Subscriber OnlyRoss O'Carroll-Kelly

‘Oh my God, is this really all the books that we own as a family? I’m so ashamed’

Sorcha wants to make our own Christmas tree out of books this year. I think she’s been at the eggnog

Listen | 07:08

When are we putting the Christmas tree up? That’s what I want to know.

Sorcha’s like, “We’re not having one this year! As in, we’re not having a tree tree?”

“Oh my God,” Honor goes, “please don’t tell me you bought one of those lame 3D tree projections.”

Sorcha’s there, “No, I’m saying we’re going to make our own tree this year?” and she shows us a photograph on her phone. “Look, this is a family on Pinterest who made their own tree – out of books!”


I’m there, “Books?” and she might as well have said human body ports.

She goes, “Look at it, Ross! Doesn’t it bring you joy? I’ve been saying for years that we need to break away from the tradition of celebrating Christmas with an actual live tree? By cutting one down, you’re taking away its life – and the world in which we live needs more trees, not fewer?”

I’m still staring at the photograph on her phone. I’m there, “Sorcha, there aren’t enough books in this gaff to make even the bottom quarter of that tree.”

She’s like, “Don’t be ridiculous. There’s thousands of books in this house. We’re book people.”

I think she’s been at the eggnog.

She walks over to the livingroom door and shouts up the stairs, “Brian, Johnny and Leo! Bring all of your books downstairs, will you? We’re making our own Christmas tree this year!”

Then she tips over to the shelves and storts pulling – yeah, no – books from them – we’re talking all of her mindfulness books, we’re talking all of her Jane Austen’s, we’re talking all of her 500 Places You Must See Before You Dies, which she lays down on the floor as, like, a base.

She’s like, “I’ve got Britney’s new book as well, but I’m going to put that at the top as, like, our stor? Ross, where are your books?”

I’m there, “I only have two. Brian O’Driscoll’s and Johnny Sexton’s. And I think maybe Johnny should be our stor? God knows, he’s done enough to deserve it.”

She’s like, “Go and get them!” which is what I end up doing. “Honor, you too.”

Honor’s there, “I don’t own any books? I focking hate books.”

Sorcha goes, “What do you mean, you don’t own any books? What about your schoolbooks?”

“I don’t have any schoolbooks?”

“We gave you money for schoolbooks.”

“And I bought clothes with it. Are you thick or just slow on the uptake?”

I tip upstairs and I grab The Test and Becoming a Lion from my bedside table. I add them to the pile, then the boys arrive downstairs with their contribution – we’re talking literally three books each.

Sorcha’s there, “Oh my God, is this really all the books that we own as a family?” because after two hours of work, carefully putting them into place, our tree is literally knee-high. “I can’t believe that this is all the books we own. Oh my God, I’m so ashamed.”

Honor’s there, “Books have caused more trouble in the world than anything else.”

I’m like, “Is that true, Honor? It’s the kind of thing I’ve love to believe.”

Sorcha’s there, “Do you know what we’re going to do now? We’re going to drive around every single charity shop in Dún Laoghaire and we’re going to buy every second-hand book that we can get our hands on. That way, we’re not only getting a very Instagrammable tree – oh my God, we’re helping all of these amazing, amazing charities at a time of year when their services are needed most.”

So off we head – just me and Sorcha. We end up hitting all of them – we’re talking Oxfam, we’re talking Barnardo’s, we’re talking the Irish Cancer Society, we’re talking Vincent de Paul. We walk in there and we stort grabbing literally ormfuls of books and bringing them to the counter without even looking at their covers.

The people in the shops think we’re off our rockers. We spend three hours clearing out all of their book stock and stuffing it all into the boot and then the back seat of the Nissan Leaf. Then we head home.

During the drive, I look at the receipts and I try to add up what it’s cost me. We’re talking – ballpork? – somewhere in the region of two grand.

Sorcha’s like, “Come on, it’s Christmas! Think of all the people who are going to benefit from that money!”

Into the house we go. It takes me, like, 30 or 40 journeys out to the cor to carry all the books in, while Sorcha resumes the job of building our famous tree.

It’s, like, five hours later that the job is finally finished. Sorcha puts Britney’s The Woman in Me on top and then she storts comparing our tree with the one on Pinterest, going, “Oh my God, it’s basically identical! Okay, let’s put lights on it and then I can put it up on Insta.”

And that’s when I spot it. Right down at the very foot of the tree, I see my famous Rugby Tactics Book sticking out.

I’m like, “What the fock is that doing there?”

Sorcha goes, “Er, it’s a book? You didn’t exactly have many others to contribute.”

I’m there, “Sorcha, I’m going to need that over Christmas. Leinster are playing Munster on Stephen Zuzz Day.”

Sorcha goes, “Ross, don’t touch that!”

But I’m there, “I’ll just whip it out. It’s like book Jenga,” and I grab the corner of the thing and I pull it.

All of a sudden, the tree storts to wobble. Sorcha screams. I stand up and I put my shoulder hord against it. I played in the front row for Seapoint in the All Ireland League, bear in mind, so I’m bringing something to the porty here? Honor and the boys come running into the room.

“Oh my God!” Honor goes. “I told you that books cause nothing but trouble!”

And she’s right because suddenly I’m finding it hord to hold them all up. Britney is the first to fall, then six or seven others, then I stort to feel this weight on my chest as the entire structure storts to come down.

I’m there going, “I can’t hold it, Sorcha! I can’t hold it!”

Then I suddenly jump out of the way and let the entire thing come crashing to the floor.

“Fock it,” Sorcha goes, sounding like her Christmas has been ruined, “let’s go and buy a live tree.”

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly was captain of the Castlerock College team that won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup in 1999. It’s rare that a day goes by when he doesn’t mention it