Barking up wrong tree in my house

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‘DAD can we have a Christmas tree yet?’ A question that, as a child, I repeated more often than even ‘can we stop at a Little Chef?’

I had a strange obsession with the aforementioned food chain when I was a child.

When the family embarked on any vaguely long journey, I would sit in the back, scanning the horizon for a Little Chef.

Upon spotting one, tactics came into play. First I’d point out the existence of the restaurant. Then when that had no effect, I’d say things like ‘ooh, it’s a nice one’, ‘it’s getting closer now dad’, ‘I think this is the turning for it’.

Ninety-nine times out of 100, my dad would drive straight by, leaving me crushed, but no doubt saving him an astronomical bill and a meal – as future stops proved – best described as not quite Michelin star standard.

It was much the same pattern with Christmas. The moment December reared its head, I would beg my parents for a tree. ‘Far too early yet’, came the reply– and so it went on.

I would go to friends’ houses and see beautifully decorated trees in the lounge, under which sat colourfully wrapped presents. John Battersby used to annoy me more than most. He lived at the far end of our road and not only had a tree but twinkly lights all over the house and garden that shone throughout the evening.

Meanwhile our little house lay in darkness. ‘Far too early,’ repeated my father. ‘But dad it’s December 22’.

Eventually a day or so before Christmas, he would break and with myself and my twin sisters in excitable mood in the back seat, we would head for the tree.

We didn’t go to a posh garden centre. No, that would have cost too much. Instead we headed for an array of small town centre shops, which had a sad and sorry array of trees lying forlornly on the pavement alongside a handwritten sign: ‘Only £1.50 – get them while stocks last’.

A more honest slogan might have been: ‘Only £1.50 – and there’s a reason for it!’

My father specialised in locating the worst tree possible – bent at the top and with around, at an optimistic estimate, half a dozen pine needles left on – and exclaim ‘there, that’s the one’.

If we showed disappointment, he would solemnly tell us that if we didn’t buy it, who else would take this tree, and then Mr Tree would have to stay on his own while all of his friends went off to have a happy Christmas.

Amazingly we fell for it and returned home with this sad, pathetic specimen, at which moment my mother (who, weirdly, always left the purchase to my father despite the same outcome every year) would fly into a rage about the terrible tree my dad had ‘yet again’ managed to select.

The strange thing is that 30 years on you’d have thought I’d rebel and rush out to buy a fancy tree and decorations in early November. But no. If anything I’m worse.

Mrs Canavan has been begging for a tree for weeks. I managed to hold out until the weekend when – after she finally cracked and threatened me with the rolling pin – I bit the bullet and headed out to purchase one.

Like my father I went on price and arrived back with what I must admit wasn’t the finest specimen. If the tree I picked had been an athlete, it would have been less Mo 
Farah, more Mo from the Roly Poly’s.

Mrs C wasn’t happy, so I tried my dad’s game and told her how upset and sad our little tree would have been had I left him at the shop.

‘What a load of rubbish,’ she screamed, shoved me to one side, and marched off to buy another.

* Note to self: my dad’s trick only works on the under 12s, or idiots like me.


Mass murders in American will continue whatever Obama says

WHATEVER the laws of a land, there will always be some maniac prepared to bring suffering and harm to others.

But the chances of that maniac making quite the same impact he had in Newtown, Connecticut, last week would be lessened greatly if it wasn’t so easy to get hold of a gun.

However, while the rest of the world – along with many sensible souls in America –clamour for a crackdown on the ownership of guns across the Atlantic, there are just as many who refuse to give up their right (as stated in the Second Amendment) to own a weapon.

Opinion on whether or not to have a gun ban is split even in Newtown, the very place where the dreadful massacre of 20 primary school aged children and six adults happened.

This is astonishing and if the very area affected by a sickening and motiveless slaughter still hasn‘t made its mind up on the issue, the chances of the remainder of America supporting some form of legislation about gun ownership is virtually non-existent.

Whatever President Obama says, or whatever bills are mooted, people in the US will continue to be allowed to own guns without a license, and as a result there will continue to be more mass murders of innocent people than anywhere else on the planet.

How depressing that the population of a country supposed to lead the world in so many fields can’t make a decision so straightforward and logical it almost beggars belief.


Boots were made for walking, not leaving at home

TAKING a rare Monday off work, myself and a couple of friends decided to do something which, depending on your viewpoint, is either insane or glorious – set our alarms for 5am and drive to the Lake District.

The idea was to climb a mountain (Blencathra, via Sharp Edge, for the Wainwright enthusiasts among you) and reach the summit as the sun rose – a spectacular experience.

At just gone seven and bleary-eyed, we parked our car in a lay-by near Keswick and opened the boot … at which point one of our party realised he hadn’t bought his walking shoes, a crime akin to playing football without a ball.

With snow on the mountain tops there was no way he could walk, so instead of our well-planned, stunning outdoor experience, the next two hours were spent in a car park in Keswick town centre waiting for a climbing shop to open so the plonker could hire some boots.

Rest assured there were a few choice words thrown in his direction during the wait.

By the time we started walking it was gone half nine, more than four hours after we’d departed from Blackpool.

You can guess who was buying the drinks in the pub afterwards.