Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"How lovely are your branches"

In London, we used to go to a flower market , buy bagels, drink coffee and pay a nice coster man for a 6 foot tree "guaranteed not to drop its needles eva." Last year, we drove out to a farm and looked round a barn where dozens of trees dangled from the rafters and all I could think of were hanged men swaying gently in the breeze. Quite took the edge of the festive jollity. This year, my husband went in the Saab with the four-year-old and I went in the Volvo with the six-year-old, baby girl and a neighbour; we drove alongside hoar frosted fields to a forest where we stumbled around avoiding wolves and looking for the perfect tree. I was slightly worried we might all freeze to death or get eaten while my husband decided which one he was willing to take home with him. (Chosing a tree is one of those things he takes an inordinate amount of time over. Rapt, he will burble endlessly about size and symmetry and the straightness of the trunk - I think it must be a male thing.) With a whole forest to chose between, I thought that if the weather and animals did not kill us first, we risked being there till Easter. Time for decisiveness.

"That one looks lovely," I said pointing to a tree. (It was a tree - how different can one be from the next?) My husband eyed it with some scepticism but it was straight and true and did not run away. We took turns to saw it down with a handy jagged toothed hacksaw and, in between, sang carols. I could not hear other families singing carols but I want my children to have memories of Christmas to last them a lifetime. Memories like "Do you remember how you always used to embarass us by singing carols when we chopped down the Christmas tree? By the way, why couldn't we just buy a tree like normal people?" We dragged it back to the car, paid £15 to a chilly looking man in a metal container who bagged it up for us in a large net before strapping it to the car with twine. It was dark by the time we had done.


My husband pulled off first and I followed closely behind. We went on back roads for a while to avoid drawing attention to the tree. We pulled out on to the A1. (This road is the main route along the East Coast of England between London and Scotland. Long sections in Northumberland are single carriageway. Juggernauts use it. Tractors and caravans use it. Everyone who lives up here and wants to go anywhere uses it. No one from the Department for Transport has ever used it or it would all be dual carriageway. To turn off it, you have to cross high speed traffic coming in the opposite direction. Depending on the junction, you put the brakes on thinking something like: "Dear God let the car behind notice I have stopped in the middle of the road and don't let the car behind him try to overtake right now."



We were about two thirds of the way home when my husband started signalling right, slowed down then came to a halt in a narrow shadow island in the middle of the road. I drew up behind him. He put his hazard lights on and sat there. Lorries and cars hurtled by. I thought: "He must be turning right because the tree is about to fall off and has put his hazards on to warn everyone." But he did not turn right. We waited to see what would happen next. Nothing happened. He did not move off. My friend cautiously opened her door and got out of our car. She went up to his. More lorries hurtled by. I thought: "I have two children in this car. If a lorry piles into the back of me, we will all die." She sidled back. She said: "He's broken down." She went back to my husband and together they extracted my four-year-old from the passenger side of the Saab and ran across the road with him. I thought: "OK, that is one of them safe." I pulled my car across and drove a little way down the farm track. My husband said: "The engine is dead. I will have to push the car across the carriageway." I thought: "The children are alright and now he's going to get himself killed and we're going to be right here to see it. The car has a Christmas tree on top; the story is going to be "Tragic Dad in Christmas Tree Pile-Up Horror." At that moment, a 4X4 drew up and a farmer got out to see if he could help. He drove back onto the A1 and swung his car round so its full beam headlights lit up our stranded Saab. He got out and crossed into the middle of the road; he pushed our car off the A1 while my husband steered. I thought: "Next year, I'm going fibre optic."

19 comments:

Flat Out said...

crikey. glad all are well. i still get freaked by the signs up and down that bit of the A1 informing me how many people have been killed on that particular stretch of the road over the past however long...

Sweet Irene said...

A scary Christmas story, but with a happy ending. You just mustn't break down in traffic like that! I assume he made it home safely and that he is now snuggled warmly beside you in bed. Merry Christmas, hope the tree is beautiful!

DogLover said...

There's something fishy about this story: Saabs never break down...

I Beatrice said...

You go through all that - you have a great big hero of a farmer in a 4X4 pull up to rescue you - and all you can say is "Next year I'm going fibre-optic"!

Where's your Christmas spirit, Wifey? Where's your sense of romance come to that?

That sort of thing would never, but simply NEVER happen on the North Circular you know!

debio said...

Sorry to dwell on detail, WITN, but how come the tree cost only 15GBP?

I am astounded, amazed. The last tree I bought in the UK was about 40GBP!

Almost worth moving up North??

dollshouselin said...

A merry, happy, peaceful.......hmmmm.but ever so slightly bonkers Christmas , at least from the viewpoint of those of us who have so enjoyed sharing in that wonderful creative brain of yours.A huge metaphorical candle lit in hope some divine/ drunken inspiration will occur re the big decision.Enjoy the littlies on behalf of those of us who wish we could have those times again.Keep chatting up your guardian angels.they've done a great job in taking care of you.

Worrals said...

At least you didn't get lost like this poor family: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/check/player/nol/newsid_7150000/newsid_7153300?redirect=7153365.stm&news=1&bbwm=1&nbram=1&bbram=1&nbwm=1&asb=1

Stinking Billy said...

Beautiful, baby, just beautiful.

rosiero said...

Well, at least the kids REALLY do have something to remember in future. Dya remember when we chopped the tree down in the forest and Dad nearly got squashed on the A1. And to echo what debio said... trees down South cost £40 for a 6-footer. You got a bargain with suspense and mystery thrown in for free.

rosiero said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crystal Jigsaw said...

A moment of madness there. Fibre optic could definitely be the better option.

Potty Mummy said...

Gosh. Stick to home delivery I say...

tim relf said...

What about: "Bereaved relatives pine for missing dad."

Pine, get it?

Sorry!

tim relf said...

Of course, depending on the type of tree, it could also be: Neighbours spruce themselves up after death crash.

Or: Big crowd gather fir tragic send off.

Sorry again!

Ciao said...

Take care wifey that stretch of the A1 is dangerous at the best of times, Happy Christmas
Ciao

Swearing Mother said...

I've told you before, Wifey, you guys need a Range Rover. You know it makes sense!

Hope your tree is doing better than ours. We bought it on Saturday, did all the necessary anti-needle drop procedure, but most of them are on the carpet already. Grrrr.

Mopsa said...

Farmers... what a lovely breed.

mutleythedog said...

How terrible Wifey!! I wish you ALL a very good xmas and so on. Take great care and remember you are in my prayers at least.

occasional northerner said...

You really do need to sort out the whole car business! Have a very happy Christmas. Hope your tree looks great - fibre optic wouldn't touch it and your children certainly will not remember it. Having said, that after a lifetime of real ones, they sort of merge into one another in an not very memorable way.