Sue Limb: Decking the decking
PUBLISHED: 10:46 17 November 2014 | UPDATED: 15:39 24 November 2014
There's a certain street on the outskirts of Wotton-under-Edge which, in early December, takes on the appearance of Las Vegas. Whole houses and gardens are completely covered with a twinkling, flickering extravaganza of Yuletide icons
The appearance of Christmas decorations in garden centres in September can cause me to run off screaming. But it’s in the controversial area of Christmas decorations that, in the past decade or two, great strides have been made. The predictable treadmill of cards, presents, turkey, Queen, and homicide is always the same. But something is happening: we’ve started to decorate outdoors.
Not content with a few modest paper chains strung ham-fistedly above the telly, some people aren’t happy until they’ve got a gigantic inflatable Santa on their roof, complete with loaded sleigh and a team of eight restlessly galloping reindeer.
There’s a certain street on the outskirts of Wotton-under-Edge which, in early December, takes on the appearance of Las Vegas. Whole houses and gardens are completely covered with a twinkling, flickering extravaganza of Yuletide icons. I haven’t seen a plastic inflatable Virgin Mary with Child yet, though the temptation to have their haloes flashing in holy unison must be overwhelming.
Like everything else in Britain, Christmas decorations have become an arena in which posh and naff slug it out. The posh approach to Christmas is terribly tasteful and minimalist, with nothing too colourful or glaring. They might tolerate some white twinkles in a tree in their front garden, and a hurricane lamp or tealights would be as far as they’d get with decking the decking.
At the other end of the social scale, the insane desire to decorate the outside of the house is a bit like the urge to smother the body in tattoos. Some would find both vulgar but I always creep round after dark to marvel at the crazy exuberance of the Las Vegas lookalike street, and if I ever met someone festooned from head to toe in tattoos, I’m sure I would beg them to let me study their bodies avidly from bicep to buttock.
And so-called good taste can be a terrible tyranny. I’ve seen many a posh Christmas tree decorated only with white bows and glass teardrops. Scarlet is too uncompromising for the toffs. I can imagine a posh children’s party where Santa himself would turn up in a nuanced taupe outfit and wearing a neatly trimmed goatee.
As a chav with posh aspirations I am tempted by both extremes, but my own form of madness is foliage overdose indoors. The deforestation of the Amazon is nothing compared to the greedy ravages I visit on the woods around Wotton. I lash huge branches of yew and laurel to the beams above the dining table, oblivious to the fact that they will be dropping their toxic berries into the gravy.
I attempt a Sarah Raven-style Christmas garland, eagerly tying and stapling pine cones and evergreen sprigs and berries to a long piece of twine, and end up with something that looks like the tragic aftermath of a landslide.
Last year I went through an anti-tinsel phase. Tinsel is, after all, shiny, and anything shiny is essentially vulgar. But wait! Wasn’t the Star of Bethlehem about as shiny as a star has ever been?
In fact, all the accounts of heaven brought back by people who have had a Near Death Experience suggest that, what with dazzling light, shiny golden staircases and gardens bedecked with amazing colours the like of which have never been seen on earth, heaven itself might turn out to be a tad Over the Top.
So maybe the posh have got it wrong this time, and the plastic inflatable Santas and strobe reindeer are what Jesus himself would choose, were he available to rock his own Christmas party.
This article by Sue Limb is from the Christmas issue of Cotswold Life.
For more from Sue Limb, follow her on Twitter: @Sue_Limb