Our Christmas Tree is the story of us
I like to wait till December is in double figures before starting to get ready for Christmas. Granted, it makes for a ridiculously frantic fortnight, but that intensity adds to the magic. On Saturday morning we got the boxes down from the loft and decorated the tree. It’s a real tree, bought, as ever, direct from the farm.
Our trip to the Black Isle to choose the tree, then to haul it home and bring it and its fresh piney fragrance into the living room, is the official start of the season. That, and the Eden Court panto, of course.
Once the tree has been unwrapped, and is relaxing back into shape, we open the Christmas boxes to unpack the memories that have been infused into our eclectic, taste-free, assortment of decorations.
The story of our lives
They tell the story of our lives together, starting with a well-repaired set of 24 tiny wooden toys, bought to decorate our first tiny tree. They must be 35 years old now. Every year we have acquired new additions, and there’s still one surviving paper-plate angel, preciously and proudly brought home from nursery over 20 years ago.
She presides, squint-eyed, over a garishly coloured army of decorations, either picked up on holiday, or gifted by friends, and family – some even knitted by an aunt who is no longer with us. Others were bought at craft fairs and Christmas stalls as the notion struck. The origins of some are now a mystery. But they all have their place.
This year’s addition is a green pottery tree, chosen from a shop in Annecy on a day that must have reached 32C. It so perfectly matches the colour of the tree that we can barely see it. But next year, when it’s unwrapped again, we’ll be taken straight back to France. In our minds, at least.
It’s a representation of our imperfect family
Our Christmas tree could never be described as classy, nor is it particularly Insta-worthy. But it represents what Christmas has become, which is a joyous mixture of all of us, our imperfections and foibles, our shared history, our messy, complicated lives. With Mr Marr and Daughter #1 living away from home, we can’t all get together very often. But certain things are sacred, and our Christmas traditions rank highly in that.
Which means it’s about quiet times, as well as parties. It’s about watching movies (Elf, for preference), with a glass of port, and the Stilton jar passing amongst us. We dive into the cheese with teaspoons. It’s about marzipan stars on top of home-made mince pies, about stockings stuffed with pants, socks, and chocolates, and queueing up on Christmas morning in height order (smallest first – that’s now me!) to see whether Santa has been. And it’s about candles and fairly lights, and fire, all shining light into dark winter days.
Blink, and we’ll be putting the decorations back into the loft for another 11 months. I’m already looking forward to unpacking their treasures next year.
Inverness International Airport
I was working in London last week and my clients sent a car to collect me at the airport. The driver would be waiting with a board with my name on it, and I’m a little embarrassed to share how much this made me feel like a proper grown-up. Surely only important people have their names on little boards?
So, I came through arrivals with an extra spring in my step, to be met with a sea of drivers and boards, but not one bearing my name. I waited. And I waited some more. Then I called my client, and they gave me the driver’s number. I rang him.
Half an hour later, we found each other – he’d been asked to meet a passenger coming in on a flight from Inverness, so was waiting in International Arrivals.
International? A flight from Scotland? Maybe one day, but not quite yet.
Evidence, at last.
George the Plumber has been round a lot recently; our heating has been playing up. Not handy when, as I type, the temperature outside is -6C.
But George left me a toy to play with – his infrared thermal imaging gun. Officially I’m supposed to record the temperatures in each room to check how the system is performing. Unofficially I’ve been pointing it at everything that moves, and lots of things that don’t.
Finally, I have evidence of something I’ve long suspected, which is that I do feel the cold more than Mr Marr does. Scientific proof of my need for heated cycling gloves, warmer radiators and heated insoles for my ski boots. I rest my case, M’Lud.
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