I went to make a coffee. No milk entailed shoes on, coat, cash and a brisk walk down to the local shop.
Cold, dull and grey, I thought about what I might do this evening, what I might do this afternoon, and my shin splints which have put paid to much Christmas activity.
On leaving the shop I was startled to see someone on the balcony opposite. Not just any old balcony it must be noted, but one which for as long as I can remember has seen the most spectacular private display of Christmas lights in London: Shirland Road, W9.
There wasn’t even a nanosecond of doubt about meeting this man. “Hello!” I called up. A smiley chap in a hooded top grinned at me. “So nice to finally meet you” I said, “I’ve been wondering who does these forever!”
“Oh yeah? It’s me and my missus Sandra – I’m Tony. We’ve been doing it for twenty years! I’m just putting this Christmas tree up today, I’ve had to ask the neighbours if they mind because as you can see we’re pretty much stretched over the whole building.”
I looked along several balconies. The Nativity was represented by illuminated life size figures, a nodding reindeer (new), soldiers, a flashing stocking and train, bows…a snowman tipped his hat.
“It must cost you a fortune?” I said.
“Yep, £300 for the ‘lecky alone! And the figures ain’t cheap. Have you seen this Reindeer? I got him yesterday. His head moves – he cost me £130. They had one in Argos – but he wasn’t as nice.”
My neck was starting to ache from standing looking up at Tony and the soon to be lit decorations. But I hadn’t as yet broached one of my favourite topics.
“Tony, you know I can’t stand those LED lights that everyone has now – the cold blues and yellows and really any other colour, I’m so glad you don’t have any of those.”
He looked surprised. “Oh! You don’t like ‘em?!” Well, quite a few of these are LED, much cheaper to run you know, get a lot more out of them, and they’re much easier to move about.”
I stood corrected. “Point taken” I said.
He told me how he wanted to start collecting for charity as so many people had offered him cash in the past for the display.