An Irish Country Christmas (An Irish Country Novel)

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9781410482976: An Irish Country Christmas (An Irish Country Novel)
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A New York Times Bestselling Author An Irish Country Novel Barry Laverty, M.B., is looking forward to his first Christmas in Ballybucklebo, at least until he learns that his sweetheart, Patricia, might not be coming home for the holidays. But Barry has little time to dwell on his disappointments. There is little peace to be found on earth for a young doctor plying his trade with Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly in the hills and glens of rural Ireland ― especially with the arrival of a patient-poaching quack physician.

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About the Author:

Patrick Taylor, M.D., is the author of the Irish Country books, including An Irish Country Doctor, An Irish Country Village, An Irish Country Girl, and An Irish Country Courtship. Taylor was born and raised in Bangor, County Down in Northern Ireland. After qualifying as a specialist in 1969, he worked in Canada for thirty-one years. He now lives on Saltspring Island, British Columbia.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

 
Recommend the Old Inn to Ev’ry Friend
Barry Laverty—Doctor Barry Laverty—slammed the door of Brunhilde, his elderly Volkswagen Beetle. He hunched his shoulders against the sleet and hurried across the car park of the Old Inn in Crawfordsburn, County Down. Night comes early in December in Northern Ireland, and at four-thirty in the afternoon it was barely light enough for him to make out the leafless branches of trees tossing and swaying in the gale, but he could hear the wind battering its way through the glen behind the hotel.
He pushed through the inn’s double front door and went down three steps into a well-lit lobby. Blinking at the brightness, he twitched his shoulders up and his neck down as a trickle of water found its way under his collar.
“Hello, John,” he said to the manager, who stood behind a reception desk at the far side of the lobby.
The middle-aged man looked up and smiled. “Good afternoon, Doctor.”
A little more than a year ago he would have said, “How’s about ye, Barry?” The Old Inn was only a few miles away from Barry’s parents’ home in Bangor. During his years as a medical student, he’d often popped in here for a quick pint, and John had been standing in reception for as long as Barry could remember.
“Dirty day out there,” John observed.
“I’m half foundered.” Barry rubbed his hands together.
“There’s a nice cosy fire lit in the Parlour Bar, sir.”
“I’m going to the reception.”
“The Donnelly-MacAteer party’s in the Guests Lounge, but Doctor O’Reilly’s just gone into the Parlour Bar. He said to tell you if you came in.”
Typical, Barry thought, of Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, the senior man in the practice where Barry worked, to be slipping out to the bar for a quick drink. He knew Julie MacAteer’s parents were Pioneers—teetotalers—so the party would be what was called in Ulster an orange juice reception.
“Thanks.” Barry shrugged out of his raincoat. “I’ll just park this and then nip in and get warm.”
He caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror mounted at the back of the coat stand. Blue eyes with dark rings beneath looked back from an oval face. At twenty-four he was too young for the dusky half circles to be a permanent feature, but he’d attended a confinement for most of the night. Although he might be tired, he thought the woman he’d just delivered of a healthy seven-pound five-ounce boy would be a lot more so. He yawned. His fair hair was darkened, soaked, and plastered to his scalp. At least his cow’s lick wasn’t sticking up like the crest on a tufted duck.
Barry hung his coat, ran his hands over his hair, turned, and walked along a short, carpeted corridor to the bar. He wondered if Colette the barmaid, a big, motherly woman, would be on duty tonight.
This part of the building, he knew, had been an old coaching inn built in 1614, and generations of owners had very sensibly preserved the whitewashed daub-and-wattle walls and the heavy, rough-hewn, black ceiling beams. C. S. Lewis had stayed here in 1958 with his wife, Joy, for what he called “a perfect fortnight.”
Barry went through a door to his left into a low-ceilinged room where a turf fire blazed in a wide grate. After the bitter cold of the day outside, the heat was stifling, but the scent of the burning peat was familiar and comforting to him. There were several men in the room, most standing at the bar, a few in booths beside the wall. Barry heard a murmuring of conversation. The smells of damp tweed and cigarette smoke mingled with the aroma of peat. He could hear the sleet outside rattling off the curtained windows.
“You,” roared Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, who stood leaning against the bar, “look like a drowned rat. Come on in and have a jar.”
“Thanks, Fingal.”
“What’ll you have?”
Barry rapidly rubbed his hands together, feeling them tingle as the circulation returned. “Hot Irish, please.”
O’Reilly turned to the barmaid, who stood behind the marble-topped bar polishing a straight pint glass with a dish towel. “Do you hear that, Colette?”
“Hot half-un it is, Doctor.”
“Half-un be damned. Give him a double.”
“How are you, Colette?” Barry asked, turning his back on O’Reilly, shaking his head at her, and mouthing silently, “Just a half.” A double whiskey on top of his tiredness could be the end of him.
Her smile was wide and welcoming as she nodded her understanding of his order and said, “Grand, so I am. Haven’t seen you in for a wee while.”
“I’ve been busy—”
“Jesus, lass, would you give the young fellah his jar?” O’Reilly said.
“Coming up.” She moved away and switched on an electric kettle.
“Now, Doctor Laverty,” growled O’Reilly, “where the hell have you been?”
Barry looked at the big man’s florid, craggy face, bushy eyebrows, and his bent nose with a distinct list to port. O’Reilly was in his shirtsleeves, red braces holding up his tweed pants. A glass—a large glass—of what Barry knew would be Irish whiskey was clutched in one hand.
“Working.”
“Working? When I left the house for the wedding, the door to the surgery was still shut, but there were only a couple of customers in the waiting room. Nuala Harkness never takes long.”
“Maybe not for you, Fingal. You’ve known the woman for nearly twenty years.”
O’Reilly grunted. “And Harry ‘The Boots’ Hawthorne.”
“Who?”
“Harry ‘The Boots’ Hawthorne. They call him that because when he was first married his wife told her best friend he was so virile that when he came in from the fields and feeling his oats, wanting her, he wouldn’t even take the time to get his boots off.”
Barry laughed. “I’ve read Napoleon was like that with Josephine.”
“Maybe Harry’d read it too. Anyway the wife’s friend told her husband, and he told . . . ”
Barry nodded. He had already experienced just how quickly news could fly around the village of Ballybucklebo.
“So now the lads won’t let him live it down, and they call him Harry the Boots. He usually comes in for a tonic, and you can finish with him in five minutes.”
Barry shook his head. “You can Fingal, but I’ve only been here for a few months, and if I want to know the patients as well as you I have to spend a bit of time getting to know them.”
“I suppose so,” O’Reilly frowned. “But two more shouldn’t have taken you until now. We expected to see you at the service.”
“Harry took longer than I expected; then Jeannie Jingles phoned. She thought her wee Eddie had croup and—”
“And you went to see the lad?” There was a hint of paleness in the tip of O’Reilly’s nose, a sure sign that his temper was not entirely under control.
“I know you’re meant to be on call today for emergencies, Fingal, but—”
“You thought you’d do me a favour?” The pallor spread.
“Not a favour. You were already in the church. It made sense to me to call in and see the kiddie. I thought it would only take a minute.”
“Huh. Some minute. The service was over at two thirty. You should have been there.”
“I’m sorry.” Barry held one hand at shoulder height, palm out. “If I’d known I was depriving you of the pure delights, the immensely satisfying medical moments of seeing one more case of common croup, I’d have sent a police escort to haul you out of your pew.”
O’Reilly managed a chuckle. “Alright. Have it your own way. Work yourself into an early grave if that’s what you want. See if I give a tinker’s damn.” The laugh lines deepened at the corners of his eyes.
“Jesus, Fingal, I just thought it made sense.”
O’Reilly clapped Barry on the shoulder. “You’re right this once, Barry, but . . . but . . . an agreement’s an agreement.” O’Reilly swallowed a mouthful of whiskey. “We decided in August, when you were ready to work on your own, we’d split the work.”
“And haven’t we? One of us in the surgery to see the minor cases, the other one out doing home visits and taking call at night. I thought it was working fine.”
O’Reilly grunted. “You were up half the bloody night. I’m on call today.”One thing Barry had learnt. He must never cave in to O’Reilly. He looked the older man right in the eye. “It was a bloody good thing I went. The little lad had a raging pneumonia. I had to get him up to the Royal Victoria Hospital immediately.”
“Had he, by God?” O’Reilly’s eyebrows met above his nose as he frowned. “Lobar was it?”
“As best as I could tell without an X-ray.”
O’Reilly took a deep swallow of his whiskey, clapped Barry on the shoulder, and said, “Maybe you did do the right thing.”
“I think so.”
“So do I.” O’Reilly nodded. “But as of this minute, Doctor Barry Laverty, I’m on call.” At least his nose tip was its usual plum colour.
“Fine, Fingal.”
“And Kinky knows where to find me if anything crops up.”
“She’s not at the reception?” Barry was surprised. Mrs. “Kinky” Kincaid, the Cork woman who was O’Reilly’s housekeeper, was usually very much a part of the Ballybucklebo social scene.
“She was inv...

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