Here we go gathering Nuts in.....

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 27 December 2020

I know it's early but we've just taken The Tree down. Oh! No! I hear you exclaim. It had to go. The dawter found it on the side of the road just before Christmas. A lovely tall tree with lots of needles that smelt divine.

We have a fake tree that we've used for over thirty years - it's stored in a red zippy bag in the cellar. Several branches, with bent arms, slot over a metal pole. With the help of a CD of carols played on brass instruments, salted peanuts and toffee tasting sherry, the branches are patiently teased out and made to look like a real Christmas tree. Gold and silver balls, coloured rainbows, lots of chubby cherubim from Woolworths (circa 1984), some glassy flamingoes from a shoot I did in Vienna bought in the Cristelmarkt, and lots of variable baubles that Mary sends us year after year are deliberately dangled. My favourite is a little yellow metal bell with 1994 handpainted on the side.

The tree goes either on top of the piano on top of my grandmothers green chenille table cloth, or in front of the window. We move the armchair to the stove and the tree takes pride of place in front of the Buddha that sits on the window sill.

This year the delicious real tree was shaved into shape by the woodcutting co-habite, and fitted into a green metal Christmas tree holder. (The West Yorkshire pedant informs me that I could refer to it as a 'tripod') On went the baubles, down went the sherry, out rung Grimethorpe Colliery Band and, standing on tiptoes, I stuck the little discoloured, plastic angel on the very top of the tree and tied the strings on various chocolate thingies that were draped round the piney branches.

After two days some of the needles dropped; after four days more needles fell. And then my friend Dame Sylve of Chatham - an ex-headteacher so she knows everything - enquired after the wellbeing of our evergreen conifer.

"It's shedding" I said plaintively as I took another sip of Montillado. "It's shedding and the carpet looks like a Swedish reindeer sanctuary."

"You have to water it a lot," she said matter of factly.

"Well fuck my arse and call me Wendy," I said "I didn't know that you had to water a tame Christmas tree."

"Well you do" she said, ever so matronly. "We dig ours up every year, and water it, then Tone puts it back in the ground." Tone, Dame Syvles' husband, is also an ex-head-teacher so he is very industrious and intelligent. Not only does he keep bees, he grows spinach and tomatoes and all sorts on his allotment, turns wood on his lathe and makes award winning honey and beeswax candles. He tends their extremely healthy Christmas Tree which he pulls out every year, and places it in their big room all covered with real decorations from proper places - not like Woolies.

Today the old git and I had the first row, post Xmas. Having taken down the trinkets and snaffled the chocolate into both pockets of my pj's; having wound up the lights and waded through a two inch carpet of needles on the carpet, he said louder than usual,

"Leave the fookin' thing there," his lips as tight as Dennis' arse. "Those fookin' needles will go everywhere. I'll go and get soom secateurs."

As is the way, after centuries of marital blitz, I didn't listen and dragged it through the piano room, into the kitchen and onto the step leading out into the garden.

I swear there were enough pine needles to fill all of Santas Sacks. Thousands and thousands of sharp, little green needles stuck to my socks, the door mats and the armchair. Thousands and thousands of those offending articles rained into the cats dish, under the dresser and all over my slippers and his new moccasins. The old git came in, his voice now all 'Brian Blessed', holding aloft the secateurs. He eyed up the damage and squeezed a "For fook's sake" out of his pursed Morley mouth.

Patience is not my watchword, as you know, so I lowered my cow eyes and apologised for the mess.

"You did not apologise," argued the disgruntled woodman.

I did, however, inform the irate Northerner that the Christmas tree had completely filled the hoover bag. We have pink jobs and blue jobs in this house. I do everything whilst he changes the hoover bag, lays the stove, prunes the apple trees and fills the recycling bin with flattened cardboard boxes, empty wine bottles and his daily dose of ale tins.

All the decorations are in white plastic dustbin bags waiting to be decanted into their annual home of an old Asprey box big enough for baubles, bangles and beads. Two sets of lights are now tangled ready for their tins and it is nearly safe to walk barefoot.

But let's rewind. On Christmas night, after gifts had been opened and wrapping paper had been folded or scrunched into some of those empty cardboard boxes ready for the recycling bin, which is not being emptied until next Saturday I may add, the pile of dropped needles had their first hoovering. I stood back, looked at that apology for a tree, its naked branches drooping sadly over the rug, and went into the kitchen and pulled out some sharp scissors from the pencil mug on the dresser and snipped away at the spindly fingers. My varifocals let me down and without a moments hesitation I cut through the fairy lights. The room went dark, rather than a whoop of displeasure there was just a FFS-told-you-so-she's-at-it-again-sigh.

So upset was I that I had ruined a perfectly good ( and expensive ) string of white lights, I went into the kitchen to eat some more chocolates, waved my hand in the wrong direction and smashed one of my favourite bowls. If that wasn't enough, after serving up the red cabbage, sweet carrots, chestnuts & sprouts, roasted potatoes and succulent crispy parsnips, not to mention the addition of 'F'artichokes, I had forgotten to turn off the back burner on which I had carefully laid my oven gloves. Five minutes into the festive dinner the heavy oven gloves were flaming like a Dickensian plum pudding, sending smoke up into the air. Luckily, I damped them down before the smoke alarm went off.

2020's Christmas was not unlike the rest of 2020 - filled with magnificent disasters, although Harry Potter saved the day. I'd never seen the films but today we're onto number four. I lie in the beanbag - my body needing respite from various chocolate abominations; Cadbury's, Terry's, Lindt and snappy Daim bars accompanied by honey roasted peanuts - whilst counting all our friends who appear alongside Daniel Radcliffe.

When I woke up this morning, after three hours sleep, I clambered downstairs feeling queasy and weary, spinny and sick, and decided that the half cocked tree just had to go. It had served its purpose and I'm very grateful to have given it a home.

I am now sitting at the kitchen table with a huge cup of 'oosbind made coffee, whilst he solders two ends of wire together, ( I am reliably informed that it was 'THREE ends of wire!). And wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, he has fixed the string of white lights, peace and goodwill have returned again.

We did have a power cut last night and next door neighbours gazebo was blown into the road. The pub lost its outside dining area roof and our garden is littered with leaves and branches and now pine needles but thanks to the old git and his fiddling, thanks to God, as he likes to be called, when he declared 'let there be light', there was.

Now, if anybody knows who's been breaking into the Northern man's shed, could you let us know because there's a shoulder bag of peanuts and a shoulder bag of clothes pegs and there's bits of wood shavings on the work bench. The ageing martyr has found pegs IN with the bird's peanuts, peanuts in with the pegs and pegs and peanuts together in one of his wellington boots, not to mention wood shavings, pegs and peanuts littering the floor. The old fucker is understandably confused, bemused and decidedly dischuffed.

Since he's spent the last four hours tidying up after me he gave me an accusatory look, raising one of his actor's brows.

"You cannot be serious," I said in my best John McEnroe. "Why the flaming hell would I chuck pegs and peanuts all over your fucking shed?"

His look said it all. So now he's put the pegs back in the peg bag, the nuts back in the nuts bag, hoovered up the wood shavings and hung a little metal basket over the door so that the intruder will have his brains bashed in and the living daylights smashed out of him. The Northern trapper is rigging up his hunter's camera and is thinking of laying a trip wire across the door so that the night trawler will not only have his head smashed in but will fall flat on his face. I'm saying he, it could be a female spook, or a fox or a mouse, a rat or a badger or Dennis, or even one of the next door neighbours or the farmer, or even a squirrel.

The 'oosbind has just been to inspect the camera, opened the door and walked into the hanging basket and smashed his very own head. He has also placed the bald tree outside on the path, in front of the kitchen, thus fucking up whomsoever decides to fiddle with his peg bag. The forlorn tree is waiting to be shredded. I know how it feels.

But 'onest it weren't me guv. 2020 has turned into a strange one but trust me when I say that in 43 years I have never, ever messed with my husbands nuts.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

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