A Belfast Christmas Tale

In keeping with Christmas Mornings I am wrapped up and off to Seaview to watch the Football Steel & Sons Cup Final. It is also an opportunity to allow the ladies of the house to get everything prepared for the Christmas Dinner without us useless men hanging around the place.
I meet my friends as normal at the terracing halfway line under the unreserved stand of the ground and all our Christmas Greetings are passed onto each other very sincerely. The final is between Donegal Celtic and Killyleagh.
The Officers of the DC Club noticeably stand out from the crowd wearing their very smart green blazers, shirts and ties for the occasion.
There is a very surreal atmosphere in the terracing as people stand shoulder to shoulder watching the match with some talking about the nice mass service last night at St Michaels and others talking about looking forward to the Blues and Glens game the next day.

Seaview Football Ground, Shore Road, Belfast
Seaview Football Ground, Shore Road, Belfast

There are plenty of shouts of encouragement from the crowd for both teams and the players out on the pitch. After all it is the biggest prize to win in local amateur football.
Ten minutes before halftime, that’s my cue to bustle through the crowd and get a table and the drinks set up in the Crues Social Club. It soon fills up with the fans from different religious and political persuasions, but hey it’s Christmas and as outside on the terracing, there is to be no Orange or Fenian B’s or any offence given today. I talk to a few guys who have travelled up from Killyleagh who I know and have not seen for a few years.
Silver and Civil Servant join me at the table and sit down on the other two chairs that I have had to defend vigorously to maintain for them. We sip on our drinks and yarn what we have been up to during the year. The unusual circumstances of the day have not gone unnoticed by Silver and he comments.‘You know what this reminds me off ?’, ‘The Tin Hut’ (Edgarstown Pigeon Club) . ‘It was the only place you could get a drink in Portadown on Christmas Day and we would have all been in it and you could sure as hell bet every year, that the Creaney’s and that entire mob from the Tunnel would appear into it at about Midday.’
‘Gilpin would just look at every one of us and you knew that there was not a word of offence or trouble to be made today by all sides.’
Civil Servant then chirps in and says ‘Wouldn’t it be great if it was Christmas every day!’ Silver with a grin replies ‘Yeah it would be good, and maybe we could parade on the 12th of July, without any agro too’.

Donegal Celtic Football Club, Belfast
Donegal Celtic Football Club, Belfast

 

We return back to the terraces to watch the remainder of the second half and DC comfortly win the game 3-Nil. No issues from any of us regarding the scoreline, the best team won on the day. We head out of the ground while the team in the Green & White Hoops parade the Cup to their supporters from the west of the city.
Civil Servant drops Silver and me off at the Navel Club in Great Victoria Street and we wish him well and will see him next year again as he heads back up the M1 and home to Dromore.
We join some of Silver’s friends and he gives them a match programme and the score and rundown of the game.
As per usual I am lumbered as bar waiter for the company, however it gives me the opportunity to wish Christmas Greetings to a few other people I know in the place while travelling back and forward from the bar.
I am happy to hear the barman call last orders as your Christmas Dinner,’In the Dog’ is not an option on my agenda, however I am horrified when Silver and his two Shipmates all pull ‘tenners’ out of their pockets and say ‘last round of drinks each’ Do I try to neck four pints down me in fifteen minutes? I take the logical option and also copy their choice of ‘half-uns’

Navel Club, Great Victoria Street, Belfast
Navel Club, Great Victoria Street, Belfast

I am relieved to see Silver’s son appear to pick him up and give him and his mates a lift home, this allows me to say my goodbyes and leave. As I walk through the snow on my way home what goes through my mind is Silver’s Halftime Team Talk. He has a point ‘Why can’t the 12th of July be free from objection ?’ It’s called ‘Shared Space’ what I have just came from today from a part of North Belfast and not the type from a Trojan Horse !
Merry Christmas & Peace and Goodwill to all Men & Women

TE Lawrence

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