years his senior.
2012 was the year when our youngest son got his BA and was invited to do an MA.His academic career is going from strength to strength.
This was the year that we got the dog. I must say that I was apprehensive about having a pet as we took a number of holidays during 2012.However as I pen this piece, she is looking up at me, wagging her tail and telling me with her eyes’ Will you ever take out that lead and bring me for a walk’. Despite all the work she causes, her appreciation makes up for it.
So 2012 was not just another year, it was another milestone in our lives that I may have taken for granted.
Happiness is not the concept as demonstrated by TV or books but how we feel about ourselves. We need to understand that we can only have contentment when we accept that our happiness should only be influenced my matters that we have control of. All other matters cannot be relevant.
I undertook a course on Mindfulness some years back but did not act on it so I got no benefit from it. My resolution for 2013 is that I must try to live in ‘the now’ and realise that what I take for granted, when pieced together, are in fact occasions for celebration and to be thankful for.

Tom Cullen


Many years ago, while on exercise with the Defence Forces I fractured two fingers in my left hand. The exercise was two in duration and required surviving in the winter rains and snows of the Wicklow Mountains while fighting mock battles. Carrying large wet kits and little sleep were the order of the day. The exercise was a ‘must do and pass’ situation.

I was only six days into the exercise when I suffered the fractures. I was left with two scenarios. Tell the medics and be RTU (Returned to Unit) without completing the course OR suffer through the pain.

I chose the latter. In my opinion physical pain can be overcome by applying a psychological bandage over it. Physical pain is relative. However when I arrived home and showed the injury to my GP, she said I was about two weeks away from an amputation. My fingers had turned black but I had completed my mission.

So you can forgive me when I stand beside someone and we look up at a mountain range and they say “God isn’t it beautiful”. My reply is “God, yea, fabulous’ but inside I’m saying “Try surviving in the kip and see if you still have a romantic view of it”.

So what’s the problem? Why are people always complaining about pain?

You see I believe that real pain is the one that takes over your thoughts. Grief, rejection, loneliness, to name a few. These are the real sources of pain.

We have a tendency to sympathize with people when we see them in physical pain. I ask you to try be more aware of those who are in real pain. Your support might just make a real difference. A lot of old people live in loneliness and their pain is not witnessed. Watch out for them this winter, your visit might help in their recovery.

Tom Cullen  October 2012