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Wednesday, 4 December 2013
DO YOU KNOW HOW CHRISTMAS TREES ARE GROWN?
My living-room at Christmas some years ago
Or made, even? In the case of the one I brought down from my loft a few days ago, it's made of bristle 'branches' entwined by wire attached to a wooden 'stem', from which the branches unfold to display the tree to best effect - only to be folded back against the stem when it's time for it to return to the loft for another year. At least, that was the process originally. However, the wire is now far too frail to withstand continual bending (and has been for many a year), so is simply covered with a bag before being returned to its accustomed place in the attic.
The tree is older than me and has graced every house I've ever lived in. However, about a quarter of a century ago, some of the branches were missing, having snapped off over its vast lifespan when the wire had become fatigued past the point of flexibility. Also, some of the little red beads at the end of each branch had become detached and were long lost to the shadows of many a Christmas past. Then, one day, while walking past an OXFAM shop, I espied my tree's twin in the window. I soon acquired it, and then used it to replace the missing branches and beads on my own tree.
Standing back to admire the results of my restoration work some time later, my eyes fell upon the sorry remnants of the cannibalised tree which I had so heartlessly lured to its doom, and I was suddenly consumed by an overwhelming sense of guilt. The tree had trusted me, had accompanied me willingly, believing itself welcomed into the bosom of a new family whose Christmases it would happily share every year from that point on - only to be ripped apart and cast aside upon arrival in its new home. I felt like a murderer. So eager had I been to restore my old tree, I'd hardly considered the act of cruelty I was inflicting upon its doppelganger.
Oo-er - the dog's up on the settee again
It could not be - it should not be - itwould not be! What could I do however, to reverse my thoughtless act of wanton vandalism on the innocent tree and redeem myself, not only in my own eyes, but those of the grieving Spirits of Christmases past, present and future? A future now seemingly denied the tree I had plundered for spare parts. Then I noticed something about the base of the tree, which, in all ways but one, was the double of the other, and hope rose in my now remorseful heart.
Both bases were portions of logs into which the tree-stems were sunk. The logs had then been painted red with gold highlights applied in places over the bark. However, although each tree was the same size (or had been until my 'surgical' intervention), the 'new' base was a fair bit thinner and therefore seemed, compared to its 'twin', out of proportion to its height. Had the tree been smaller, it would have been a much better match for its base.
A close-up of 'Junior'
That was the answer. I would use the remnants of the ruined tree to build a smaller one more in keeping with the size of its base. I carefully 'operated' on the leftover branches, making sure that each tier reduced in length from the bottom up, so that the natural fir tree shape was maintained. The original stem had splintered when I had removed the branches for transplanting into my first tree, so I bought a replacement pole from a D.I.Y. shop, wood-stained it, carefully drilled holes at regular intervals to accommodate the surviving customised branches - and hey, presto - one mini-Christmas tree, approximately half the size of its original dimensions and looking for all the world as if it had always been that way!
Every Christmas since (approximately 25 or 26), both trees have shared Yuletide duties in my living-room, the original in the front half and 'Junior' on top of the TV in the back half - each with their own set of lights to pierce the descending darkness of December late-afternoons. And thus shall it ever be until my last Christmas on earth - and if they should survive my passing, some kindly stranger, perhaps seeing them in a charity shop window, will take them both home to brighten the Christmases of a new family for many a long year to come.