Sean has not been home to Ireland in eight years. His back is bent whilst clasping the microphone. If only it was attached to a stand. The screen before him starts to boot, music sets in. A little Santa Clause denotes this to be the ''instrumental intro''. The circular room is filled to the brim with middle-aged women and men. Sean realizes that still he might be the oldest among them. Lyrics flash on the screen:


''In Napoli where love is king

when boy meets girl ...''


Lesley from across the room gazes up from her white wine spritzer. Oh dear, it's Sean. She is positively surprised to hear that his voice has a soft, comforting and, above all, in tune timbre tonight. She takes a sip from her glass and her eyelids twitch into an almost smile. Still he is always a half-beat too late but who cares.


Many newbies are around tonight, Lesley only recognizes a handful. She often wonders how alleged tourists get lost and find themselves in a bar like this. One which misplaced its class in 1994. The interior hasn't been updated since and back then even Lesley was a tourist. Sean was most likely still bricklaying some dodgy part of Dublin at the time. Hunched and handsome. Wait, what? Lesley coughs and straightens on her stool.


''Bells will ring tingalingaling

tingalingaling vita belle ...''


What's wheetabelly, Lesley wonders secretly. Michael leans into her field of view and with proud German accent proclaims it to be either an Italian cheese (pause) or maybe a type of spider. Lesley never really liked Michael much. He's got bad breath. Sean, however, is looking at Lesley now.


She looks very pretty tonight, although he does not approve of her scrutinizing the newbies. And she is doing it again right this minute. But she seems in gentler spirits tonight. If only he could bring himself to buy that mad woman a drink.


Oh, skipped a line.

... Ah, well.


By now everyone is singing along. Sean scratches at his hearing aid then belts the climax. The circular room applauds. Hastily he hands the mic back to karaoke master John. All the seats are taken except one between Lesley and a German lady and her daughter (newbies). For a moment Sean wonders where he might've put his pint. Then he aims for the empty stool regardless, ready to introduce himself. Fingers crossed his hearing aid doesn't act up now. ''Hi Lesley'', he croaks upon climbing the stool.


''Hi Sean'', she whispers thank God, in his good ear. Then she puts a fresh pint of lager in front of him.



Wishing you a great and magical loving in the New Year,