Monday, 7 December 2015

Oh, Christmas Tree! Oh, Christmas Tree!



  These days you can buy a tree online, in store or off pavement. My mother relied on Big Lil's son Michael being out of prison, off the sauce and down the Lambeth Walk selling trees he'd sawn-off from garden centres in Codicote. If Big Lil's son Michael was in prison, my mother had to fall back on the fake Christmas Tree. After she went to work as Senior Medical Secretary at St Thomas's Hospital we were made to call it the counterfeit Christmas Tree.  
  There was dried blood on the lid of its box. Our cat Whiskey, going into labour with her second litter, refused to use the towel-lined box that had been put in front of the gas fire on purpose.  Instead she clawed some room in the built-in cupboard where the tree was kept off-season and had her second litter all over it. 
  Each early December seeing the section of box lid stained with kitten placenta my mother would cry hysterically.  While hoovering she had squashed a kitten from that second litter beneath the wheels of her bed. 
  'Oh, what did I do to you, Whiskey?  What did I do?  He was the only male out of the five, as well.  What did I do to you, Whiskey?!'
  Each year she would, however, calmly bed the tree among some stones in the bleaching bucket she had used when she tried to drown Whiskey after she had produced her first litter.  
  'Oh, you mustn't struggle. I can't help it. We've got to stop you having any more.'
  I remember watching from the bathroom door, horrified - but nevertheless wondering why my mother was holding Whiskey under the running tap with the bucket beneath, rather than holding her underwater in the bucket itself. 
  And wouldn't spaying be less fraught? 
  My mother couldn't go through with it, wailing and rocking on her hip as she towel-dried Whiskey in front of the gas fire. 
  It was her guilt, she said, that made her hold off taking Whiskey to the Blue Cross to be spayed until after the second litter. And then, because she killed one of that litter, guilt that made her let Whiskey have a third.  
  And every year the same hysterical response to seeing that patch of dried blood. 
  I once asked, 'Mum, why not just keep the tree in a new box and throw the old one away?'
  'Yes, why not, Iestyn?  And while we're at it we'll dig up my mother's remains from Gelligaer Cemetery and leave them out for the council.'

  Tomorrow, let's talk tinsel. 

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