Chris van Schaick on the annual Christmas tree purchase

Chris van Schaick

Chris van Schaick - Credit: Archant

Chris van Schaick can map different stages in his life with the annual Christmas tree purchase - and they don’t all conjure up happy memories

Just as there are Seven Ages of Man, so there are seven ages of buying a Christmas tree. I’m at about Number Five, and some of the ages haven’t been entirely conducive to harmony between me and Mrs. v. S.

All the ages have their joys and delights. But some can bring forth Anglo Saxon curses at difficult moments - from the sweating struggle to get a tree upright in its pot to the sight of needles still in the car in October.

My first age was in the era of the young man’s first rented flat. Down to the local convenience store to choose between three threadbare pines standing forlornly on the pavement.

Then we were in our bijou starter home. Pre-children, everything was spotless and organised in a way it’s never been since. An artificial number seemed just the thing.

A few years later, there was a toddler in the house. We both got all Earth Mother about having a proper tree again – a nice one this time. But now, there was grunt involved. Finding a spare pot in the garden on a cold, wet early December afternoon and then filling it with the stones and earth whilst trying to get the darned thing upright - I said bad words, I really did.

Then one year, it suddenly seemed a great idea to do the pick-your-own thing. Off to a rural location near Fareham we went along with a garden saw. What could be more wholesome than knowing the exact provenance of your own Christmas tree? Perfect for some but for me, it conjured up two problems. First, picking a tree from two or three fields worth really is a tyranny of choice; and the scope for husband-wife-son-daughter arguments about which tree is the best shape becomes almost limitless. Then Dad, for usually it is he, is required to crouch down in the mud and hack away, fingers numb with cold, gripping a saw which is proving to be blunt. How we laugh now, in a way I certainly didn’t at the time.

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But since then, things have only got better. I’m a new man on Christmas Tree Day in a transformation worthy of Scrooge. Firstly, the people across the valley now trade in trees at Christmas. And they deliver! Just a three minute drive away, we get to pick a tree, then they put it in one of those stringy sleeves and it’s home before nightfall. No more needles still in the car in October.

Secondly, in an act of compassion to menfolk worthy of Florence Nightingale, Mrs. v. S acquired an adjustable metal Christmas tree stand. What a woman! No more sweaty plant pot moments. No more oaths. Whizz the tree indoors. Up it goes, adjust the stand. Pour a sherry.

People go on about the way penicillin and the microchip have transformed our lives. That’s nothing compared to the sweetness and light that the stringy sleeve, the home delivery and the Christmas tree stand have wrought in our house.

More sherry, Babe, and where’s that mistletoe?