This year we got a Christmas tree for our flat.
If you’ve come within striking distance of me in the last week, then you’ll already know all about the tree. I’ll have told you about it, shown you photos. Instead of saying “hello how are you” like a normal person, I’ll have flung my iPhone into your face and yelled “LOOK AT OUR TREE”.
Perhaps I’ve also invited you round to meet the tree. Perhaps you politely declined, and have been subjected to a slow drip feed of persuasive tree stories and carefully mood-lit images ever since.
Getting a Christmas tree when you’re renting is a big deal.
Mostly because every year you and your housemates will go “shall we get a tree?” and then decide that no one can be arsed, because it’ll die, because we’ll all be going home-home, no one will be here for Christmas Day.
So deciding to actually get a Christmas tree is a landmark occasion. It’s an event, a commitment, a statement of permanence in your transient London renting life.
It’s also, if I’m honest, a bit of an effort. Here’s why.
Probably not the Narnia CS Lewis envisioned
Step 1: Deciding between real or fake
Granted, a fake tree could be easily procured from the Dalston branch of Argos, assembled, and used again for next year.
But it’s inevitable: a fake tree in its massive box would end up joining the assortment of items currently congregating in the corner of our living room. There it would sit for the next 11 months, carefully balanced on the printer box, next to a rolled up rug, between the coat rack and a bike, quietly awaiting Christmas.
That, or it’d get wedged inside Narnia, our ironically named hallway cupboard containing a dizzying array of hopes, dreams and scattered belongings left by housemates past and present. Namely several duvets, four suitcases, an ironing board, one Angry Birds fancy dress costume and a large bag of what I like to call “my seasonal wardrobe”.
The fake tree would haunt us, eventually becoming one of those shared items you throw out with the toaster when everyone moves out. No, we needed simple, we needed disposable. We needed the smell of Christmas to cheer the humdrum routine of our repetitive, expensive London lives. We needed a real tree.
Step 2: Buying a real tree
It’s generally accepted that you don’t need a car when you live in London. The only exception is likely to be when you happen to be in the market for a 5-6ft tree.
We did not have a car, which meant our festive tree shopping trip wasn’t just an exercise in buying a Christmas tree, but reining ourselves in, remembering our limits, and not getting carried away.
Admittedly I’ve never bought a house, but if house hunting is anything like trying to stick to an agreed budget and tree height when surrounded by a glorious selection of towering, bushy, 8-10 foot Norweigan firs in the Stoke Newington Christmas Forest, then I may be in trouble in years to come.
Our saving grace was discovering the “Value Fir” section, where the trees were what some might call misshapen, or slightly less than perfect, and others might refer to as on the piss. It was there that we were introduced to Jim, who was £29 and 5-6 ft, slightly uneven at the base, a bit sparse on top, and therefore everything that we could have hoped for in a tree.
We laid Jim the Value Fir on his side, grabbed an end each, and marched him home. Job done.
Step 3: Decorating the tree
In all the excitement of buying Jim, we sort of forgot about getting stuff to go on it. The only decorations we had lying around consisted of one solitary strip of tinsel – aka last Christmas’ decorative effort – which didn’t go with our proposed 2016 colour scheme anyway.
The problem is, no one moves into a rented houseshare with a box of Christmas baubles. You move into a rented houseshare with three big blue IKEA bags of clothing, a bin you’ve had since university, and a set of mismatched forks. So in short, we had to go back out and buy everything from scratch.
We also aimed for a 60:40 bauble to chocolate ratio because these were our priorities.
Step 4: Tell everyone how good your tree is
There’s literally no point in getting a Christmas tree if you’re not going to go on and on about having one. I mean, you’ve literally got a tree in your living room. How often do you have a real actual tree from a forest in your living room?
The good news is that there aren’t many conversations which can’t be brought round to the subject of Christmas trees. It’s pretty much all me and my housemate are talking about. Sometimes we just sit in the living room with the lights off and Jim sparkling in the corner, and ponder how lucky we are.
As my housemate said this morning,”I don’t know why people don’t have trees in their living room all year round.”
Seriously. Imagine how good the year would be.