CHRISTMAS isn’t quite the same. With our four children now grown up and in various parts of the country, this was the first year my wife and I ventured out on our own to buy the tree.

It felt strange, walking round row after row of Christmas trees without having at least one of our brood tagging along and making the selection even more complicated: “Let’s have that one. No, I think it should be that one. No, hang on a bit, that one’s better…”

In contrast, my objectives in buying a Christmas tree are very simple – to select one quickly and to avoid paying a penny more than the previous year. In 2016, we spent £30 – I remember it vividly – but, this year, even a bog standard tree was priced at a minimum of £40.

Reluctantly, we were about to break my golden rule by spending £10 more than last year when my heart leapt with excitement as I spotted something rarer than a sighting of the abominable snowman – a Christmas tree for £25.

To be honest, it wasn’t great – a sparse spruce if ever there was one – but, as I said to my wife: “It’s only a tree.”

To my astonishment, she agreed: “You’re right,” she said (words I’m not used to hearing), “we’ll be chucking it out in a couple of weeks.”

And so we went home with the first Christmas tree I’ve been allowed to choose in 25 years and, miraculously, it was a fiver cheaper than last year.

Back home, my elation at having bagged a bargain was tempered by the fact that we were having to dress the tree without any of our children being around for the first time in a quarter of a century.

To cheer ourselves up, we put on some Christmas music as we rooted around under the stairs for the boxes of decorations.

“Ah, look at this,” said my wife, lifting out a one-eyed, triangular robin made at primary school by our daughter, Hannah, 20 years ago. It was followed out of the box by another rather rubbishy robin made by her elder brother Christopher. This one had two eyes but a broken wing and one leg.

Naturally, the gormless-looking pair of robins were given pride of place on our £25 Christmas tree, alongside the twinkling fairy lights and the collection of shop-bought baubles that don’t mean anywhere near as much.

Digging deeper into the box, we discovered more examples of our children’s primary school handiwork, including Jack’s rosy-cheeked cardboard Santa, and Max’s disastrous, dangly decoration, made from bits of string, left-over tinsel and a couple of squashed bottle-tops.

We don’t have our children at home anymore – they live elsewhere – but the remnants of their childhood are still making us happy.

By tomorrow night, all four of them will be home for Christmas. Quite frankly, who needs expensive Christmas trees and posh decorations anyway?


THANK you to Derek Johnson, of Durham, for letting me know about his six-year-old daughter Evie’s mounting excitement about Santa’s visit: “Daddy, Santa needs to know that I haven’t put a foot wrong since at least October,” she said.

AND many thanks to Steve Adamson, of Bishop Auckland, for passing on his son five-year-old son Tom’s concern about Christmas morning: “I’ve given Santa quite a long list this year and there’s a chance he won’t remember it all. If he doesn’t, I might have to wait until next year for him to catch up.”

• Merry Christmas everyone. Thanks for reading in 2017, hope you get everything you’ve asked for, and every best wish for the New Year.