Saturday, 19 December 2009

Blue tinsel

Perhaps it's the bitter cold or the recession. Perhaps I've missed - or avoided - most of the good Christmas displays. But Christmas decorations seem a little sparse this year.

I don't mind a lack of decoration - it makes the good displays I discover more delightful. I was cheered to find that this year's moving displays in Town Hall Square, Leicester show Paddington Bear and friends and a lively Christmas scene from Wind in the Willows where even the stoats and weasels are having a happy, if malevolent, time. There's the usual nativity tableau as well. Outsiders sometimes assume that Leicester downplays the religious elements of Christmas but posters advertise both the religious festival and the secular feast. Even Advent celebrations (at the cathedral, I think) were proclaimed on official posters.

I don't remember any decorations at Nottingham Contemporary when I made a return visit but there were real carol-singers: the choir of St. Mary's in the Lacemarket. They were dressed in everyday clothes and standing in the gift shop, books of music on the floor before them. I came upon them as they were half-way through "Silent Night" inGerman. It's not my favourite carol but the beauty of the voices held me. I stood to hear a succession of traditional carols from "Hark the herald angels" with descant to "Adam lay y-bounden." As they finished and I went out into the winter dark, I felt more in tune with Christmas than I have for many years.

The memory of the carols helped me through the crowded shops. The queues haven't been long this year - I hardly had to wait in the Post Office when I took my parcels to be weighed and stamped. Perhaps that's why I didn't pause to observe the decorations.

But I have noticed one trend - or perhaps it's a trend from previous years that I didn't notice before. Every so often I encounter blue decorations: blue trees, blue fairy lights and blue tinsel. Gardens that were once bright with white or coloured fairy lights now glow ominously in the falling snow. Walking through streets, I find I'm watching out for faint blue sparkles rather than the old-fashioned red and green. Perhaps blue is supposed to be tasteful. I prefer cheerful vulgarity.

I haven't seen many Christmas tree lights shining through house windows. This strikes me as strange - but that's absurd. As usual, I'm late with decorations. Our decorations are still in the roof and I'm unlikely to get the tree sorted before Christmas Eve.

I'll get the cards up soon. I've enjoyed opening Christmas cards this year. I like seeing the designs friends have chosen or created, reading the messages and hearing snippets of news from the past year. I wish I'd written more in the cards I sent and that my handwriting was better.

Perhaps I should buy some new tinsel for the tree and even a couple of new decorations. I hope I can find things in red, green and gold for my slightly tatty dark-green artificial tree. It won't be tasteful at all but it might be quite cheerful. It may even remind me of my childhood and add some extra comfort as I continue reading Les Misérables.

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