You don’t need me to tell you that the autumn colours have been fantastic this year. Each day late October, early November, I kept thinking “I really must bring my camera with me next time I’m out”. Everywhere I went, breathtaking treescapes of gold, amber and bronze, dramatic as fireworks, rose out of rich, dark, newly-ploughed hills. Then, overnight, they disappeared. Strong winds stripped the trees bare, leaving muddy heaps of compost at their feet. It was as if a herbicidal maniac had been on the rampage. Suddenly it was winter. The clocks had gone back. And it was dark.
My sense of loss at this overnight tragedy made me less dismissive than I might otherwise have been when a day or two later I spotted my first Christmas tree of the year in the front window of a house near my mum’s. Not only had the occupants put the tree up on the wrong side of Remembrance Day. They’d also sprayed lavish drifts of fake snow on the windowpanes, as if egging on the winter to do its worst. The shiny red stars and golden bells were a garish echo of the subtle russets and auburns of the departed autumn leaves, but boy, was it a cheery sight.
All at once I found myself looking forward to the rash of Christmas lights that would inevitably follow. Nothing cheers me in winter as much as bright lights. In a former life I must have been a Druid. For the rest of the year, my usual mantra is “Put that light out!” (So maybe I was once an ARP warden?) My husband and daughter treat our household like a Christmas tree all year round, in terms of lighting, and for the rest of the year, I go round turning unnecessary lights off, muttering disapproval. But when it comes to midwinter, I need a burst of light to stop me hibernating.
Certain local routes round here provide a real tonic at this season. Last year, the white-lit Christmas trees, hung proudly like flags above the shops through the centre of Tetbury, were as cheering to me as any Olympic opening ceremony. And who can resist the uplifting annual switching on of the Christmas lights? Passing by the Arboretum, I’ll slow down to savour the “shop window” for the Enchanted Wood, which revitalises bare trees with coloured floodlights. And just a little further down the Bath Road, there’s an ever-growing beacon that takes many by surprise. The first time I passed that way after dark, I was convinced that I was about to come across a major conflagration on the road ahead. I listened out for sirens, but there were none. Rounding the bend, I discovered it was actually just Willesley’s cattery and kennels in all their electric glory. Their furry residents must feel ever festive by Christmas Day.
In the past, I’ve shied away from too lavish a Christmas lighting scheme at my own home. Think Ikea candle arches, and you’ll get the picture. But this year, in the depths of this dark winter, I feel the need to throw caution to the winds. That’s appropriate enough, as my electricity comes from the wind-powered Ecotricity in Stroud. If their profits suddenly go up next quarter, you’ll know the reason why: I’m planning to splash out this year on the festive lighting front. Now, can anyone tell me the best place in Tetbury to buy an illuminated reindeer?
Wishing all Tetbury Advertiser readers a very merry Christmas, and a New Year filled with light. Let it glow, let it glow, let it glow…
(This post was originally published in the Tetbury Advertiser)