SUZANNE HARRINGTON: Tree hunt leaves me needled

THE Christmas tree thing is giving me status anxiety.

What does a tree signify? Why all the options? You might think the choice is simple — fake or real — but it’s more complicated than that. I’d like a white plastic tree. Think Barbarella — white shiny plastic covered in ice blue lights. You have got to be effing kidding us, the children exclaim. White plastic? Are you on drugs? Sadly, no. Drugs might not make this whole Christmas tree thing go away, but they would certainly make it not matter. Saddled as I am with tyrannical Christmas traditionalists, I’m instructed to get on with the purchase of a normal tree. And make it snappy. “Last year our Christmas tree was a big palm leaf branch with some battery operated fairy lights that broke,” says the older one piteously to her friends, who stare at her, appalled.

She doesn’t bother adding that the palm leaf branch had been carefully cut by me and my Swiss Army knife from a coconut tree outside the door of her very own tropical beach hut, where she spent Christmas Day splashing about in a warm dolphin-filled ocean while feasting on mangoes. No. All she remembers is that our improvised Indian Christmas tree was the wrong breed.

So to ensure no further mental scarring, I go forth to bring home a proper Christmas tree — that is, something needley from Norway. You’d think that would be relatively straightforward, apart from trying to heave the bugger in and out of a small car, but no. First, you have to choose the tree. God. The local posh greengrocer is selling stumpy bonsai Christmas trees in fancy pots — presumably aimed at the compact and bijou over-styled apartments of the child-free. You could probably buy a few acres of rainforest for the same price. Sod that.

Carrying on to the giant cheap supermarket, there are bigger trees for half the price, but they are tragic, like factory-farmed dairy cows — you know they’ll be dead the moment you get one home. I drive to a nearby organic farm and check out their outrageously priced trees. When I point out I have no plans to eat the tree, I received pitying yet condescending looks from the organic farmer’s wife, in her organic headscarf and wellies.

Things are getting desperate. On the way home I pass a pub with a load of big fat trees propped up outside. A man with a red face and a bobble hat is sitting on a milk crate. I enquire after a ten-footer, and when he tells me how much they are, I realise he is hopelessly drunk. Job done.


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