Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas From Buttonwood Bay

So the tree has been up for weeks (3 ft plastic jobbie with built in fibre optic lights), the decorations have been falling down and been put up again for the same period of time and now the pressies have been laid out around the base and the stockings have been filled.

In a couple of hours it'll be Christmas Day (it has been for 3 hrs in Leeds already but MY Christmas Day starts wherever I happen to be, so there) and I'm all a twitter. It's easy to be a bit bah humbug about it all at some time in December, or even in August when the commercials seem to start, but like with a lot of events, I get more and more into it as the great day draws closer.

But it's not how it was when I "were a lad" and that's a jolly good thing too. I grew up in sepia world and we were sooooo poor that we couldn't even afford a Christmas tree. My dad would snip a few cuttings from the big tree in the foyer of the local Barclays Bank. Well its Head Office used to send us a leaflet every November urging us to make use of their branches at Christmastime and dad thought it only fair to take them up on their offer.

This wasn't the only thing my dad took literally.

On Christmas morning he used to tape non safety matches to these branches and call my brother and I into the living room for the grand "lighting of the tree" ceremony. I vividly remember the subsequent explosion of light and heat and our eager faces would glow with an eerie phosphorus luminescence that thankfully only lasted long enough to gently singe our eyebrows. It didn't do much for the tree either but then it hadn't been all that impressive to start with.

Being Catholic, we did have a crib though. Well when I say a crib, I really mean an old tomato box that dad had "rescued" from the dumpster behind the Ballymoney Co-op the previous summer.

"This'll make a cracking crib" he said, suddenly displaying a depth of visionary skill that had lain dormant up until then.

"A bit of straw from the bales in your Uncle Albert's barn and it'll look like a crib from that 'arrods store." (Dad liked to go a bit Oliver Twist at Christmas)

We weren't convinced.

Come the day and even after several applications of Dulux Bethlehem Beige to cover the bright red DELMONTE TOMATOES name, the box still looked more like something John Noakes had thrown together rather than Valerie Singleton. Dad was beaming with ill disguised pride and would start to add the crib characters one by one, talking to them as if they were real people and animals somehow shrunk for his benefit.

"Come on, Mary. I'll put The Baby in next, don't you worry now", he'd say to the inanimate object that was supposed to represent the Mother of Jesus as he gently placed her onto the straw.

In fact it was a GI Joe that he'd pinched from my toy collection, removed its helmet and gun, painted it light brown over the standard camouflage green and finally covered it with an old rag as he'd seen "The Greatest Story Ever Told" about 10 times and was an authority on Middle Eastern clothing circa zero BC.

In fact all the crib characters were reconditioned GI Joes and the animals were plasticine models he'd made himself and which bore little or no resemblance to any animal ever mentioned in the bible. We were from a farming community so even as kids, my brother and I just knew that sheep didn't have 6 legs and that a cow like the one in our crib would've been put down at birth if it had existed in real life.

Dad was at least sensible enough not to try and light the crib in the same way as the tree and this ensured that it survived to give us joy and educational entertainment for many years.

He'd have loved our Florida fibre optic tree. What an invention. Out of the box, plug it in and voila.........the tree is sorted.

But where is the magic ? Where is the wonder ? Where is the fire extinguisher ?

It's just not the same.

And we don't seem to have cribs anymore. They were probably only a Hollywood invention anyway. I still like the idea of a transvestite GI Joe though. Maybe a tad contoversial having one as the Mother of Jesus but my dad was a man ahead of his time. A sort of Mel Gibson of his day.

So I hope you're having a wonderful Christmas Day wherever you are. Be it a secular or religious occasion for you, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that you've read my little post today and I thank you for that.

I'm off to bed and in a few hours I may rush out to check if Santa has paid us a visit. I somehow doubt it but then in this park, it's not unusual to spot a fat old man with a bushy white beard. It can be very confusing at this time of year.

Happy Christmas to one and all.

1 comment:

Daphne said...

Happy Christmas from Leeds.
There's just something about this post that suggests that you've lived in Yorkshire for quite a long time.

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