‘I switch on my twinkly lights with the plea­sure of a child’

Deck­ing her en­tire home with long strands of ivy, hand­fuls of fir cones, colour­ful baubles and strings of lights keeps Jeanette Win­ter­son busy through Ad­vent

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Shared Experiences -

On the morn­ing of 21 De­cem­ber, the win­ter sol­stice, I get up while the stars are still frost­ing the sky, and I start the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions. All through the month I’ve been pre­par­ing, so I know what’s go­ing to hap­pen. By now, I have col­lected fir cones on my win­ter walks with the dog, sprayed them red, green, gold, sil­ver, white, and wired groups of them to­gether to fas­ten onto the A-frame beams of my kitchen.

This could be taste­ful, ex­cept that I love Christ­mas lights, and have al­ready wound the hon­est oak beams in multi-strings of those dinky bluey-white di­a­mond twin­klers that are kitsch and fab­u­lous in equal mea­sure.

In the still-dark morn­ing, cof­fee steam­ing, dog sleep­ing, I switch on my lights with the plea­sure of a five-year-old child. Then, up go the cones, and be­neath them, in flights of glory, metal an­gels pressed out of a sheet of thin steel and painted beau­ti­fully and badly.

The kitchen also gets felt don­keys and knit­ted sheep. My mother, Mrs Win­ter­son, used to knit for Je­sus, and na­tiv­i­ties were a spe­cialty, all the shep­herds wear­ing scarves be­cause our Beth­le­hem was in Lan­cashire.

I don’t put green­ery in the kitchen – too hot. I save the long strands of deep, al­most pur­ple ivy I have un­wrapped from silent trees in the heart of the wood­land, and pile

them on the tops of my man­tel­pieces, hold­ing them in place with or­anges stuffed with cloves. The ivy, orange and cloves give off the most pun­gent, clean win­ter scent, but be gen­er­ous – at least three to a man­telshelf. Any shelf will do, but higher is bet­ter, es­pe­cially if there is a cat in the house.

Cats are the rea­son I have given up on an in­door tree. Ev­ery year, the cats biff the lower baubles and smash them. If I put the baubles fur­ther up, the cats climb af­ter them. So now I hang my baubles any­where I like in the house, go­ing round with a

ham­mer and a jam jar of panel pins. I have some jolly tin Santa Clauses (yes, I love tin toys), and if I nail them over the fire­places, the chim­ney draughts blow their legs around, to the great de­light of small chil­dren.

My Christ­mas tree is kept out­side, lit by lights, and dec­o­rated with what­ever mad­ness any­one likes. The rule of a visit over Yule­tide is that you bring some­thing for my tree. This can be any­thing: a bow tie, a wash­ing up brush, a pheas­ant feather. It’s a lot of fun adding to it as the days go by, and es­pe­cially pleas­ing when a pair of robins sit on the branches.

My rule is to spend as lit­tle as pos­si­ble and to be as abun­dant as pos­si­ble. I make the door wreaths out of bent and twine-tied whippy branches, cut from the hedgerows, and plaited in with holly and what­ever red and yel­low dog­wood I have in the gar­den. It’s easy and it’s free.

Ev­ery year, I try some­thing new. This year, I’m go­ing to give my Christ­mas tree three (rather small) kings made of chicken wire with conifer wo­ven through it, and mop heads dyed gold. It won’t be taste­ful but it will be lots of fun. ✴ Christ­mas Days: 12 Sto­ries and

12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Win­ter­son (Jonathan Cape) is out now

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.