The tree John had dug up was really skinny

THIS year I have restrained myself on the Christmas decorations. Jessica has laid claim to most of the flying , climbing, sleigh driving, dancing santas which is a great relief to John as some of them would burst into life at the slightest sound and then persist in their antics until either switched off or disembowelled of their batteries.

I think that it has actually been life saving for one or two, as Millie, our Jack Russell, had already inflicted terminal damage on a singing reindeer and pair of animated Christmas trees.

We have a beautiful tree however, laden with decorations collected over the years.

Some of the most precious were created in the primary school and even playgroup eras of the children.

Many years ago we planted out five hundred young trees in and around woods on the farm.

None were for commercial sale, but they did provide family and friends with a good source of Christmas trees.

Now any remaining trees are giants and although for a few years we had the tops as our main tree, now they are too spindly and sparse to stand up to discerning family tastes.

It reminded me of when the children were quite young and John went out with them to bargain for a tree from a neighbour who had a small plantation.

They went out when it was still light and returned after darkness had fallen. John rushed off to feed round the cows and Jo and Bryony came into the house howling. “The tree is awful. It’s only got a few branches and looks really skinny. It’s not a proper tree at all.”

It transpired that instead of going off in the light to choose the tree, John had been chatting to his mate about shooting, the girls had been playing with their friends at the farm and everyone had forgotten the point of the visit.

At the last minute John and his friend had walked over to the edge of the plantation, dug up the first tree to hand, and loaded it back into the Landrover.

Jo and Bryony were not impressed but John, after berating us all for the ingrates we were, insisted that ‘you won’t recognise the tree. It will look totally different once all the decorations are on’.

Next morning after John had finished with stock and disappeared off for a day’s shooting at yet another friends farm, we lugged the tree into the back of my estate car and drove back to the plantation.

Our friend looked rather shamefaced and admitted not a lot of thought had gone into which tree had been picked. We came home with a smasher.

Into a bucket, sand and earth to weight it down, decorations, lights and tinsel.

The transformation was complete by the time John got home. He looked suspiciously at the tree with all its lights twinkling in the glow of the fire and remained very quiet.

“You said it would look different “ Bryony said. “And you were right.”