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One, Two, Tree…

December 14, 2009

Yesterday, finally, we bought our Christmas tree.

We weren’t able to purchase it last weekend as our corner of the globe found itself in the middle of a two week rain storm and you just can’t buy a Christmas tree in the rain, can you?  Yesterday, the rain cleared and the cold arrived for real.  We set off to the tree seller’s on foot as it’s less than quarter of a mile away but I insisted that we go the back route as I was in full ‘tracksiut and slip-on trainers’ Waynetta Slob mode.  There was a real danger of bumping into someone we know as the area we live in is very international and it’s such a small village. I hadn’t even brushed my hair since getting up.

The tree sellers in this country take up residence on the corners of busy shopping streets, appropriating a few parking spaces for occupation by their trees and caravan.  The children made what proved to be an excellent choice of tree, which I managed to get for €10 less than the original price quoted by Pikey Tree-Seller No. 1.  As soon as you open your mouth and they hear the non-native Dutch customer, you run the risk of paying over the odds for anything that doesn’t have a price tag firmly attached.  It’s the over-paid-and-over-here mentality and is oft seen as something to take advantage of.  We looked round a little longer and settled on the first tree we had selected and asked its price again from Pikey Tree-Seller No. 2, who quoted the lower price.  Thus in a sweetly ironic twist of fate, the tree-sellers became victims of their own dubious methods.

We carried the tree home, set it up in the living room and left it to ‘settle’ overnight.  It is a surprisingly beautiful tree,  triangular and symmetrical and still smelling of Alpine forests, which I am sure is where it comes from.

Today, I spent the whole afternoon decorating the house.  Fourteen helped – she did most of the tree after I had had my annual strop about the lights and how difficult they are – and a beautiful and artistic job she made of it.  I created some sparkly and, let’s face it, quite cheesey, snowy scenes in the fireplaces with lights and glitter and all manner of kitsch things, I hung baubles on red ribbon from the chandeliers and strung tinsel garlands across doorways and mirrors.  Strings of star-shaped lights hang between the living room and dining room and vivid red poinsettias add the final touches.  Ten ran away right from the start without hanging a single bauble, although not before asking if he could eat one of the chocolates destined to hang on the tree.

I noticed Husband had gone very quiet and slightly mono-syllabic – usually a sign that something is wrong – and so asked whether all was ok, only to be met with the response that he found the whole decorating fiasco a bit of a nightmare and very stressful.  I was slightly stunned.

‘Stressful?  But you’re not doing it, I am,’ would have been an apt response but instead I did a reasonable impression of a gold fish for a second (mouth silently opening and closing) while I tried to digest and make sense of this comment.

‘What about me?’ was my inadequate response.

“But you enjoy doing it,’ came the reply.

Hmmm… that’s not quite how I would put it.  The whole task of decorating the house is stressful in the extreme, to the point where I am filled with dread upon waking on the morning of Decorating Day.  I see the whole project looming in front of me like a huge snowy mountain or a nasty rash – it sits there, all big and impossible to conquer, slightly threatening, a little bit irritating and definitely not going anywhere until the job is done.  I have to grit my teeth and try my hardest to remain civil with the family and try to make it all seem like fun, whilst inside a raging storm is threatening to give my farcical act away by manifesting in the form of steam coming out of my ears and the top of my head blowing off in the manner of cartoon characters.

Do it we did, though, and the house looks very Christmassy for it.

I did not, however, make it home from the tree-sellers without spotting an ex-colleague of mine from my previous place of work.  This man is tall and handsome, dresses well and even smells expensive.  His wife, whom I saw with him as I skulked behind the trees, is cut of the same cloth – beautiful, chic and elegant.  I have not seen him in over a year and point blank refused to let him see me in the People of Walmart condition I had allowed myself to wallow in all morning and then had the gall to appear in in public.  I could just imagine him going to work on Monday in a state of shock at my disheveled appearance, reporting that he had “seen Purplejake at the weekend and my god did she look awful.  I guess things haven’t been going so well since she left…. Has she been ill, do you know?”

Lesson learnt: never, ever go out of the house looking like a bag lady, even if it’s only to buy milk from the corner shop.

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