The Christmas Tree

Can there be a more joyous family occasion in the whole year than decorating the Christmas tree? Of course not. The family all gathered round. Happy, smiling children, desperately wishing the sleeps away until Santa arrives. And Mum and Dad, arms around each other, secure in the knowledge that their love is the glue that holds the family together.

“I hate you all,” screamed my wife. “You’re just selfish, ungrateful, lazy $%&*s. And if you think I’m doing any more for any of you you’re damn well mistaken.” And with that she grabbed the nearest set of car keys.

“Where are you going?”

“Out!”

“Out where?”

“I don’t know. Out. Away from you lot.”

“Are you coming back?”

“Maybe. But I wouldn’t bet on it.”

So that was that. Just us boys: Jessica was demonstrating the wisdom of a woman by being 90 miles away.

Five minutes later I had sworn at Tom, sent Ben to his bedroom and thrown a pair of pliers across the room. It was the tree’s fault. It would not stay upright. It was too big for our pathetically undersized tree holder. “Come on, Tom,” I pleaded. “You’re an engineering genius. You must be able to do this.”

He tried. He couldn’t. Whatever Tom did the only place the tree wanted to be was on the carpet. We lugged the damn thing back to the patio and – to his eternal credit – Ben hoovered up the pine needles while I wept.

Jane came back.  “Sand,” she said. “We’ll have to stand it in a bucket of sand.”

“It’s illegal to steal sand off the beach isn’t it?” I said.

“Then you’ll have to do it after dark, won’t you?”

I’ve always been under the impression that the Queen owns the sand on our nation’s beaches. Quite what Her Majesty wants with the mixture of sand, used condoms and discarded Magnum wrappers that make up most beaches I have no idea.

I made some alternative suggestions. Perhaps we could work out a rota and the children could take it in turns to hold the tree upright over the festive period? Maybe we could hang some particularly heavy baubles on one side of the tree to balance it?

My wife then made a suggestion. Specifically on where she might insert the tree if I didn’t stop being stupid and go for some sand instead.

I had demanded moral support in case I got arrested. Ben was sitting in the car: he’d refused to get out and help. “In that case sit there and send text updates to your Mother. At least she’ll know when to come and post bail.”

I pulled my collar up and trudged onto the beach. Plenty of dog-walkers and joggers. But only one person stealing sand. And there was a full moon. ‘The full moon was quite bright enough for the CCTV to identify the accused, your honour…’

I started digging. Ben started texting.

He’s digging

Sand is going in the bucket

OK it looks like the bucket is full

He’s carrying it back to the car.

No he’s not. It’s too heavy. He can’t lift it.

Now he’s taking sand out of the bucket

His lips are moving. He’s probably swearing

He’s coming back to the car.

The bucket looks really heavy. Now he’s holding his back

And his lips are moving a lot

At this point I would like to enter a plea for leniency. It was only a bucketful, Ma’am and it was a first offence. I would also like to apologise to any dog-walkers or joggers who fell in the hole I’d dug. I hope the twisted ankle doesn’t spoil your Christmas…

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it, you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 77p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here

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