In The Bleak Midwinter

At least it’s not a fridge, I say to my mother. We are just going out, and as I turn back to survey the front of the house, my eye falls on the abandoned Christmas tree sitting forlornly on the drive, waiting it out until the time in mid-January when allegedly the council will come to take away all the leftover Christmas trees and place them in some kind of environmentally friendly (I hope) Christmas tree mincer, to be turned into sustainable woodchip, or something.

Since moving into my house two years ago, I have become absurdly neurotic about how its external appearance presents to outsiders. My Christmas lights might not have been the brightest or the most ostentatious, but I hoped that they had been, in my own words, “the classiest,” as though having a real tree and some plain, non-flashing “warm white” (which could more accurately, in my case, be described as “yellow”) outdoor lights suddenly makes my early nineties former council house a candidate for a five page spread in House and Garden magazine (the nineties are back, right? Does this trend extend to houses, I wonder?) I do not wish my self-imposed standards of household elegance to be compromised by the sudden appearance of a solitary five foot fir tree lying on its side outside the living room window, especially if it gets windy and that tree starts blowing all over the street. People might start thinking I left it there wantonly on purpose, as though it was a van-load of unsightly fly tipping or a malfunctioning fridge, and I was someone who couldn’t be bothered to dispose of my household waste through the proper channels. The horror.

Still, at least it’s not a fridge. There’s nothing worse than an abandoned fridge in the garden, not even the upturned sofa that sat across the road for several months earlier in the year, and that was an offence to the eyes, I can tell you.

When I was a child, the disappearance of the tree from the corner of the room, and the return of picture frames to their bare, unadorned state, devoid of their festive tinsel outline, was without a doubt the most depressing sight of the year. Now, as an adult, I start to think about home improvements; a new carpet here, a dusting of non-Christmassy fairy lights there. Fairy lights are still allowed after 6th January, right? It’s no surprise that I added solar lights to the garden last year just as the decorations were coming down. Those lights, I note depressingly, no longer seem to work. Or perhaps there’s just not enough light these days to power them. Either way, my hopes of having solar-powered twinkly lights in the garden over Christmas came to naught.

There’s something horribly depressing about taking the Christmas decorations down. Perhaps it’s because January is notorious for being the most depressing time of the year, and the disappearance of twinkly lights and tacky tinsel makes it seem even more so. I survey the tiny green buds in the back yard that will hopefully at some point be daffodils, and wonder if I can get away with putting up Easter decorations, and if so, how early is too early? I hear the race is on for the classiest Easter decorations, perhaps a giant rotating tinfoil egg on the roof? Or would a sign saying “Easter bunny stop here” be more appropriate? Anything’s better than the sorry sight of a leftover Christmas tree in early January. Except an abandoned fridge, that is. There’s no excuse for that.

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