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Monday, 8 December 2014

Decking the Halls

Have you done your Christmas decorations yet?  We’re normally amongst the last in our vicinity to do this, but this year we’re somewhat ahead of the game.  We’ve discovered that leaving it to the last weekend before Christmas is not acceptable when you have a 3 year old (going on 4) grandson making regular visits.  A bit more enthusiasm is, apparently, required.

The outcome of all this was that last Sunday I was attempting to do practical things.  This is never a good idea where I’m concerned.  I’m excused all things practical.  Nevertheless, on a bitterly cold afternoon, with the grey light fading rapidly, I could be found teetering on the top of a three-step stepladder, attempting to fix some lights to our car port in what might be laughingly called, an artistic fashion.  When I had dropped a cable clip for the twelfth time and had climbed down to pick it up again, the air surrounding me had changed to subtle shade of blue.  Little expletives, like ‘oh heck’, had matured and grown into something considerably more robust and Anglo-Saxon.  Essentially, my demeanour was that of someone being placed under considerable strain by some malign force.  I kept asking why, whatever it was, was choosing to do this to me.

In this respect, I realise that I’ve become very like my dad.  Father had little or no patience for any practical activity.  If he was nagged into doing something, we all shrank back and waited for the growing volume of put-upon expletives and the inevitable outburst of temper and frustration.  Dad, like me, had no proper tools of any sort, largely because neither I nor he would have had any clue as to what to do with them and so we’re marginally safer without.  What we did have were a motley collection of screwdrivers , along with a bunch of assorted spanners mostly emanating from bicycles past and present.  Anything that didn’t fit with any of these would be tackled with the nearest equivalent from the cutlery drawer.

Father’s wail of anguish would usually begin with an ‘Oh God!’, often before he had actually attempted anything and was merely in the contemplative stage.  This would then be repeated at regular intervals in a rising crescendo of frustration.  “I’m chokker” (which I imagine had it origins in choc-a-bloc, but basically means ‘I’m fed up’) would be a constant chorus, usually leading to a final outburst of “Oh for….” which usually closely preceded everything being thrown down and dad heading off to the pub in high dudgeon.

I wonder if the origins of all this might be found in an incident that took place before I was born?  Apparently, as they approached their first Christmas as a married couple, mother suggested to father that he might make himself useful by putting up the Christmas decorations.  This was in the days when it was the done thing to have paper streamers draped across the room.  Mum had apparently been delayed at a pre-Christmas drinks thing at the Depot where she worked on Burton Road, Branston and, unusually for her, had perhaps indulged a little too freely.  Therefore, when she got home, full of the joys of Christmas, she encountered my dad teetering on a chair (they never had a set of steps in their married life) attempting to attach a paper streamer to a wall and not in the best of humours.  It was just at this point that the drawing pin he was using must have come into contact with a barely concealed mains electric wire.  Apparently there was a flash and a bang, and dad was dumped on his derriere on the other side of the room.  All of which would have been bad enough but one of mum’s most endearing characteristics, which stayed with her all of her life, was that if she found something funny she would abandon herself to laughter, which she did on this occasion.  So, as father checked his limbs and extremities to ensure he still had the requisite amount, mum could be found dissolved into a heap of hysterical laughter on the sofa.

Whenever this story was recounted over the years (which was many), mum still found the incident hysterically funny and dad usually glowered and muttered darkly about the dangers he had braved without being appreciated.

Apparently (and I’m sorry about this) their first Christmas began with a bang and not with a streamer!