O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree - a tall (tree) story
It’s nearly Christmas and I’m getting in the mood for buying the tree and getting the lights out. One year though, I bit off more than I could chew ...
It was our third year in this house and feeling flush, Hubs and I decided to get a really big tree. I mean big.
After doing a bit of shopping one Saturday afternoon, not long before the day itself, we tootled into a Christmas barn just down the road. We’d bought trees from them before. Craig, the owner, was as big as a tree himself and I had a bit of a crush on him, despite (or maybe because of) the fact he was permanently dressed in overalls and woolly hat.
When he clocked us and hearing our request for a really tall tree, Craig claimed he had something really special in mind. I think his actual words were, ‘I’ve got something huge for you,’ at which I blushed furiously.
All we needed to do, he said, was drive further up the lane, where we’d find a gate. We were to park up and wait.
This we did. We sat in the car for a while, enjoying the rural view. Then, getting impatient, we got out. It was freezing! A wind whipped over the top of the hill and sliced through the thin suede jacket I’d thought perfectly fine for an afternoon’s shopping.
As we turned to get back into the car and go home, a quad-bike towing a trailer roared up the field. A very tall, very bulky young man got off.
‘You the folks Craig sent?’ he asked, in ringing tones.
Nodding, we went over to him and through the gate into the field.
‘Get on then.’
As Craig hadn’t said what to expect, we assumed we were being taken, by his hunky colleague, to another barn where the ‘special trees’ were kept. Hubs and I clambered aboard the trailer and crouched down, trying in vain not to get muddy.
‘I’m Shane,’ said the hunk and flung a thickly muscled leg over the quad-bike. ‘Hang on.’
You’d think Shane would respect his elders, clutching onto the rail of a trailer being bumped over a sodden Herefordshire field, wouldn’t you? Not a bit of it. Hubs and I were taken on a teeth-rattling ride, at top speed (well, as fast as a quad-bike can go) for about three hours.
Alright, I exaggerate. It was probably twenty minutes.
Eventually and thankfully, we stopped.
‘Here we are,’ said our chauffeur.
Here we were – where?
We’d stopped in the middle of the field. By now, the light was going. Straining against the dark, I looked round for a barn, or at least some netted up trees ready to be taken to the shop, on the main road.
Actually, there were trees. Lots of them. And they were pines alright – and they all had their roots firmly planted deep in the ground. And there was mud. Lots of it. Sticky, red, Herefordshire mud. I tried not to look at my ankle boots. Shane, I noticed, had on wellies.
He disappeared behind one of the largest trees and returned with a chainsaw.
The afternoon was now taking a slightly surreal turn.
‘Right guys, you ready, then?’ Shane revved the saw and grinned, his teeth gleaming malevolently in the gloom.
I looked at Hubs and wasn’t reassured to see him looking as terrified as I felt.
Shane came closer. We retreated backwards, stumbling over the rough ground. Just what was going on?
Having visions of headlines in the local paper shouting, ‘Couple Murdered in Christmas Chainsaw Massacre’, I prodded Hubs. ‘Ask him what we’re supposed to do,’ I hissed.
Shane heard me. His face fell. ‘Didn’t Craig explain?’ He jerked the alarming chainsaw towards the darkening field. ‘You wanted an extra tall tree,’ he said. ‘You go and choose one and I’ll fell it for you.’
The relief, dear reader, was enormous.
However, our ordeal was far from over. By this time we were frozen through and filthy with mud. It had also begun to sleet. My suede coat! Shane, I noticed, was wearing a thick donkey jacket.
Hubs and I cast about for a suitable tree. ‘That one,’ we said in unison and pointed to the nearest. The sooner we chose a tree, the sooner we could get to a seat in front of a roaring fire in the pub.
‘You sure, guys?’ said our chainsaw bearing hunk, doubtfully.
We nodded, as best we could, as we were now numb with cold.
‘Okay,’ he replied and began to saw at the trunk.
It travelled back with us, in the trailer, its soaked and muddy branches flailing at our faces.
Once home we managed, after a fashion, to attach it to a stand and put it up in the hall. It was certainly a tall tree. And it was certainly special – it had a dog-leg bend halfway up and leaned, perilously to the right. To stop it falling over, I tied it to the banisters with some unprepossessing and very unfestive string.
I looked at Hubs. He looked at me. We noted our cold reddened noses, the smears of mud on our faces, the twigs and dead leaves in our hair. And we agreed. Next year we’d get an artificial one!
Whatever your tree is like, I wish you a Very Merry Christmas!
Author Bio:I used to live in London, where I worked in the theatre. Then I got the bizarre job of teaching road safety to the U.S. navy – in Marble Arch!
A few years ago, I did an ‘Escape to the Country’. I now live in a tiny Herefordshire village, where I scandalise the neighbours by not keeping ‘country hours’ and being unable to make a decent pot of plum jam. Home is a converted oast house, which I share with my two beloved spaniels, husband (also beloved) and a ghost called Zoe.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel widely, though prefer to set my novels closer to home. Perhaps more research is needed? I’ve always wanted to base a book in the Caribbean!
I am addicted to Belgian chocolate, Jane Austen and, most of all, Strictly Come Dancing. Keep dancing, everyone!
Harper Impulse http://www.harperimpulseromance.com/
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