The Christmas Tree Of Our Childhood

The christmas tree pre-dated us two kids, my best guess is that it was purchased for my parents first married christmas together which would be 1952-ish and it certainly looked like it had been made in the years of austerity.

You see politicians speak today of years of austerity ahead but you can still walk into any department or DIY store and view forty different styles of christmas tree and you just know that those people queueing at the tills with a huge box under their arms which contains £100 worth of new christmas tree probably have at least one, and maybe several other christmas trees at home already – they just fancied a different one this year thats all.

Thats not austerity.

Nor is buying a new set of christmas tree lights every year because some journalist who is trying to create a job for themselves in a weekly magazine somewhere has told them that blue lights are “in” this year, and nor is buying a complete set of 30 or 50 new “baubles” because the same journalist wrote that their old ones, the ones that were so “in” last year, are now definitely “out”.

By the way the “in” colour for your baubles this year is a sage coloured green, you read it here first, they are in all the stores right now, hurry or you’ll miss them.

We aren’t in austere times, nothing like.

Austerity is when you buy a wisp of a christmas tree in 1952 and you’re still using it in 1976, along with all the original glass baubles and the original 240v twist-to-fit lights which only ever flashed on and off if the twin twisted cable was a bit dodgy, which after 24 years of use it most certainly was.

The tree was around five feet tall and looked like a child had made it from pipe cleaners, its “branches” were each made from two lengths of wire twisted together with a red blob of plastic at the end to save a young eye from being impaled, where each strand of wire twisted upon its neighbour it gripped a few short strands of what can only be described as green brush bristle, for thats probably exactly what it was, the overall effect was … austere, like it had been made on a budget of a few pennies and some bits that were left over from making something else that was nothing to do with christmas trees, it was like a brush factory had tried its hand at making christmas trees and decided that it was probably not a good idea and they went back to making brushes again.

But it came down from the loft every year along with all of its 1952 glass baubles and every year one or more of the glass baubles got broken in the process and were never replaced so every year the tree got less and less decorated.

The tinsel was circa 1952 as well and had fared even less than the poor excuse for the tree, the tinsel had probably once glittered but now it was just dull, the overall effect when you draped it around the tree was “why bother”.

There was of course a fairy for the top of the tree and of course it was a 1952 fairy and had suffered from the same de-glittering as the tinsel, the fairy was actually a cheap 1952 childs doll with a formally glittery dress and wings but now she was just grey and frowned at lot from her lofty position atop the thin, dull christmas tree, our mother would spend the whole of an early December afternoon putting the whole ensemble together while our dad swore under his breath trying to coax the lights into life, no low voltage safety lights in those days, ours were 240v and they would spark and spit like a dragon as you twisted each bulb into its socket, and every christmas he’d have to throw a duff bulb away and instead of buying a new one he’d get his pliers out and cut the cable, remove the bulb holder, twist the cables together and wrap them in insulating tape.

It all looked a bit shit.

But by 1976 we couldn’t care less, I was 20 years old that year and the pub was calling, I couldn’t care less if we had a tree up or not, neither could Ned and neither could our dad, only our mother cared and the following year even she didn’t bother.

And then in 1980 the female who was to become inextricably welded to my pay packet appeared in my life and I brought her down to Leeds for our first christmas together and the first thing she asked was “Where’s the tree ?”

We explained that the tree was in the loft and it was all a bit shit and no-one could be bothered with it any more, she was horrified and told me that if I didn’t buy my mother a new tree and decorations that very afternoon then she was going home for she wouldn’t spend christmas in a house with no christmas tree.

I should have called her bluff, calling her bluff would have saved me the last 31 years of servitude, but I didn’t, I scrounged some money off Ned and our dad and we went to Headingley and bought a whole load of christmas stuff, and a tree, brought it home and decorated the bungalow for our mother.

Are you crying yet ?

Christmas has been a fookin mill stone around my neck ever since.


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