Saturday, 21 December 2013

Christmas trees and middle-toe

The build-up to Christmas has been eventful, but not quite what I had in mind as a ‘holiday break’

Our tree - it took some doing to get to this point - and that star still isn't straight!
As I’ve mentioned before, I love Christmas - but this time it feels as if Christmas might not feel the same way about me.  This year has been a challenging one, and as it reaches its end I realise that one of the challenges we haven’t met so well is keeping our work lives properly balanced.  In this respect, 2013 has been something of a long hard slog, with far, far too many hours which should have been recreational, healthily fulfilling or simply relaxing squandered instead on unaware and probably uncaring paymasters.  We love our jobs, mostly, and perhaps this has been part of the problem.  2014, we have resolved already, will be different.
But back to Christmas.  Apart from everything else it brings it means we can stop!  The relentless flurry of December will give way to time off; a holiday!  And it will be a more relaxing time than ever for me because fate appears to have intervened and literally made sure I stop by knocking me out of a Christmas tree and onto an instantly fracturing middle toe.

But more on this later.  Christmas began with ‘acquiring’ our tree.  I’ll skim over the exact details here, except to say that it was a wilding pine and the sweaty, scratchy effort we went to wrestling our prize out of a dense, gorse ridden thicket at dusk meant we earned it.  Or we like to think so.
Getting the tree home we quickly discovered that we’d also transported some passengers in its branches, and neither of them were angels or faeries.  

 The first was perhaps not too surprising to anyone living in New Zealand, but a magnificent example of a tree weta, none-the-less, and he was quickly and safely re-homed in our own ‘forest’ outside.
The second hanger-on was a much bigger surprise, (literally), and gob-smackingly appropriate to mention here.

Yes, it’s a phasmatodea, a stick insect almost 200mm long, in our Christmas tree!  In my entire life I’ve probably seen a couple of far smaller specimens, but this was your full-sized, equatorial ‘branch insect’.  Quite what such an exotic creature was doing in a pine tree is anyone’s guess, but he too is now safely re-homed in our own stand of native forest, and we hope he’s very happy there.

Which brings us to the decorating of the tree.  Call it tragic if you like, but this splendid glass Doctor Who Christmas tree ornaments were bought for me back in January and I’ve been looking forward to hanging them all year.  I’ll be making sure our tree is kept well hydrated to avoid any premature branch droop, as the sight of one of these beauties lying shattered at the foot of the tree would not make my Christmas a merry one. 

And with mention of ‘shattered’ and ‘foot’ I’d just urge you all at home to make certain that whatever you are balancing on to adjust the star at the very top of your Christmas tree is always stable, perhaps even held by someone else, and that maybe you wear some sort of footwear, too. I did none of these things and have now just completed possibly the busiest week of my year on crutches. But  I am happy to say that despite the hospital’s pronouncement that ‘at my age’ I would never manage the extra exertion of getting around and needed to take the week off – I am instead possibly covering distance to and from work faster than if I was walking. 
The sight of me ‘tripod-ing around’ (is this what HG Wells had in mind for his Martian War Machines?) also seems to bring a smile to workmate’s faces, so adding to the sum total of office Christmas cheer in some tiny way mines some positivity from this lamentable situation.

And now, the big day is almost here, so to those of you kind enough to look in on Phasmatodea from time to time: may you and your family have a very happy – and safe – Christmas.

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