Just utter the word Shenanigans and a multitude of scenarios spring to mind. Until now a Board Game wasn't one of them for me. I certainly don't think Santa would have put anything to do with shenanigans in my Christmas sock. Having said that the Festive Season, particularly in Ireland, is most definitely a time of shenanigans taking place willy-nilly (now there's a phrase I must look into).
So, what exactly are shenanigans?
A few years ago I had the pleasure of a drunken chat with legendary actor Alan Devlin outside The Queens Pub here in Dalkey. Poor old Alan, winner of the 1984 Olivier Award no less, had fallen off the wagon in great style. It was Halloween, he was suitably clad as a vampire, and utterly plastered. Credit where it's due Alan was very pleasant with it. Having spent his last fiver in The King's Inn across the road he courteously asked as to whether I'd be kind enough to stand him a drink. How could any decent soul refuse? 'Would you be able to fetch it from the bar too?', he asked, 'as I was barred earlier in the day for all sorts of shenanigans.'
Alan refused to expand as to what these shenanigans might have been. Suffice it to say they were bad enough to incur the wrath of the otherwise genial Bar Manager. As he sipped his Bacardi & Coke (a surprising choice) Alan confided in me that shenanigans had pretty much ruined his life. Shenanigans had cost him two marriages and he reckoned by the end of the day in question quite possibly three. Shenanigans had lost him many an acting role including the lead in a play in Dublin after which he ended up living rough near Baggot Street for a number of months. 'Ah, but it's a great word all the same,' he added with a rueful smile.
Although I'd always assumed shenanigans to be an Irish word the OED lists its origins as 'obscure'. One theory however is that it does indeed have Celtic roots, derived and anglicised from the Gaelic for 'like a fox' - sionnachuighim. The name of the river Shannon is derived from Sionna, the River Goddess so I reckon this is quite plausible. I have my doubts as to how fox-like poor old Alan Devlin's carry-on was but it makes some sort of sense that shenanigans reflect the drunken spirit of getting away with things - i.e. sneaking out for a few pints / having a sly one etc. etc.
As Alan drained his glass my wife appeared. He immediately leapt to his feet and kindly offered to dance with her despite there being no music. She graciously declined to which Alan replied with a wink in my direction, 'Probably just as well, there may have been more shenanigans...'
As Alan wandered away I called after him, 'It was a pleasure. We'll meet again', to which he replied with a mischievous grin, 'It was, but no...we won't.'
He was right.
Alan Devlin died suddenly the following May. I guess the shenanigans finally caught up with him.