Mal’s outside lights are the wonder of the region.

If people don’t understand where I live, I can always tell them ‘two doors down from the guy with the Christmas lights’ and they will know. He spends ages each year, cutting enormous wooden Christmas shapes, wiring up electrics and painting cartoon characters. It is amazing.

In a way, I feel a bit sorry for him – once nobody had these outside decorations except those who could create them themselves via a combination of hard, hard work and mad genius. Now any idiot with a retarded sense of taste can go to Homebase and buy twinkly outside illuminations for a tenner.

I go to Homebase.

The town is tense and busy. Nobody looks particularly happy. There is no festive air in TK Max, heads are down in Woolworth’s. And far across the ocean, deep in the bowels of the CIA building, anxious agents are frantically destroying video footage of Guantanamo detainees being sent to Christmas shop at Argos.

I hate installing outside lights. I am scared of heights and ladders or, more specifically, the hitting the ground bit that occurs when you plunge from the former off the latter. As it is, I do a magical and sinister Derren Brown trick on Short Tony, and he does them for me. I stand at the bottom, resting my foot reassuringly on the base of the ladder and shouting encouragement.

There is one window that is not covered, so I scoot indoors and fix indoor lights around the inside of the frame. This takes me ages and ages. By the time I have unwound them I am ready to kill somebody; by the time I have hit my finger with the hammer for the third time I am ready to revive them in order to play them Dido records. In the end I bang in some of those barbed galvanised things that you use to fix fence wire up, deciding to worry about removing them when the time comes. I step back to admire my work.

Short Tony’s figure looms at me – he is walking down the secret path that leads between our front gardens. I open the window to wish him well.

There is the dull crunch of cheap glass as I heave the window shut, crushing the bulbs between the frames as the hinges close. They do not even have the decency to shatter spectacularly.

32 thoughts on “The festive season approaches.

  1. zed says:

    DIY isn’t really your thing, is it? Have a happy holiday:)

  2. Eliza says:

    christmas decorations should ALWAYS be left to women. in fact- everything should ALWAYS be left to women.

  3. Brennig says:

    I’m with Eliza. Leave everything to women. And when things go wrong and fingers start to get pointed… duck.

  4. Who has all day to string up lights? Doesn’t anybody work in that worthless upper-middle-class Potemkin village of yours? We have a tree in the living room, surrounded by the usual palisades and tank traps to keep the toddlers off of it, and that’s it, enough, basta, finito el benito.

    Interesting to hear that Argos was still in business. Thought they’d be long gone by now. They weren’t playing Simply having a wonderful Christmas time” by any chance, were they?

  5. Gordon says:

    I agree with Eliza. Which is why Louise does the washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning…

  6. Duncan says:

    Bar humbug – lose the lights

  7. Laura says:

    Cup-hooks. What you need are cup-hooks. We have a dozen of them inserted into the underside of the porch. Come December, we just drop the light strands into the cup-hooks, plug them in, and voila!, lights. Total time required: 3 minutes.

    We do NOT, however, put the damned things up along the eaves. The neighbours will have to make do with a modest porch display.

  8. Fanto says:

    I have to say that – in my experience – the best lighting displays tend to be in the more run down areas.

    And the lights all come on at the same time as the street lights. Funny that ……

  9. Andy says:

    *wipes sprayed mince pie crumbs from key board & screen*

    Most amusing. Merry Christmas and wotnot.

  10. Gerbil says:

    We haven’t put our tree up yet. We can’t even be bothered to go to the garden centre and buy one.
    Merry Christmas.

  11. Sophie says:

    We have a “destructive but ever so cute” six-month-old ginger-and-white kitten in the house. Christmas tree definitely NOT going up!

  12. guyana-gyal says:

    Eliza, Eliza, take back them there words!!! Of course, if women ruled the world…

  13. kermit says:

    wait, wait so you’re no longer eager to use your telescoping ladder that you keep under your bed? is this what you’re trying to tell us? or are you trying to tell us that you like looking up at short tony’s elevated bum?

  14. JonnyB says:

    I am not allowed to take the telescopic ladder outside, in case it marks the carpet when I go up into the loft.

    Welcome to my life. It is like ‘the worm that turned’ by the 2 Ronnies.

  15. greavsie says:

    It is like ‘the worm that turned’ by the 2 Ronnies.

    Is this your way of ‘coming out’ and saying you wear a dress at home?

  16. Lisa says:

    Ooooh, I’d forgotten all about the miraculous telescoping ladder! Perhaps your fear of heights would have been cured in the excitement of using it. Why don’t you buy another one that will be the outdoor telescoping ladder? You could store it in the chicken coop where they could roost and poop on it. Then you could avoid sounding so henpecked.

  17. Richard says:

    You can’t beat a good bit accidental bulb crunching. A laughed at you, knowingly.

  18. Richard says:

    I laughed, not A laughed.

  19. Wan2BukleMaShu says:

    I now have visions of you balancing the telescopic ladder on your shoulders (thus the worm satisfies LTLP consummately…’ahem’….in the carpet mark department…ooh, the pun possibility. I shall refrain) with Short ‘yuletide fairy’ Tony swaying atop precariously, in a tutu.
    …….Et voila! Cirque De Monsieur B, Xmas extravaganza.

  20. US says:

    Totally OT but you are now the top Google result for Private Secret Diary. Fortunately cause I couldn’t remember the URL. Merry Christmas.

  21. NAGA - Life Coach To The Stars says:

    Please tell me you don’t like a blow up Santa afixed to your chimney?

    We’ve gone all minimalist here, to the point of putting up exactly, no Christmas decorations what so ever.

    Might I respectfully suggest, regarding the question of your ladder and carpet marks – you make a point to the LTLP by, not wearing any pyjama bottoms when slipping between the sheets of her freshly made bed.

  22. omykiss says:

    Great! It’s anti-socila to put up all these lights … global warming and all that!!!! I reckon by smashing your lights you’ve just saved the world!

  23. omykiss says:

    Great! It’s anti-social to put up all these lights … global warming and all that!!!! I reckon by smashing your lights you’ve just saved the world!

  24. Linda says:

    I’ve become a regular Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. I don’t mind looking at the lights and hard work of other people, but I don’t want to do any myself. We lugged a Christmas tree up three flights of stairs, threw on some cheap decorations and I am finished. And, would you believe, that there is actually a Christmas tree, sold all over France, that have no pine fragrance at all? That should be against the law. Bah, humbug.

  25. sablonneuse says:

    What a laugh. You’ve cheered up my day again. Our village provides a tree to put up outside and we have bought a tree for inside. Usually my husband is in charge of lights and gets himself – and them – in a terrible twist. I’ve kept it simple and used just three sets (instead of about fifteen) this year. Only problem is, he put away the time switches and doesn’t remember where and I keep forgetting to turn the outside lights on – or off.

  26. Dr J says:

    Round these parts Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a sinister tribe of 12 foot tall blow up Homer Simpsons in Santa suits….

  27. Pat says:

    Great you’ve got the Christmas spirit already. Knew I could rely on you. Have a good one!

  28. Ric Locke says:

    Merry Christmas, Jonny.

    Oh, and do let us know when the LTLP discovers that you’ve hammered galvanized fence staples into the (nice new, IIRC) window frames.

    My wife and I now have a little store downtown. (“Town” = Texas, likely fewer people than in your village.) We have done nothing at all to the house, but the store windows are gorgeous. If you look really closely, you can even still see what we have to sell.


  29. JonnyB says:


    I drove round Texas once, in a pick up truck. It was brilliant!!! I may have even visited your store.

    Merry Christmas all.

  30. Ric Locke says:

    I’m pleased that you enjoyed the experience, but it’s unlikely you’ve visited our store unless you’ve been traveling without letting us know. It’s only been open since October.

    If you ever come back, do stop by, especially if you’ve made purchases. What we do is packing and shipping, and it can be so much nicer to receive those, ah, special items in the privacy of your own home, rather than explaining to the nice lady at the Customs. I can’t claim brilliance, but I’ve become adept at negotiating British post codes and the circumlocutions necessary for filling out the paperwork.

  31. eclectech says:

    Oh my. I feel guilty now. I’ve just sent Mr Tech off to pick up a final present from Argos on the Saturday before Christmas.

    Whilst I catch up on reading blogs.

    I’m a bad person.

  32. eclectech says:

    Oops, also meant to wish you, the LTLP and Servalan a fun festive season too!

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