It’s not so much the height, it’s the girth...this is me with my index finger resting on my bottom lip and wondering where I’ve heard that before.
As I placed the tree in the middle of the floor and cleared the eagle’s nest from its branches I remembered the day it came into my possession. Just two short years ago...
......cue swirly music (violins and shit like that)....
....the phone rang. It was my sister. The Queen of Chaos (QC). For any newbies reading this, she’s a lovely lady. She’s four feet eleven inches, a size six, thinks tact is something you stick your posters on the wall with and enjoys a lifelong blonde moment.
I had earlier been at the swimming pool with my son where he invented a new sport, Dad Surfing. (In case you don’t value your lungs and you’d like to try it, all you need is a swimming pool with a current and a child who is happy to stand on your back while you – and this is where it gets tricky - float) It was great fun...and this explains my uncharacteristic willingness to step in and help. I was in a good mood.
Long story even longer, QC had been offered a free second-hand Xmas tree. It was seven feet tall, cost £190 new just 2 years ago and it was a cracker. Only thing is QC doesn’t have a car and is a master of the passive aggressive. I don’t have car, she says - like I forgot this – and how am I going to get the tree home to my flat? In Troon? Like I’ve also forgotten her address.
I load the car with self and son and drive to meet her. She has a piece of paper in her hand with directions to the then currrent home of the tree. The directions to the then current home of said tree were lousy. We got lost in a council estate with one road in and one road out. Several phone calls later, with shouted instructions from my backseat sister, me snapping at her and the wee fella giving me a row for being bossy with my twin, we made it.
A nice lady is standing by the door of her flat on the third floor wearing a look of relief. The look of someone who has just been told; yes it piles but if you use this cream.... She directed us to a cupboard in the communal hall. And opened a door. The only thing I saw was a huge white box. You know those containers you see on the back of ships? Roughly the size of one of those.
-that’s your tree, says nice lady and showing a surprising turn of speed for someone in her condition (I'm now convinced she has piles) runs back in doors before we can say anything else.
I couldn’t lift the box off the ground, never mind lift it out to the car, but with the wee fella pushing and me dragging and QC carrying a free box of 20,000 lights the tree owner no longer needed, we made it outside.
By which time my shirt was sticking to my back, my jacket was torn in three places and I was wishing I only had brothers.
I looked at the box. I looked at the boot. Not going to happen. I open up the boot (or as the wee fella calls it; the trunk) in the vain hope that Doctor Who has been working nearby. Na. Not a chance. The tree box wouldn’t fit in the boot. There was a large green skip by the side of the road and I checked. It had some space. But I wasn't about to give in after all this work.
While all the pushing was going on QC was standing to the side wearing an expression of mild panic. It’s going to be too big, she says. I don’t have big enough corners in my house, she says. You have it and I’ll take yours. It’ll be lovely for you and the wee man to have a nice big tree, she says trying to sell me the idea.
- Can we get it in the feckin’ car first, says I.
- Dad! says the wee fella.
Eventually I worked out that if I moved the front seats forward that there might be room in the back. With a lot more sweat, more pushing and some muttered curses, we made it. And bonus, we even managed to close the car doors!
Of course we now had no room for three passengers – a driver, two passengers and one unencumbered seat. So the wee fella (who’s nearly as tall as his aunt) sits on QC’s lap and I drive to my house, which is nearer– but I have to go the long way as the short way goes past the police station. We all hold our breath and look straight ahead for the ten minutes it takes to get to my house – this is known to make you invisible to the police.
We get home safely – no blue flashing lights. I couldn’t possibly drive to QC’s like this. I can’t leave the wee man at home on his own while I take the tree to hers. Besides, I can’t face the thought of lifting this humongous box up the three flights of stairs to QC’s flat. I face the realisation that I’m going to have to accept this bloody tree.
The next trick is to get the box out of my car. We all adopt the same activities as before – the wee fella pushes, I pull and QC stands wearing an expression of alarm. Eventually – presumably in the same time it takes a crane to lift a container from the ship on to the wharf, something gives – the car door handle- and the box is out the car and with more pushing, pulling and sweat, is in my front room.
While my son and I catch our breath QC tears the industrial tape from the box – you know the silver duct tape kind that serial killers use in all the movies – just to see how big this tree is.
Think Norway’s annual gift to the British nation.
-it’ll be lovely with lights on it, says QC prompted by the fact that the room is so dark because the tree is blocking out the light and who is by now desperate for me to take it off her hands. She paused, where are the lights? Did you leave the lights behind, she asks me?
-I was kinda busy with a big feckin’ box, sis, says I.
- Dad! says the wee man.
QC’s last memory of the lights was while standing watching me wrestle the tree container into the car. She must have put them down somewhere, she surmises. So we all jump back in the car and go back to the tree lady’s building …and there in a dark corner of the car park was our box of lights. Hurrah. Nobody had stolen them. No doubt any prospective thief had been put off by the thought of the increase to their electricity bill once they were switched on.
A wee man was walking his wee dog past the scene as we screeched to a halt. QC jumped out of the car before I could pull on the handbrake.
-forgot my lights, she explained to the man as if it made perfect sense, while she swooped for the box. I caught a glimpse of him over my shoulder as I circled out of the car park – his chin was resting on the back of his dachshund.
By this time we had all worked up an appetite so we decided to go to Pizza Hut. My stomach was saying, do not go home, do not pass “Go”, go straight to food. The unhealthier the better. The stomach was to be obeyed. QC generously offered to go halfers for any food.
Relieved the worst of it was over, we had a wee laugh about our adventures on the way to the restaurant – but it was to be an illusory moment of calm for when we parked and climbed out of the car QC realised she didn’t have her handbag. I reasoned that it must be in my house and besides I was not driving another inch without throwing something down my throat. And it didn’t matter it if wasn’t a meal acceptable to polite society.
By the time we got a seat in Pizza Hut and ordered our food, QC had worked herself into a frenzy of worry. Her house keys. Her mobile phone. Her purse.
Oh my fucking god, she screeched. Maybe the handbag wasn’t in my house. It was on the backseat of the car while I was pushing the tree-box in. Maybe it got pushed out the other end. Maybe she left it in the same car park as the box of lights. Maybe it was in the tree lady’s house. Maybe the tree lady had emptied her purse, had been shopping on-line with her credit cards and was now happily phoning a porn phone line in Chile using her mobile phone.
While QC borrowed my mobile and phoned all of her friends to try and find out the tree lady’s number, the wee fella gave me another row.
– you’re different with your sister, he says, much more bossy.
Nobody had tree lady’s number. Cue more worry and more doomsday scenarios – her house keys were in her handbag, I would have to kick in her front door. No, I couldn’t do that as she has mental neighbours and while she was sleeping they would ransack her flat. She thought about it some more. NO, she couldn’t do that ‘cos she’d have to stay awake all night and she was a monster if she didn’t get her sleep. Could she even get a locksmith on a Saturday night? Shame she fell out with another neighbour – the witch- ‘cos she used to keep a spare key for her.
The food arrived and was eaten in Guinness Book of Records time. The wee man didn’t even have time to get that tomato smear on his wee cheeks.
There was a collective holding of breath all the way from Pizza Hut to my house. The wee fella worried that QC was going to have a rubbish Xmas. I worried that I was going to have a mad woman on my couch for the rest of the weekend and QC just worried.
We pulled up in front of my house and all of us took a deep breath and paused in prayer before we get out of the car.
I unlocked the front door to my house and QC almost knocked me into next door’s garden in her rush to get past. My son and I looked at each other and waited at the door, afraid to look.
We heard a squeal. She’d found it. Care to guess where?
Under the tree.