Tedious fairy lights-attaching stage.

Advent Mouse grapples – rather admirably, I’d say – with the needly issue of festooning the tree with now fully-restored fairy lights (unlike most households, Advent Mouse’s House actually contained a spare, functioning bulb – extracted, with minimal fuss and a few mere hours of hunting, from the matrix of kitchen-drawer-category ‘stuff’ betwixt its four walls – to replace the unco-operatively dead one):

There was always a distinct, hierarchical structure to the installation and decking of the Christmas Tree in our family, although – somewhat perversely – it was always the most disagreeable elements of the process that were apportioned to the more senior, responsible (i.e. sensible) members (I say perversely, because – although I remember the system working v. gratifyingly in our favour as children – I have an uncomfortable suspicion that – without consultation or agreement – these roles all now fall within my remit…): dad hauled the tree into the living room and did all the required ‘fettling’ to make the damn thing stand up straight in its as-yet distinctly un-festive bucket – this usually involved an assortment of stones, a small hacksaw and some rather florid language; it was then mum who was tasked with attaching the (invariably) partially functioning string of fairy lights to the branches in such a way that an even distribution of little, winking lights was achieved (and this, in the early years, with cat-resistant security).

Mum was always responsible for the lights, due in no small part to her being the only one with the infinite patience and dexterity required by the job – it often took, well, ages, as she meticulously positioned (and then re-positioned), fixed (and then re-fixed) each of the 40 (and once, ne’er to be repeated, 80) bulbs, with one of those paper-encased wire food-bag fasteners, in a zig-zag configuration –  from the angel-skirt-illuminating top to the lowest branches . There’d frequently be an unfortunate miscalculation of reach, when the last ‘zag’ would end on the opposite side of the tree to the location of the power socket – necessitating, at best, a re-jigging of the previous 10 bulbs and, at worst, the previous 39 – but it was crucial to the rest of the evening that one fought the urge to interject with ‘helpful’ advice as to where the next bulb should rest (or worse, where the previous one might have been better placed…). This episode in the tree-decking saga was usually characterized by frighteningly staccato tutting, as opposed to the (comparably reassuring) mild swearing of the installation stage, and best occupied by everyone else in making tea and plating up a delicious Calm Mince Pie or two for wordless presentation when we heard the ‘Gah!’ denoting completion (being careful to listen for the appropriate timbre – interrupting proceedings on the strength of a misdiagnosed ‘Gah’ could have disastrous consequences…).

Never, though, was there any sitting atop shoulders to attach the highest bulbs – which looks rather more fun than standing on a kitchen chair, but would not have represented a practical solution in our family if these traditional decorating roles were to be observed…

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About illustratedbyamanda

Illustrator and time-fritterer extraordinaire
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