The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - December 24, 2015

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It was just gone 9am on Sunday and I was watching the Andrew Marr Show while reclining on the chaise longue, when Mrs Canavan popped her head around the door and said: “Can you put the lights on the tree outside today please?”

I didn’t take in what she said. I never do, it’s a man thing.

So I answered ‘yes’, for generally speaking that response seems to satisfy her.

So I continued watching Andrew Marr, followed by a very interesting documentary on BBC2 about dry-stone walling in Hawes.

When Mrs Canavan returned to the house several hours later – after going to a pilates class, doing the weekly shop, and visiting her grandfather – she found me in exactly the same position she’d left me and, for reasons I’m not sure of, didn’t seem happy.

“Have you done the lights?” she said, tension in her voice. ‘What lights?’ I responded.

I thought this a harmless statement, but it’s odd how touchy some people are, for she went berserk, screaming something about being a lazy good-for-nothing blighter and generally acting in a very different manner to how she did on our wedding day just a few short weeks before, when she gazed adoringly into my eyes, and pledged to love and cherish till death do us part.

To cut a long story short I very quickly stopped watching the TV – a shame really, as I’d just got to a rather exciting part of the documentary about how the interlocking of the stones increases the structural integrity of the wall – and turned my attention to the lights.

These lights were to hang in the tree in our front garden. I’ve never had lights outside my house before. My dad – not a fan of Christmas – was as disgusted by people who adorned the front of their property with twinkly lights as he was by Eva Braun.

As a result I’ve never liked what is, as my dad would put it, an unnecessary show of extravagance.

Alas, Mrs Canavan is very different. She gets insanely excited about Christmas, not unlike a particularly immature two-year-old, and wants to celebrate it any way possible.

Thus she bought from the shops this box of lights: “300 No Plug required white LED Icicle Lights … lights last up to 60 days on a set of batteries,” said the labelling. “Weather-proof battery box, timer, easy installation.”

My job was to take them out of the packet and hang them on the tree.

In theory, simple. In practice – especially for an individual devoid of both DIY skills and commonsense – not so simple.

The 300 lights had been packed into a box the size of a bag of sugar. ‘How clever’, I recall thinking as I opened it, ‘to get all those lights in such a small box’.

It wasn’t until I began to try and untangle the lights that I realised how they’d done it – by attaching to almost every bit of wire, small plastic clips so strong they could only be removed by a combination of kitchen scissors, machete and at least 12 minutes of tugging.

I started to untangle the wires at 1.15pm. With no word of a lie, I finished at just gone four, by which time I had cut my left hand six times with the scissors.

When I had finished – by this time sweating, swearing and bleeding profusely – I held up the lights to discover they were ridiculously bedraggled and looked nothing like the picture on the front of the box, where they hung perfectly in beautiful, dainty, little leaf-like shapes.

Just at that moment, my father-in-law called round and I explained my struggle with the lights.

He picked them up, examined them for a brief moment, and said: “You do realise those plastic clips you’ve spent hours taking off were there so the lights stay in shape when you hang them don’t you’

I can’t say for sure what happened next, but I’ve been told by onlookers that I made a short, sharp, strangled noise, stormed from the house, flung the lights in the direction of the tree and then went for a lengthy lie-down.

You’ll recognise our house if you pass it – it has quite possibly the least attractive outside Christmas lights in the whole of town.

Never again.

Where DID you get that hat?

I think Mrs Canavan has gone insane.

She returned home from a Christmas shopping expedition with a small hat.

For the cat.

I have always labelled people who put articles of clothing on their animals as a danger to society. I believe it’s what a young Adolf Hitler did to his pet labrador (for the avoidance of doubt I made that up but, you never know, he might have done).

Anyway, here is the evidence.

Have you ever seen a cat look so unhappy? And I don’t blame him one bit.

A borderline case for the RSPCA if ever there was one.

n A friend of mine – from Yorkshire (an important detail) – received a Christmas card from his dad the other day.

Opening the envelope he found it contained a birthday card too.

His birthday is on January 3.

He phoned his father to ask why the cards were in the same envelope.

“Well, stamps are 65p each now son,” he said. “I’m not made of brass, you know....”

Now it’s wrong to stereotype, but you know what they say about Yorkshire folk...