Back on track ? . . . well, nearly.
As regular readers of this missive will know, I’m normally a card-carrying member of the “Keep Christmas in December” brigade. However, last year, as I’m sure you won’t need reminding, everything changed. 2020 was nothing but misery, so folks throughout the country decided, quite rightly, to awaken the Christmas spirit early. By mid-November houses were ablaze with festive lights, with fully adorned trees in every window. As it turned out, the wretched pandemic still gripped us tightly, and however brave a face we put on, Christmas was certainly not all we wanted it to be.
This year, of course, we’re all hoping for something much better, much more like normal, and with the incredible success of the vaccine programme, and a good dollop of people being sensible, at the moment it’s looking positive. As I write this editorial in mid-November (I’m on time for once!!!), Christmas trees and festive lights are already appearing, and I have no doubt that by the time you read this many, if not most, houses will be fully Chrismassified.
And why not !!! Let’s go for it once again, let’s fill our boots and get stuck in. I have to admit that once I get going, I do tend to over-indulge a bit. Let me explain.
Every year we at Biddell Towers (as it’s laughably referred to by our musical theatre buddies) embark upon an expedition the like of which Bear Grylls would be proud. One Sunday afternoon around the beginning of December off we trot to one or more garden centres and / or home stores in search of the perfect addition to the Christmas house. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a few tree decorations, a garland or two for the stairs, or a runner for the Christmas table. This year we were in London in October, so a trip to both Harrods and Liberty’s Christmas shops was mandatory.
A few years ago it came down to a choice between a five-foot-high singing Santa, an equally tall lantern that sprayed fake snow and also played tunes, and a hanging model of a bi-plane piloted by Rudolph himself singing “Santa Claus is coming to town”. And what did I do? Yes, you’ve guessed it . . . I bought them all !!!!!
When it last took place, we were at the Boldmere Christmas festival, freezing cold and soaking wet, when I noticed an outdoor tree, emblazoned with built in lights, being sold by one of our fabulous local traders. “That would look amazing in our front garden !!!” I said to my wife. “But you already put lights along the fence, and we do now have 4 Christmas trees” she helpfully reminded me. A good point, well made – however I bought it anyway.
It’s not that good taste is totally to be abandoned at Christmas (although some would disagree in the above-mentioned cases), but the rules of good interior design can certainly be relaxed.
So . . . real or false, themed or random, uncluttered or stuffed to breaking point? I’m talking of course about the tree, and it really is up to you. There is no right or wrong answer. For many years now I’ve always had a real tree, and am happy to put up with the inconvenience of a few dropped needles in exchange for that wonderful smell of pine when you enter the room each morning.
As for whether to theme it or not, well I suppose you really should, taking two or possibly three colours from your decor and majoring on them for your tree ornaments and other assorted bits and bobs around the room. But here once again I have to admit to being a little hypocritical. My tree is a completely random collection of ornaments and baubles of every shape, size and colour, collected over a number of years from cities and countries we’ve visited, or that I’ve bought just because I like them. The crowning glory of which is a somewhat tousled silver and gold cardboard star that my elder daughter (who is now my chief designer and who runs my showroom) made when she was in infants’ school. This is much to the annoyance of my wife, who thinks I really should know better and follow her idea of a simply themed tree. So we’ve made the perfect compromise – we have a tree each (along with the tree in our 8-year old’s bedroom, and the communal tree in the porch).
As for the rest of the house, you can go as mad as you like with garlands on mantelpieces, fabulous table decorations and runners, swags up banisters, holly protruding from just about every nook and cranny. You might want to hold off on the mistletoe once again this year, as it might temp you to socially un-distance.
And why stop at the inside. I love to see a welcoming holly wreath on the front door. We’ve actually got a woven wood one with Rudolph’s head gleefully protruding from it.
Of course, these days you can buy myriads of illuminated Santas, elves, reindeer, shooting stars, sleighs and anything else remotely connected to Christmas (as long as it’s not in any way religious of course, but don’t get me started on that one !!!) to adorn the outside of the house. And not only can you, but I believe we should.
Just a final word though. While we’re planning to purchase our Christmas fabulousness, please spare a thought for all those small businesses who have really struggled over the last year and a half. I’m sure Mr Bezos is a lovely man, but is there someone in the local high street who could benefit more from our patronage?
So, let’s go forward, taking the spirit of kindness that the many months of awfulness fostered in us, and in the words of Sgt Phil Esterhaus from my all-time favourite TV programme Hill Street Blues; “Let’s be careful out there”.
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - DECEMBER 2021