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I've made a serious tactical error this Christmas. I allowed the kids to talk me into buying Christmas lights. For umpteen years I have managed to avoid the dratted things. But they caught me at a vulnerable moment and I caved in.
Why? I regretted the decision as soon as it was made. But once the die was cast, I was trapped. No way out. I still fail to understand how the kids managed to make me believe that these things would be no trouble.
So off we went to buy them...
I should have had the nerve to change my mind as soon as the great debate began about what shape they should be. Who, in their right mind could ever imagine just how many shapes tiny pieces of plastic could be? Then there was the argument over what colours to have. And then whether we should have flashing ones. And whether they should play a selection of festive tunes.
Three hours and several shop-trudging miles later, I found myself much lighter in the pocket than was reasonable. I was simply glad that the whole ordeal was over and never to be repeated again. Ever. In a jubilant mood (that belied the physical and mental exhaustion), and with manic anticipation, we returned to festoon our peaceful and happy abode with our new acquisitions.
Now I always thought that putting up the Christmas tree was supposed to be a time of fun and laughter, a time of the family drawing together to reminisce over years gone by and look forward to the future. I cling to the dream of a 10-foot tall pine bedecked in glorious baubles and tinsel that comes straight out of a Bing Crosby movie.
Despite my dream, decorating the tree has always been a battlefield in our house. Each child argues over who did most last year and who's turn it is to do what this year. But I suppose there's no harm in dreaming. I took the precaution of buying two lots of lights, one for each of them, in the hope that this could possibly be the year when blood did not get shed. I amaze myself with the depths of my naiveté.
I suppose peace was a possibility. Right up to the point when the bulbs blew.
And the fuses.
We might even have saved the situation, had the shop not sold out of spare bulbs. And fuses.
The final possibility of peace finally evaporated when we discovered that not only did they have no more fuses, and no more bulbs, they had no more lights either.
So now we're left with a tree that is adorned by lumps of green cable and pieces of dull plastic, and two kids who firmly believe that I did it all on purpose.
How right they are. Come back tinsel, all is forgiven.