Il Capo has a rule regarding the delineation between my birthday and Christmas. She feels it is important to keep a separation between these two notable celebrations and therefore we do not decorate for Christmas until my birthday has passed.
Consequently, on Sunday we went looking for a Christmas tree.
I fancied the idea of cutting down our own tree. I know this is normal American behaviour because I've seen it on Charlie Brown. The more time I spend in America, the more I realise how true to life Peanuts is, for example the obsession with pumpkins that started in August and is still rumbling on. I've even seen dogs that slept on the roofs of their kennels, although that was in Alaska.
I had a hunt around the Internet and found Wilkins Fruit and Fir Farm, a place where we could select our own tree and then mercilessly hack it down and drag it off to our home.
"This place will do, let's go here. Wilkins Fruit and Fir Farm", said I.
"They do Christmas trees?", asked Il Capo?
"Yes, it's a fir farm. It's only about ten miles away"
"OK... Um... Why do they sell Christmas trees at a fur farm?"
"Do they keep the bears in them?"
Eventually, we got our homophones in order and got in the car.
When we got there, I parked the PT Cruiser in a muddy field alongside the other cars. I say cars, I mean trucks. We were next to a Ford SUV which was a cross between a Humvee and a Greyhound bus. It's what you get when the marketing department say they like the off-road ability of the Range Rover, so could you build the same thing, but with an extra row of seats and twice the luggage capacity. All the Ford
SUVs have names starting with "Ex". In growing order of size there is the Extirpation, the Exsanguination and the Extermination.
From the car-park, we took a hay-ride to the tree plantation. A quick word of explanation here to my British readers. A hay-ride is when a tractor pulling a flatbed trailer draws up alongside you, and you and your precious children sit on the trailer, legs dangling while it takes you to your final destination.
As an impressionable youth, I used to watch "public information films" in England that showed 70s children riding on trailers, before one would fall over the side and under the wheels, resulting in a grisly mess of blood and brown cords. The other thing I learnt not to do was throw a frisbee up into an electricity pylon then climb up to get it. As I recall, that leads not to blood but to ashes floating gently in the breeze.
The film did its job - I clung to my youngest all the way, scanning the horizon for tornadoes or other possible hazards while silently calculating whether in the event that Son Number One began to slip, it would be better to grab him and risk his legs slipping under the wheels, or push him harder so he would fall away from this whirling machine of death.
As it happened the three mile an hour journey was uneventful.
At the plantation we roamed between the firs, looking for the perfect tree. What is the perfect tree? Well, the trees I liked were tall and conical, Il Capo likes trees that were symmetrical and Nanny wanted something without gaps in the foliage. Son Number One's only criterion was that he could reach the label. Bagpuss ignored the trees and looked for mud to walk in. Working together we succesfully dismissed every candidate until Son Number One found our Douglas. He was a little over seven feet tall and perfectly formed. I found an itinerant teenager with a saw who happily laid on the frozen ground and sawed Douglas down, then carried him back to the trailer for the journey back.
After another non-fatal hay ride back, Douglas was placed in a shaking machine. Ostensibly this was to allow dead needles to fall, but I think it was really to remove the spiders. If they can hide in a bunch of bananas, how many can fit into a tree? Then he was netted and two willing teenagers tied him to our PT Cruiser for which I thanked them with a picture of Abraham Lincoln mind-beaming them to share it with the lad stuck back in the trees with the saw.
While all this was happening to Douglas, we were receiving free mulled cider and buying a huge and delicious apple and cranberry pie. Cider in America isn't the same as cider in Britain. To the British, cider is an alcoholic drink made from fermented apples that is prized by teenagers for its easy drinkability and low cost. To Americans, cider is a non-alcoholic drink, made from unpastuerised apple juice. The mulled stuff was pretty good though.
Back at the ranch, Douglas was stood, watered and decorated and I think he looks pretty good.
Picture taken with a 2.5 second exposure without a tripod, so apologies for the blurring.
P.S. I went hunting for the old UK public information films and found these. They are not exactly as I remember, but the essential horror remains. In fact, the trailer scene is one part of a long film which was shown in schools when I was small called Apaches. Looking at it now, it's the Alien of public information films, almost 30 minutes long and with the theme of 80s horror films, except it was made before them. A group of six children on a farm, one by one they meet grisly deaths until only one remains. You might think that after one child has been crushed under a trailer, one drowned in a pit of slurry and one has drunk paraquat, the parents might think to take the other children away, but horror films don't work that way. Remember, they made us watch this at school.
Part 1, The hay-ride scene is 4.30 in:
After that, the relatively mild frisbee film is here.