It’s all part of the joy of the build-up to Christ­mas

In her weekly col­umn, Mad­die Grigg shares tales from her life in ru­ral Dorset . . .

The People's Friend - - Maddie’s World -

IT’S twi­light in Lush Places and, with my new-to-me Dr Marten boots squeak­ing as I am­ble across the vil­lage square, I won­der to my­self if I can train them to sing a few Christ­mas car­ols.

If I man­aged that feat, it clearly would not be “Silent Night”. The racket they’re mak­ing is in­cred­i­ble, con­sid­er­ing I’ve been try­ing to wear them in for sev­eral weeks.

I walk up the steps to the vil­lage green where I see the large fir tree shak­ing for all it’s worth.

I rub my eyes in as­ton­ish­ment. I’m think­ing per­haps the tree has come to life and is just about to give me a good talk­ing to about my noisy boots when I hear the low and muf­fled sound of men’s voices.

“Can you pass that around here a bit, Nobby?” It’s Mr Grigg from the depths of the tree’s branches.

Nobby Odd-job emerges from be­hind the tree and reaches up high with a string of lights.

A hand ap­pears from the cen­tre of the tree and grasps the lights. It goes on like this for the next 15 min­utes or so, un­til the tree is draped with cord and Mr Grigg fi­nally emerges from his lofty perch.

“There,” he says, gaz­ing at his hand­i­work. “That looks bet­ter.”

“Bet­ter than what?” I ask. Nobby Odd-job shuf­fles his feet and looks down at the ground with­out mak­ing eye con­tact.

“It looks bet­ter than last year,” he says to me. “Your de­light­ful hus­band told me off for how I dec­o­rated it. It’s his fault for not be­ing here when we were meant to be putting them up.”

“Well,” I say, “the main thing is that you’ve tested them first, be­fore go­ing to all the trou­ble of putting them around the tree.”

I eye the tree up and down. We’re lucky to have it on the Lush Places green. It’s a beau­ti­ful tree, es­pe­cially at Christ­mas.

“Tested them?” Nobby Odd-job asks, his voice a lit­tle thin.

“They’ll be fine,” Mr Grigg says, climb­ing down the lad­der.

Nobby Odd-job glares at my hus­band.

“I told him he needed to test them first. He wouldn’t lis­ten.”

So they de­cide to plug in the lights be­fore the of­fi­cial “switch on” by DJ Land­lord and Mrs Plum later this evening.

Nobby Odd-job takes the plug and puts it into the se­cret socket. Only Christ­mas lights or­gan­is­ers know where this goes and where the power comes from. As far as I’m con­cerned, it’s magic.

“Ta-da!” he says as the lights come on. And then promptly go off again.

“Bloom­ing things,” Mr Grigg says. “I told you we should have tested them.”

Nobby Odd-job lets out a sigh of ex­as­per­a­tion big­ger than Devon.

This hap­pens ev­ery year, so you think we would have learned by now. Still, it’s all part of the joy of the buildup to Christ­mas, as we get out the fes­tive dec­o­ra­tions, dust them off and dec­o­rate our vil­lage.

As Mr Grigg and Nobby Odd-job go back to the draw­ing board, I squeak down the vil­lage green in my DMS and watch as Cham­pagne Char­lie is up a lad­der while his wife, Bub­bles, barks in­struc­tions on how the tree lights need to be evenly dis­trib­uted.

“Yes, dear,” he says, obliv­i­ous.

Across the road, Mrs Ban­croft is wait­ing pa­tiently for Nobby Odd-job and Mr Grigg to put up three trees in front of her house.

“You could be there for some time,” I say, point­ing to the ker­fuf­fle go­ing on up on the green. The tree is shak­ing more than ever and, strangely, ap­pears to be curs­ing.

“By the way,” I say to Mrs Ban­croft, throw­ing a metaphor­i­cal peb­ble into a pond and watch­ing for the rip­ples to ap­pear, “I’ve bought my­self a set of coloured lights. I’m fed up to the back teeth with the white ones we have ev­ery year.”

Mrs Ban­croft, the gate­keeper of good taste, lets out a sigh of ex­as­per­a­tion big­ger than York­shire. ■

It’s time to dust off the dec­o­ra­tions.

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