Managed to get rid of the Christmas tree, which, rather than being slightly late is actually slightly early. You’re meant to take down the decorations on Twelfth Night, which this time round is on Thursday. According to tradition, you are not meant to remove any decorations even a day late (or a day early), otherwise you’ll be cursed with bad luck. But, look, if 2017 turns out to be as bad (or even worse) than 2016, then don’t blame me. Or at least, if you’re going to blame me, make sure that you blame everybody else who’s already dumped their tree as well.
In Brighton, there are several Christmas tree graveyards. It’s where the local citizens go to dump the tree, and in the week or so after Christmas, the little patch of ground has a pile of conifers that gets steadily bigger and higher. I’ve always meant to do some kind of half-assed photography project about it: taking a picture of the empty patch of ground on or just before December 25th, then another photograph on December 26th (there’s always at least one person who is ultra-keen to get rid of their tree as soon as possible. You can just imagine a grimly determined scene as a dad drags a tree out of the house in Boxing Day’s early hazy light, pine needles and upset children utterly failing to cling on).
The way that you’re able to identify the Christmas Tree Graveyards (hereafter known as the CTGs) – before anyone dumps the first tree, anyway – is that someone, presumably from the council, sets up a smallish square of heavy duty fencing, the kind they sometimes use at red carpet events to keep the civilians safely away from the film stars, or otherwise to kettle overly excited protesters. After a few years, though, everybody pretty much knows where to dump their trees. That is, of course, unless they’re trying the other three options which are a)leave it in the gutter directly outside the house, b)accidentally drop in in the skip that’s conveniently turned up in a neighbour’s driveway, or c)simply leave it in the back garden until late July in an effort to win the street’s game of Who Can Dump Their Tree Latest.
What I noticed this year, however, as I threw my tree on the increasingly tottery pile of other trees (checking beforehand to ensure there wasn’t an Edward Woodward in a police uniform) was that there was no heavy duty gating this time round. Or if there was, it had already been completely obscured by the sheer volume of trees. But that had never happened before. (which is not to say that it could never happen – if a tree falls onto a big pile of other trees, does it make a sound? The answer, by the way, is yes, but not so much of a noise that you really notice). It occurred to me that perhaps this year the council hadn’t actually put out the markers for the CTG. Perhaps there had been one of these budget cuts at local level that we’re repeatedly told about, and maybe there just isn’t enough money to be able to clear out an entire city’s Christmas trees. After all, this is the city that, when faced with the possibility of increased police, refuse collection, and hospital staff for the princely sum of something like an extra £2 on the annual council tax, well, they voted that bugger down.
But anyway, there weren’t actually any markers to tell people where to dump their trees. So I did think for a brief moment that perhaps we weren’t meant to dump our trees there anymore (shortly before I dumped my tree with everybody elses), and perhaps there had been some upset, harassed council official fruitlessly attempting to stop everybody, while everybody ignores them, saying ‘well this is where I’ve always dumped my tree and I don’t care if the rules have changed I’m not going to alter my behaviour for anyone and anyway you’re a bit of a jobsworth aren’t you?’
Which is about as elegant a metaphor for 2016 as I’m likely to come up with.