Dendrology

My institute seems to be taking a “Less is definitely not more” approach to Christmas decorations. Oh well, at least there’s no mistletoe in the elevators this year…

…yet. The silly season approacheth.

The lobby of my building, this morning. I swear there were only three trees when I left last night...

The sight of all those trees reminded me of an old flatmate of mine, who is also one of my best friends. We were randomly assigned to the same University-owned flat when we moved to Glasgow to start our PhDs; this kind of system is a real crapshoot, but luckily for us we got on like a house on fire – almost literally, at one of our infamous parties – and had three other randomly-assigned flatmates who were also lovely.

We moved in at the beginning of October 1998, and in December we decided to host a big party before everyone scattered around the world to join their families for Christmas. And, of course, we had to decorate.

My best friend (on the very left of the photo below – yes, that’s a colander on her head. Why? She didn’t have a hat) and I were in charge of decorating the flat. We bought a small fake Christmas tree, some lights, and some shiny red and gold ceiling decorations. The place looked lovely, the party was a raging success (this wasn’t the time we almost started a fire), we met our lovely local police officers for the first time*, and we all went home happy for family Christmases in England, Wales, Ireland, France and Malaysia.

Christmas 1998. Please note the normal levels of decoration.

The problem came when we all dragged ourselves back to Scotland in the New Year. I started to take the decorations down – but my best friend stopped me.

“It’s so depressing that Christmas is over, can’t we keep the tree and decorations up a bit longer? At least until the days start getting longer again and it’s not so dark all the time? It’ll look so boring without them…”

She begged and pleaded and the rest of us relented, despite some French mutterings about the proper way of doing things, superstition, and bad luck.

The tree and decorations were still up when we moved out in September 1999.

My best friend, another flatmate and I had rented a privately owned flat nearby, and moved all our stuff over. The Christmas decorations were the last things to come down…

…and the first things to go up in the new place.

My friend did it while my other flatmate and I were out, and looked oh so proud of herself when we came home that we decided to let her keep the decorations up. (She also persuaded us to get some goldfish. She’s a very persuasive person).

The next problem came as Christmas 1999 approached. My friend wanted to buy a second tree.

Why?

“We’ve got used to the one tree and the decorations being there, so it’s not special any more. We need to get another tree to make it special for Christmas”.

So, two trees and more lights and decorations. Christmas 1999 took place in a veritable Santa’s grotto, a festive winter wonderland.

January 2000:

“It’s so depressing that Christmas is over, can’t we keep the trees and decorations up a bit longer? At least until the days start getting longer again and it’s not so dark all the time? It’ll look so boring without them…”

December 2000:

“We’ve got used to the two trees and the decorations being there, so it’s not special any more. We need to get another tree to make it special for Christmas”.

January 2001:

“It’s so depressing that Christmas is over, can’t we keep the trees and decorations up a bit longer? At least until the days start getting longer again and it’s not so dark all the time? It’ll look so boring without them…”

December 2001:

“We’ve got used to the three trees and the decorations being there, so it’s not special any more. We need to get another tree to make it special for Christmas”.

Yes, you’ve read this right – we ended up with four Christmas trees.

FOUR!

Year-round!

In a tiny student flat!

And a shedload of lights and decorations!

(And, of course, each tree had to be bigger than the next. The first one was maybe a couple of feet tall, the fourth was a good six feet. The best part was when the three of us were in Woolworth’s to buy the final tree, the two normal flatmates lecturing our tree-hoarding friend about how this was the last time we would let her get another tree, and they all had to come down after Christmas this year, and she was looking down at the floor saying “yes, I know, yes, yes, I will” like a chided young child, and then looked up to see one of her PhD supervisors staring at us).

The flat looked ridiculous. Our old friends thought it was hilarious; new friends would come in and stop and stare with their mouths hanging open.

“Um… you lot know it’s June, right?”

“Yeah… [friend] won’t let us take them down”

We moved out in early 2002, when I emigrated to Canada. My friend cried as she finally took all the decorations down. She got to keep them all – but she claims to only display one tree at a time these days.

I don’t necessarily believe her.

But that’s OK. Because now, whenever I see more than one Christmas tree in one place, or any Christmas trees or decorations at all in the middle of summer, I instantly think back to the happy days in our tiny little flat, with good friends and good times.

And that’s the reason for the season.

…………………….

*they came to every subsequent party, too – whoever thought it was a good idea to put student flats in the middle of a posh part of the West End? Our hoity-toity neighbours called the police at 11:01 pm (when the noise by-laws kick in) every single time there was any noise at all. The police agreed with us that this was ridiculous.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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16 Responses to Dendrology

  1. Eva says:

    Ahhhh, this reminds me of my student days in Amsterdam. We didn’t have more than one Christmas tree, and only at appropriate times, but we had Business Class seats from a KLM plane in the kitchen and they were hell to drag around whenever we needed to empty the kitchen for our annual theme party, which by definition ended when the police showed up at 5AM. (And I just realized, I lived there from 1998 to 2002… when I moved to… Canada.)

  2. Amelie says:

    Maybe you should visit your friend to check on the number of Christmas trees. Or send her the picture from above :)

  3. ricardipus says:

    Eva – I, for one, would like to hear the story behind these business class airplane seats… ;)

    Cath – nice hat. :)

  4. Bob O'H says:

    Love it.

    Mind you, Grrl and I have Christmas lights up all hear now. And our Christmas tree is a ficus: this is the decoration we had on top of it (briefly) last year.

  5. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Eva, yeah, I’m gonna need to hear that story, too! We had some random things in our flat, but no airline seats!

    Amelie, I’ve already sent her the photo! Unfortunately she lives in Aberdeen now, right up in the north of Scotland, which isn’t a terribly inviting place to visit at Christmas. Last time I was home at Christmas we compromised and met up in Edinburgh!

    Ricardipus, thanks! The reasons for that photo are… hazy.

    Bob, great photo! We only have a star, and that’s still in a box (we haven’t got round to decorating our one and only tree yet).

  6. Eva says:

    One of my flatmates worked at the airport, and they were replacing seats in one of the planes. She asked what happened to the old ones, and they were just going throw them out! So she called someone with a car, and took 2x 2 seats home. But that was a little too crowded so we ended up keeping only one pair. It was fun to sit in there and eat dinner from the tray table =)

  7. Jenny says:

    Forget the decorations…that Dubstar poster brought back fond memories.

  8. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Eva, that’s hilarious! I totally would have done the same thing (as a student – not sure my husband would appreciate that kind of decor these days).

    Jenny, did we both just show our age…?!

  9. Hermitage says:

    That’s the way it always goes. They always start out with some small tree that the dealer puts on sale just for ‘first-timers’, and they end up surrounded by four trees, crying “just one more angel decoration, just one!”

  10. ricardipus says:

    This happens with tree ornaments as well. We have enough to cover approximately 1.5 trees, and only one tree to put them on.

    Makes for year-to-year variety I guess.

  11. ricardipus says:

    Bob – that would be the logical solution, wouldn’t it? ;)

  12. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Hermie, they are sneaky bastards, those tree dealers! Before you know it you’re spending your evenings stumbling around Christmas tree plantations desperately begging the squirrels for help cutting just one more branch…

    Ricardipus, yeah, buy a second tree! Nothing bad could possibly happen!

  13. knutty knitter says:

    I think we’re up to 6 trees round here – thanks to the kids! And the shop :) I’m thinking of a cull next year as space is kind of limited…..

    We do take them down after Christmas…..sometime! I think they look a bit out of place because of the inevitable heat wave……but what would I know :) At least youngest is happy – he has hung around 40 metres of fairy lights all round his room (which is about 3 metres square altogether) and down into his main tree because there were too many for just the tree. It is rather bright in there. I think you could read by those lights.

    Airline seats sound great. We did think about theatre seats at one time but we weren’t fast enough!

    viv in nz

  14. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    It sounds like your place is almost as festive as our place used to be!

    Happy Christmas to you and your family – you must already be celebrating, if I’ve got my timezones right!

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