I purchased the apartment in the small village in the south of Buckinghamshire (in the UK) that the Kickass Canada Girl and I were to have such trouble selling before we moved to Canada last summer – back in the first year of the new millennium.
When I took possession in the November of that year I knew that the place needed a fair amount of renovation before I would be able move in but as I was, by great good fortune, at that point housed by the school at which I then worked, I was able to engage a builder and to give him free reign over the apartment in the run-up to Christmas.
As I mentioned in the very early days of this blog, the Georgian manor of which my apartment was but a portion occupied a prominent position in the centre of one of those arcadian English villages (four hundred inhabitants (or thereabouts), sixteenth century church, one pub (of varying quality), a cricket club (likewise!), a huddle of ‘artisans’ dwellings and farm buildings) which are, of course, all as pretty as a picture postcard!
Most days, after leaving work, I drove the short distance to my new residence to check on the (apparently inevitably) glacial progress of the building works. It would be dark by the time I wound my way down the hill into the village so I was accustomed to not really being able to make out that much of the surroundings. Given the sleepy, bucolic nature of the place, therefore, you might imagine my surprise – nay, total shock! – on entering the village on one such dark evening to come face to face with a single small terraced cottage – just across from the pub – that had been adorned with sufficient Christmas illumination that it must surely have distracted pilots on their run-in to Heathrow airport.
Lest you think my reaction excessive you should remember that in the main the Brits don’t go in for American-style public displays of decoration for the outsides of their residences (the which they tend to find a little on the… er, garish side) preferring instead the traditional Christmas tree, tinsel and paper-chains on the inside.
Canadians are (as in most things) somewhat more restrained than their neighbours to the south, but do have something of a liking for illuminated inflatable figures of such size that they must needs be deflated should the weather forecast prophesy wind speeds in excess of the balmy. This year – ignoring my habitually raised eyebrow – the Girl persuaded me that – as we are both now Canadians (if only in the honorary sense on my part) – we should make a little more effort to join in. As you can see from the image that heads this post we didn’t exactly go overboard… but this seems to me to be a suitably mid-Atlantic compromise.
Those who find my attitude to such things snobbish will be delighted to hear that back in 2000 I rapidly received my comeuppance. Having grumbled to all and sundry about the unsuitability of such a vivid display for a sleepy rural village I discovered – on my next visit to the pub – that the owners of the cottage had lost a young son to a cancer and subsequently each year decorated the frontage as part of a fund-raiser for an appropriate children’s cancer charity.
That shut me up!