We took a lovely Sunday walk recently around the mid-Norfolk village where I spent most of my childhood. As we ambled along I kept up a lively running commentary to Mrs C.
“This is where we used to build our dens,” I’d say, indicating a little clump of trees. “And we’d scrump the apples from this old orchard. And we’d go fishing here...” and so on. Riveting stuff.
As we neared our old home, I recalled a Christmas ‘tradition’ which may have happened twice or ten times – you know what it’s like with family legends. Anyway, perhaps a hundred yards from our front door was a Christmas tree plantation.
The owner was a gregarious fellow who, on a Sunday in early December, would invite friends around to choose a tree and maybe share a sociable lunchtime sherry and mince pie. He was an excellent host and the grown-ups shared a good many sociable sherries as we kids played happily among rusty farm machinery and frozen ponds. Happy days.
It would be dark when the dads (it was always dads in those days) would grab a spade and totter unsteadily into the Stygian gloom to dig up a Christmas tree. Because it was night-time, and because of impaired faculties, the decision-making process for selecting an appropriately-sized fir was, at best, flawed.
Next morning Dad would sheepishly review the 15ft pine leaning up against the house, a house which didn’t have 15ft ceilings. And so a second trip would be made, in sober daylight hours, to find something that would actually fit indoors.
Once the correct size tree was installed, the fun of decorating would begin. We had an ancient set of lights which twinkled softly and magically. Inevitably they would be put away in full working order and during the summer would both stop working and coalesce into an unholy catscradle of wire.
One year Dad was testing his electrical repair skills on the lights, trying to coax some life into them. There was a pop, a flash and it was exit Dad, stage left with smoking eyebrows and a startled expression. We bought new lights after that, but they were never as good.
Also not as good is an artificial tree. Last year we bought an fake one, slim as a pencil and about as festive. This year we will be back at the farm hunting out the scruffiest Nordmann we can before taking it home, covering it in our old decorations and inhaling its piney goodness.
All of us at EDP Norfolk magazine wish you the merriest of Christmases and fervently hope that all your lights work first time.