First week of December and we call all now agree that it is officially the Christmas season. Of course, if you are in charge of television commercials, Christmas began straight after Bonfire Night and at most garden centres near me, it began the day after the August Bank Holiday. Last weekend seemed the most appropriate time to put up a tree and deck the halls with boughs of holly. Advent calendars can now be opened, but I always wonder how many of them actually last until the big day before all the chocolates are gone. The tv countdown is building; we’ve had the “X factor” final, “Strictly…” and “I’m a Celebrity…” are nearing their climaxes. The BBC has announced its Christmas schedule (no more waiting for your dad to bring home the Christmas “Radio Times”) and ITV’s excitement has burst so much that they have skipped straight past Christmas and are constantly plugging all the treats they have in store for us in January, when of course we are all too busy down the gym to have time for any telly.
The next couple of weeks will see the peak of people’s Christmas shopping and fingertips will be sore from the constant tapping away on keyboards, as no one goes to the shops any more. This new trend brings with it a whole new world of stresses as the item you or yours want is out of stock or hasn’t arrived three weeks after you ordered it. I read an article that the Black Friday phenomenon that has hit UK shores has created havoc with parcel delivery firms, who struggle to keep up with demand and that might also explain some of the driving and parking habits displayed by the drivers of those dirty white or grimy yellow Transit vans.
Anyway, on Sunday, we caved in at my house and announced Christmas as underway. The day started with a trip to a nearby farm to buy a tree, joining the throngs of people who all had the same idea. The form in particular is deserted at almost every other time of the year, but today a team of marshals (all in Santa hats) was needed to guide the endless stream of Volvos, X5s and Range Rovers in and out of the entrance. another well-drilled team helped people choose their tree, get it trimmed, wrapped in netting and loaded up before sending them on their way. We go to the same place every year and it is amazing how much their popularity has grown; “We now take cards, sir” was evidence of this.
We finally got home, having taken the scenic route – I’d forgotten the High Street was closed for the annual Christmas market, which now seems to take place at every town and village in my area, where you can buy all sorts of festive tat you never knew you needed and sip mulled wine that would make your car go faster if you poured it into the fuel tank. Parked up, I removed the tree from the back of the car, amazed at the amount of pine needles it shed in the process, all disappearing down the gaps between the reclined back seats, joining all the other pine needles deposited there in years gone by. Fighting my way past our leaping and growling hound, I erected our tree in the living room and left my wife and excited daughter to decorate it. My son was too busy playing FIFA to register any interest.
While they got on with that, I was dispatched outside to put up fairy lights, icicle lights, grotto lights, illuminated reindeer, snowmen and a flashing train driven by Santa bearing gifts. Luckily, I don’t live in a neighbourhood where Christmas decorations are a competitive sport, but every house round me does make some kind of effort and who am I to be the local Scrooge? Anyway having dug several boxes out of the garage, untangled all the various wires and leads, I then set about hanging the illuminations on the front of the house, in the trees and along the driveway. Everything in place, all that was now needed was to hook them up to some power and then force a shut down of the national grid. Problem. However, only three of the leads were long enough to reach the power socket in the garage. I did think to get the extension lead out, but an unfortunate experience in 1st Year Physics reminded me that water and electricity don’t mix, so probably not a good idea in this weather.
So until the electrician arrives (very busy this time of year apparently), I have twinkling icicles above the garage, reindeer and snowmen among the bushes, but sadly by the front door, Santa is not flashing at arriving visitors…and in this day and age, that might not be a bad thing!