Chiltington Lane

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external Christmas lights

what goes up should come down - but when?

by C L Scribbler - January 7, 2021

This afternoon I was standing halfway up a proper tree-pruning A-frame ladder pulling carefully at a long string of flapping LEDs which have been hanging astride a selection of branches of the hawthorn tree in the front garden by our gate (taking care not to tug too hard because of a muscle memory - which is coming back to my conscious brain as I write this - that it can hurt - as it did last year when I pulled impatiently and a tentacle of wire whipped around the twigs and slapped me with an LED in the eye).

It's not just getting fried by 240 Santavolts you need to worry about...

So getting back to this afternoon - this is when I had an interesting socially distanced conversation with the postman. (Not our regular postman - who I assumed was on holiday but later learned had been unwell - but the temporary postman - who was coping extremely well in finding letterboxes which belonged to their alledged addresses.)

Me up the ladder. He on the path. Looking up at this unusual sight on his way to our letter box.

We were always way more than 2 metres apart in the few seconds we discussed this timely lockdown topic... When's a good time to take down Christmas lights from an outside tree.

Obviously for all the world to see - if they happen to be passing through Chiltington Lane in the next 10 minutes or so - and for any spooks viewing this incident later only to discover the mistake in the aiming of their spy satellite camera - my waving at the sky wasn't me saying Hi! - I was just reaching up to bend the branches down a bit - as I'm taking down my tree lights now.

The postman's doing his later.

But when's the best time?

I was doing mine now - partly because it was sunny outside (preferable to the alternative of doing it in the rain) - partly because my wife - Janet - is more than half way through taking down Christmas decorations inside (which makes the outside lights - design credits Me and Storm Bella - even more conspicuous when we look out the windows from a decoratively denuded inside) and also (for my part) because I've reached an interesting stage in one of the stories I'm writing which means I can safely leave off serious writing for a couple of hours without undue concern that writer's block will snap into place like the Berlin Wall to delay its further progress.

If you've ever written reports or stories for a living - then you like me - probably have some old antiques of essays which you set aside so long ago that the very language of the writing and the assumptions of civilization itself have changed markedly since the opening chapters were assigned to those forgotten pages. Only future archeologists - could have any serious interest in reading such stuff.

Which takes me back to being up the ladder and anything useful I can pass on to you now about my experiences in this kind of thing.

One year - I said to the Postie - (after having struggled in slippery icy conditions to place old fashioned lights - the hot incandescent coloured bulb kind - up a much taller tree when I lived down the road - the tree - whose variety was never certainly decided - has pretty leaves in Autumn and sheds little acorns which in those days were grazed by a passing cockapoodle dog - the well known and much loved Fifi) - I resolved in the new year to leave the lights where they were till the following Christmas.

My reasoning was this. It's a lot of effort putting the lights up. A lot of work taking them down. And for most of the year - when the leaves on the tree come back again - the lights can hardly be seen.

The next Christmas I didn't have to get the ladder out. All I had to do was switch the power on to the trailing lead in the garage. Lights. Action! Brilliant. Why doesn't everyone do this?

I found out the year after.

Came the season. Switched on the power. Nothing. Just a tangle of 2 year old glass bulbs - not at all blazing incandescent from their internal heat - instead absolutely frosty cold and dead up the tree.

I tried changing some bulbs. They were the screwable kind you get in old fashioned ceilings. But it wasn't them.

It was too late by then to buy more Christmas lights. Amazon was empty.

After that externally unlit by us Christmas I found the cause as I took down the old string of bulbs and wire the following Spring.

The tree had grown in the two years since I put the lights up and the wires had stretched and broken in a couple of places.

So my answer to the question - when's the best time to take down Christmas lights from an outside tree?

It depends.


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