I’ve always wanted twinkly trees but in London we didn’t have trees to twink. So when we moved to this house in Sussex, the fruit trees by the front door filled me with quiet joy. At Christmas, we would have twists of tiny lights and their delicate glow would lift the hearts of passers-by with warmth and hope.
Well, firstly I’d forgotten that we live at the end of a cul-de-sac so the only passers-by are our right-hand neighbours, lost dog walkers and a succession of birds from the nature reserve. Secondly, I hadn’t anticipated just how ‘delicate’ the glow would be. The box said they were warm, white battery LED lights . It should have added with a subtle, understated effect. It should also have included a marital stress warning or note: Assembly not advised for busy people on a schedule.
Of course there all sorts of reasons NOT to put up lights, most of them environmental. This is why the OH has held out for so long, only finally agreeing some years ago to buy some solar ones. I was so excited. We got them home, I unwound them and distributed them excitedly in a small bush at the front of our house in London. But, let’s just say there were issues: waiting for days for the sun to come out; realising said bush would only be IN the sun for about 20 minutes; the lights coming on for a few pulse-quickening, joyous moments but by the time I’d called him…nothing.
I’m not quite sure how I got away with these new battery operated ones, but I must have caught him in a weak moment. One which he no doubt deeply regretted while teetering on a ladder with lights tangled around various body parts, me manically persuading them into position from below. But even he had to admit, when finished, they had a certain charm. If I’m honest, I was a bit disappointed and prefer our neighbours’ icicle lights (I’m working up to those), but they’re definitely a step up from what we had before. If you stand at the upstairs windows, with your head on one side, they look magical. Like stars floating in the dark, or held in unseen hands. Strangely comforting.
There’s something about light isn’t there? Candles, lighted windows, a roaring fire in a country pub. We are drawn to them like moths, our eyes filled with longing and memory. They speak of warmth, of friendship, of stories retold in familiar rooms. They soothe us.
So we went for a soothing Light Walk around the area. It was like Kew Gardens or Wisley, but cheaper. You would not have thought there were so many ways to decorate a tree or light up a window. But it seems there are as many ways as there are people. There were sparkly reindeer, shooting stars, a pulsating Santa, a crib scene. We saw every type of icicle lights you could imagine, coloured or white, streaming or winking, in one house a fall of golden rain across every window.
I know they’re not great for the environment and that light pollution is a thing, disrupting eco-systems and wasting energy. According to NASA, the earth is 50% brighter from space in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year. The arrival of LED lights have reduced the negative effects somewhat but there’s no doubt we winter-crazed light-seekers are not good for the planet.
Next year I’ll have another look at solar ones. There’s more sun here. Meanwhile, I’ll stand by the window and look at the lights, remembering the star which gave wise men direction, angels a song, shepherds an unexpected Light Walk. I will read and listen to those ancient words, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
I’ll lie in bed, and think of the earth spinning in space like a giant bauble, held in unseen hands. And be strangely comforted.