Thursday, December 22, 2011

Who turned the lights on?

It started out as a way of trying to distract little Z while in the car: another attempt to put off the moment when those dreaded words are uttered. Not “Are we there yet?” but, “want my silly songs on, want my silly songs on…”

Little Z’s ‘silly songs’ (his term, our groan and the actual name on the CD cover) are a collection of nonsensical nursery rhymes that he insists we play at high volume on every car journey, whether a quick trip to the village or a three hour jaunt to the city. And by play I mean repeat over and over, to the point where I can imagine them being used as an interrogation technique by the FBI.

But that’s getting a little off track. The distraction technique is a festive ruse and it’s working well. “Look out for the lights. Can you see any pretty lights?” chant the wife and I as Little Z battles against his car seat restraints, trying to spot sparkling outdoor Christmas decorations. And when he spots them all hell breaks loose: “LIGHTS! LIGHTS! LIGHTS!” is the shout (I have to admit to joining in at times) as we pass another brightly bejewelled home.

And what lights they are. You folk certainly know how to waste electricity (sorry, did I say that out loud?): you certainly know how to put on a Christmas light display. There are little cottages bedecked in twinkling crystalline stars; glimmering trees in front gardens; multicoloured garlands hanging from many a porch, and these are just the pleasantly restrained, “hey, shall we decorate the veranda” style of external home adornment.

Little Z is more a fan of the displays that include a giant figure of some sort: an eight foot tall Santa Claus, a giant snow man, or those families of twinkling deer that prance statically in the snow. One such magnificent festive garden arrangement is a masterpiece that includes a snowman, Santa and Mrs Santa, at the Minden end of County Road 21. On seeing it I blurted out: “Where do these folks buy this stuff?” Only to be confronted minutes later by the aforementioned eight foot tall inflatable Santa as I walked into Home Hardware.

My previous city life has left me unprepared for this size and extravagance of your outdoor Christmas decoration, at least on the domestic scale. Yes, London had its parade and the illumination of the Oxford Street lights was always an event. But major displays in private gardens are something I’m not used to.

Until very recently I would have staked camp firmly in favour of the tastefully minimal displays, the ones in which some grotesque cartoon festive figure doesn’t dwarf me as it bucks and sways in the chill wind (that’s just not what you want if you’re staking camp anywhere). I’m getting better with these all out assaults on Christmas cheer, though, and it’s thanks to Little Z’s vigilance.

You see, we were driving down County Road One the other evening, Little Z in light spotting mode, me not paying too much attention (just thankful to be listening to CBC Radio 2, rather than another rendition of Jump Jump Johnny Giraffe!) when the call went up, “LIGHTS! LIGHTS! Daddy, LIGHTS!” The car skidded to a halt, slowly, on the not-so-snowy verge. And there it was, a giant illuminated snow globe, revolving resplendently in the middle of someone’s front lawn. I was amazed, awed even.

But don’t take my word for it. Go see it, just south of the turn for Ingoldsby. Go see it and tell me you don’t joyously shout “LIGHTS! LIGHTS! LIGHTS!”

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