Christmas (De)Lights

Yes, I know it’s coming up to Christmas, even if the storm whatever it’s called that’s howling outside seems to think it’s October or November!

My wife insisted that it’s time for a real Christmas tree to go up in the Living Room. I agree, though it’s a tough ask to expect a Christmas tree to last all December, and a bit of January without shedding all its needles just when it’s supposed to look at it best. I’m a bit of a grouch, aren’t I?

Once the tree’s up, then the fun starts. Dressing a Tree wasn’t part of my training as a child, I don’t think. Maybe I would do bits of that job with/for my parents, but certainly not plan or design anything.

I went into Science at secondary school, rather than Arts, so I just don’t know what looks good on a tree, and what doesn’t – or most importantly why. Getting the tree standing straight is a major ask – dressing it attractively is a different issue entirely.

I recall a couple of years ago (before Covid) grand-daughter Lucy, on seeing my efforts with our christmas tree, removed all the tinselly strings that I had loaded the tree with and replaced them in a beautiful horizontal manner that made the tree look professional. I was really grateful, and overawed!

A significant part of the attractiveness of a tree involves the lights. These days they are apparently foolproof. In my day if one light failed, none of them worked (though I did have to throw away one ancient set of lights this year that I had stored from a previous Christmas, and that now didn’t work) That’s a very modern approach by me – though not very planet-saving.

One thing I was taught by my father, and significantly failed to learn, was that to do a task well, one has to do the preparation/foundation stuff carefully. With our many sets of lights, I’m afraid that I stuffed them into a box, as they came off last year’s tree – not exactly ‘organised’.

As the photo below shows, this does mean that next year (i.e. this one) the start point of the new arrangement involves a preparatory task that I should have done last year – getting the lights into a linear order. There seemed to be a few masses of wires clumped together rather like those virus clumps of branches and leaves that you see on diseased trees.

I adopted a strategy, well several strategies in sequence after each one failed, to tease out the lines of lights. It took a while, and several times I thought that there might not be a solution. I managed to make some of the tangles smaller, and even got the odd one to disappear entirely.

Falling back on my scientific training I tried to recall String Theory, which I’m sure would have helped if I put the effort in to try to understand it. Eventually, Yorkshire grit and determination, supported by the incredible loss of face I’d experience if I failed,  I got it sorted – and then put the lights up (with no apparent plan)

What do you think? Not bad, Eh? Well at least it’s done.

Now all I’ve got to do is see if I can get some, or better, all, of the lights to stop flashing in the multitude of sequences at different frequencies – otherwise I’ll have to watch TV in another room – It’ll drive me mad…

Happy Christmas!

4 thoughts on “Christmas (De)Lights

  1. Denis Cleaver

    For an IT man David, very commendable tree as seen by the eyes of a technical man. Same problem as you David, wife has decided that we will not attend the Church (Pannal) Carol Service. Just have our neighbours in hence will I arrange for the live Youtube presentation to be shown on the TV rather than our iPads.

  2. David James Graham

    A real Christmas Tree with roots.
    Now that’s the type of Tree to have at Christmas.
    We bought one in late 1979 and planted it in a large pot complete with garden soil.
    And we kept the soil moist over the Christmas and New Year period, before I planted it out in our central flower border. We thought it might grow, as it did have roots and hadn’t lost many needles.
    Wow, did it grow! Slowly at first due to the shock of it’s uplifting, positioning in a warm indoors, and planting out again.
    But it grew to 40 foot high.
    We called it the name of our oldest son, who was born in 1979.

    Over the years, our garden has been dry in summer, wet in summer, and sodden in summer, and the tree must have become confused. After all, it was in Harrogate, and planted in heavy clay soil without drainage (thanks to Harrogate Council’s planning policy of allowing additional soak-aways from bigger roofs in our area.) Trees pump water, don’t you know – even when they’ve got no leaves in Winter!!!!
    The tree started to look a bit thin maybe 10 years ago, and tree roots appeared above the level of our lawn.
    I was too slow to act:

    The above-surface roots were in the way when someone stepped back after weeding the flower border, resulting in a trip, a badly-broken ankle, and a badly-damaged shoulder.
    But did we give up?
    Of course we didn’t! We’re Yorkshire after all.

    A few years later, we did gave up. It wasn’t an attractive tree anymore, and was overshadowed by a rampant tree in a nearby unkempt garden.
    We got a man in.
    The tree was reduced to 30 cm thick “coins” and a load of shredded bits.

    Over the next two years, we dried the tree coins in the summer on our garden path and now we have a bonanza:
    5 years-worth of wood for our occasionally used Baxi fire, and the wood burns without smoke.

    Now that’s what I call the real celebration of Christmas.

    (A bit off-topic I know, but nobody else seems to post anything much on this site, despite David P’s and David C’s best efforts)

    P.S. I did grow some Christmas Trees from seeds. Got them free from Northallerton.
    Remember, I’m Yorkshire.
    They grew to about 6 ft.
    And I gave Two away on Freegle.
    One of the takers was so enthused at the smell of the tree in his lounge that he came back and gave me £20 for the tree.
    Then he came back and gave me another £20 for the third tree, which his 65-yer-old girlfriend wanted.
    In case you wonder, even Yorkshire men have a heart!
    I gave the money to St.Michaels’s Hospice shop on Leeds Road.
    I’m not very mean really.

  3. D Graham

    Members must be shy.
    I had an email from a Probus member asking how i put the Christmas Tree “coins” onto a Baxi fire.
    Baxi fires and Vulcan boilers were commonplace in the 1950’s houses built in the desirable south part of Harrogate, and my emailer must have wondered how I got 50cm wide and 30 cm thick “coins” onto the fire.
    Well, I thought I might have to use my electric chainsaw energy guzzler.
    But, I decided to put some effort into it:
    After the coins had dried out, which I assessed individually by their weight, I took them down to the paved section of our garden near the compost heap. I gave them a clout with my axe to form a groove, and the clouted them somewhat more using a Lump Hammer impacting the top of the axe.
    It was quite loud of course, but the children next door didn’t complain too much after I asked them to stop their shrieking and shouting.
    It was surprisingly easy, but I’ve still got 15 coins which are wet & heavy and therefore hard to chop.
    It’s a job for this summer.

  4. D Graham

    Ah, I did have another question about how well the 1979 tree with roots survived in our warm lounge.
    We kept the soil reasonably moist and just as now, we didn’t overheat our house.
    Jumpers and fleeces during the Winter and all that!
    The soil itself was selected from the very best and most friable soil we had in our inherited garden.

    But watering the Christmas tree pot had its own problems.
    We didn’t do it often enough to keep the soil consistently moist.

    The consequence was WORMS.
    One day I came down to make our morning tea and I found worms crawling across our lounge carpet from the tree.
    That wasn’t very nice, since all of them were on their last legs and a bit dried out.

    If there ever is a next time, I’ll use sterilised bagged soil for a Christmas tree pot.
    A bit expensive, but no horrid works of course.


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