“Five years ago I got the most useless Christmas present I ever got in my life. It was a comb. Now, you’d only have to look at me to know that I’d have little use for a gift like that.
“I won’t mortify the giver by naming him, but he was and still is a friend. It was done for a joke to try and get at me — why I don’t know. I thought it was hilarious, so I said: ‘Thanks for the gift. It’s going to be about as useful as tits on a bull.’ ”
“When I was about 7, I received a toy gun and a holster and a three-colour torch from Santy. I also received a mechanical toy. It was a 6 inch high fireman with a ladder on his back. When you’d wind him up, he’d walk along for a while, then his ladder would go up over his head and open out into an apex shape in front of him. Then he’d climb the ladder and somersault back down. He was amazing, or at least he was until my younger playmate, Dessie Talbot, changed his walking direction.
“Dessie headed him in the direction of the fireplace, which was well lit with a roaring fire. The toy fireman stopped short, then started up again and somersaulted straight into the flames.
“As he was made of plastic, he melted in front of our eyes, and as I cried and sobbed at the tragedy, Dessie laughed himself silly. I fell out with Dessie for a few weeks after that — Dessie, who later became a fireman.”
“A Trim Track and an exercise bike. They were Christmas presents from my mother. I was 14 and a little overweight. She meant well, but I would have preferred a stereo, so that’s what I asked for the following year.
“To get that she took her first and only ferry trip from Dublin to Holyhead. From there, she went to Argos where she bought what she thought was a huge hi-fi. She then carried that back onto the ferry and brought it home to me. It was then that we discovered that it wasn’t a hi-fi at all — it was a stereo cabinet.”
“It was a jumper — a Christmas present from an aunt. I’d say she bought it in Penneys.
“The colour was all wrong — it was kind of yellowish, and when you’re a boy of twelve, there’s no way you want to wear something that will make you stick out like a beacon.
“I couldn’t hurt her by letting her know I wouldn’t be seen out in it, so I used to wear it whenever she visited. It was a terrible jumper, so much so that I still remember it more than half a century later.”
“It was a gift from a male friend, someone who can discreetly be described as ‘the one who recently performed in a play in Cork.’ We were at a Christmas party when he, with the best possible intentions, handed me a beautifully gift-wrapped box, which looked really sweet.
I opened it to find a bottle of Jade Goody perfume, and I couldn’t have been more disappointed.
“That feeling intensified when I sprayed it.”
“I still remember the sense of deep injustice I felt as a child of five or six, when in the run up to Christmas my parents informed me that my grandparents were going to give me a new school coat for Christmas.
“Even at that young age I felt that somehow my Christmas was being hijacked by good sense and practicality. I knew in my heart that what should have been coming my way was a toy, something that would give me a lot more pleasure than a new school coat.
“I remember saying I didn’t really want a new coat, but the sensible gift had already been agreed, and on Christmas morning that was what I unwrapped.
“This may well account for my continuing interest in toys, gadgets and fripperies of all kinds.”
“The worst Christmas present I ever got was Eamon Dunphy’s autobiography.”