10 March

When is a tree not a tree?

Imagine a lofty pine stretching up to the ceiling, bedecked with glittering gold, sparkling glass and the soft glow of candles.[1] What makes it a Christmas tree? Surprisingly, you can get it down to a really simple element: a large green triangle will convey your message. So will a cone[2] or a conical spiral.

So if you don’t want (or can’t afford) a pine tree (real or artificial) you can absolutely still do a Christmas tree.


  • A large green paper triangle, stuck on the wall (ask each of your guests to draw a decoration on it)[3]
  • A zig zag tree shape on the wall, made with green tinsel (you can use stick-on hooks to hold it in place, and it’s worth measuring up properly to get it even)
  • Any kind of cone[4] (twist tinsel round it or sprinkle it with glitter if you like)[5]
  • A spiral (take a large circle of green plastic, cut it spirally, and hang it from the ceiling)

or check fancy shops for something modern and cool.

10 mar 2016.jpg
A tree or a trinket?

I met a very surprising elderly lady at Auntie Helen’s funeral today. I assumed she was an old friend of my aunt’s so I went up to her and said “Hello, I’m Janet, Helen’s niece.”

“Hello,” she replied. “I’m Gwen, Helen’s sister.”

“Helen’s sister?” I gasped. “But she only had Dad. And Dad only had her.”

“No,” she said. “There were three children: me, then Robert, then Helen.”

“But I’ve never heard of you!”

“I was thrown out of home when I came out as a lesbian at the age of fifteen.”

“Thrown out of home at fifteen?” I was appalled. “A fifteen year old left to fend for herself! I wouldn’t do that to a murderer if they were only fifteen!”

She looked amused.

“And lesbians aren’t as bad as murderers,” I explained. “No! I mean lesbians aren’t bad at all! Didn’t they keep in touch with you?”

“I never saw my parents again but Helen wrote to me when she could.”

“And Dad?”

“Robert didn’t speak to me after I was thrown out of home.”

“The bastard!” I said.

“The bastard,” she agreed.

“I have to drive some of the old folks home after this, but maybe… maybe you could come round to dinner one night soon? And meet the family?”

“Can I bring my partner?”

“Of course.”

“Then I’d be delighted.”

You expect your family to get bigger through the younger generation but it’s a surprise when it gets bigger through the older generation.

So make a few more cards that you’re expecting to need. You never know.

[1] I’m trying to build a positive picture here so feel free to add the scent of fir (but not the smell of a smoky, guttering candle that you’re afraid is too close to the curtains) and the taste of ginger and spices (but not the touch of dead pine needles aiming for your bare foot when you stumble through the lounge early in the morning on your way to the coffee).

[2] Last year, Hannah made a cone of green macarons for morning tea on Christmas Day. It looked great, there was no doubt it was a Christmas tree and, luckily, macarons freeze well. (I think my nephew Jack was the only one of us who ate more than one and he was seventeen at the time so he could put away five – and shortbread and mince tarts and cherries – and still eat heartily at dinner.)

[3] Fat textas are good for the unartistic, who should be able to manage simple baubles. Erasable pencil is good for the pornographic, who won’t leave anything to the imagination on the physiology of elves.

[4] Except ice-cream.

[5] My friend Sharon’s Christmas trees of mouldy bread are best left to actual artists (and those who like to live dangerously).

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