Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas tree

Here we are, stuck in reality, trying to execute Emergency Plan B. Create a happy and memorable Christmas for the little grits in our temporary lodge in Hong Kong. To do that, we're putting into place all the signifiers of a British Christmas. Fairy lights. Santa socks. Hints about presents.

We're putting into place the Grit Christmas too (probably anti-patriotic). Do not make a big deal. Make our own presents. Yes, we are having baking potatoes.

But there's one thing lacking. The British Christmas and the Grit Christmas share something in common, and we can't get it. A tree. We need a proper Christmas tree shape that we can bomb not with our usual range of shuttlecocks and toilet rolls, but with tasteless plastic shiny stuff we already bought from the sad cat charity shop.

I know there are trees here. I have seen them. Not jungly ones, obviously. (Although as time ticks on, I wonder about the price of chainsaws and getting caught.) I know there are proper Christmas trees here because, over the past few weeks, I've seen expats carrying them on the ferry. But until Monday we assumed we would be at home, where I could disappear into the eaves and drag out the five-pound bargain tree from Help the Aged, where I wouldn't need to join this expat game of lugging Christmas trees around the Hong Kong transport infrastructure.

Now of course, we're here, and in the market for a Christmas tree. It seems to me that the Hong Kongers are big on shopping mall trees (up to thirty foot high and difficult to steal), which are used as extensive Christmas support for the manufacturing and retail growth of China. But they are not big on propping up Norwegian fir, floor to ceiling, in their domestic interiors. Strange.

Of course we may be simply too late. There are no trees to be had at the local grocers, coal merchant, or Saturday market like in Smalltown. Homebase doesn't exist, and we couldn't find them in Wing On.

We have searched. There is no second-hand plastic tree at the Hippie Shop, because it was sold. We tracked one down on the island at the laundry. The washing lady was touting an eight-branch wire and fringe arrangement for one hundred and fifty dollars. It's about four foot high, been round the block a few times, and has a couple of branches missing. The family gathered round it and looked at it, miserably, yesterday. Dig said he thought he could do better, then crawled over Kowloon and Central, twice, and discovered he could source a decent tree for about four thousand dollars. But he is from the north with relatives as foresters and memories of taking an axe to Kielder, thus came away empty handed, except for the argument that four thousand was a little steep for Emergency Plan B, especially when you're on a UK tax rate.

Which brings us to today. And no tree.

Then I made a big mistake. To fill the gap, I offered my design skills towards decorated dried branches with tinselled twigs. I reminded everyone, as silence fell about the room, that I have a piece of paper crediting me with some basic design skills. I will create a delightful and joy-filled design, I promise!

Squirrel, in an outrage, as if I had just announced I am leaving your father and shacking up with a Philippine lady boy on the beach, put on her hat and exited the house, slamming the door behind her. Shark went white and locked herself in the bedroom where I could hear soft weeping. Tiger took the attention-grabbing route by howling at the walls and wishing she were dead. Dig went out cursing for one last crawl of the day to see if four thousand dollars on Emergency Plan B looked a little more reasonable in the light of new information.

I think I would just like to say that my design skills are not that bad.


Sam said...

You might have to do more to convince us now, after that reaction :D Glad you found a tree in the end, and very pretty it looks too.

Love the photos of the biscuit making! I've got one of those gadgets lurking in my cupboards, so I shall have to get someone to have a go :-)

Oh and Yay! for ovens. Surely that's the silver lining for your Hong Kong Christmas!

Rachel M. said...

Oh Grit, glad you found a tree in the end and it's so perfect. I don't even want to write about my trip to Disneyland, it was ... very hard with two kids, stop, cry myself to sleep tonight.

Kitty said...

I cannot comment on your latest post, because there is not little linky doodah on which to click.

But I wanted to say that I think you are a marvellous educator, and if I had half your spirit, intelligence and energy, I'd seriously consider it too. My kids are different to your kids - I think one would do well with home ed; I think, however, that one would not. So I have considered it - very much so. And I utterly support your right to choose how to educate your own children.

More power to your Grit elbow. x