Ordinarily, the putting up of the Christmas tree is one of life’s joys: the smell of the tinsel, the glow of the electric lights and whatnot. Not this year. I’m not one hundred percent certain (I expect Shaun Ryder, for example, might want to challenge this), but I think, I think, that during this year’s putting-up-of-the-tree (and the mayhem that ensued after it) I may have broken the Guinness world record for the most expletives used in one 24-hour period.
It all started when I was trying to retrieve the tree from my shed. It was tucked away behind a mountain of household junk that I’ve been meaning to dispose of since about 2007 (kettles, lamps, books I never finished reading, etc). In that curious half-darkness unique to sheds in the daytime, I ascended the dreaded Junk Mountain, scraping my legs on the jagged edges of old picture frames and video cases as I went. Thus the first few F-words were uttered. The aperitifs. The tasters.
My shed is narrow and long, so to say that I ascended the mountain is perhaps painting a nobler image of my endeavour than the reality suggested; the truth was, I’d had to wriggle up it face-first like a one-year-old trying to navigate a bean bag. Having successfully done this (sort of), I was still a few feet away from the tree. I had to stretch my arms into the void and grab at it. After ten minutes of blindly flapping my hands at cold, thin air, I felt contact with the offending item and, whilst still lying flat on my face, attempted to drag it out into the light. As if this manouevre wasn’t challenging enough, a rebellious gust of wind, with a somewhat juvenile sense of humour, slammed the shed door and imprisoned me in darkness. My language, by this time, had also entered darker territory:
‘Oh, for F-sake!… F-ing tree!…What the F- is that F-ing cutting into my F-ing leg!… F-ing can’t see F-all for F-sake!’
I somehow managed to push the shed door open with my feet and wriggle out backwards. The daylight stung my eyes. I felt like one of those Chilean miners.
After dragging the tree into the lounge I stopped for a much-needed cup of tea.
‘Well,’ I thought, as I sat there rubbing Savlon into my open wounds, ‘that may have been stressful but now the fun can start.’
To drive home the fact that the fun could now start, I put a festive ‘Carols From King’s’ Spotify playlist on and got my boxes of decorations out. I picked the tree up and prepared to slot it into its Noddy ( = holder).
The Noddy ( = holder) was broken. One of the holdings ( = Noddies) for its plastic legs had snapped. When and how this had happened I’ll never know; the bloody thing had sat motionless in a box for eleven months. Had a naughty elf crept into my house during the off-season and cracked it for a laugh?
My vocabulary, once again, became somewhat tart. It created a hideous juxtaposition with the King’s College’s otherwise enchanting rendition of It Came Upon The Midnight Clear:
‘F-ing hell. F-ing piece of F-ing Argos F-ing shit!’
‘It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old…’
‘How the F- has that F-ing happened!’
‘From angels bending near the earth, to touch their harps of gold…’
It was half-past three on a winter Sunday. I had thirty minutes with which to hit the town and find a replacement Noddy ( = holder) before the shops closed. The high street was deserted. The sky was pink overhead; it would be dark soon. What few shops were open were already switching off their lights. I dashed into Tesco with seconds to spare. They were selling trees, but not tree stands. I rattled off a couple more F-words under my breath, to keep the tally ticking over.
In a moment of inspiration I realised that instead of buying a new tree stand I could fix the old tree stand with gaffer tape and an arse-load of UHU glue. As a reparation tactic, the ol’ gaffer-tape-and-UHU combo had worked for everything else I’d ever tried to fix, why shouldn’t it work now? I rushed home, glued the plastic leg into place and wrapped enough tape around that, should that magnificent structure ever suffer from a similarly wonky limb, would have held up the Eiffel Tower. I then fixed the tree into its lovingly restored Noddy (etc.) and looked on with masculine pride as my feat of human engineering stood unaided.
I felt like Christopher Wren. It was a thoroughly impressive erection, even if, like many erections, it leaned slightly to the left at its apex. It was at that moment that I had my epiphany that gaffer tape really could fix pretty much any breakage. I wouldn’t be too surprised if it one day played some part in resolving the problems between North and South Korea.
Despite having come good, I was continuing to fire out F-words. Mainly because I was still resentful towards the tree for having caused me excess trouble in the first place. And although the tree was currently standing to attention, it rocked unnervingly when touched. Putting the lights and baubles on required a steady hand. I don’t think I’ve ever been so deft as I was during that ensuing hour of tree decoration. I was effectively playing an enormous game of festive Jenga.
As I reached up to put the final decoration on the top, I felt my back lock up.
Thus far, some of you reading this might be thinking, ‘He’s not swearing that much. Certainly not enough to get in the Guinness Book of Records!’ Well, allow me to now put that right. Upon my back locking up, I believe my exact words were:
‘F- my F-ing bastard life. Gah, you F-ing C-. My F-ing back. And you F-ing carolers can F-ing F-off for a F-ing start,’ I added, directing my rage at the King’s College’s finest young soloist, who, at that precise moment, was barely three lines into his introduction to King Jesus Hath A Garden.
And I continued to freestyle, using some of those fruitier words, from the moment my back went to the moment I fell asleep. I was even giving it some in the dead of night. Every minor twist of my lumbar stabbed me awake.
‘You F-er. Oh, F- my F-ing life.’
You really don’t appreciate how much you rely on your back until it decides to take a couple of days off. You can’t do anything without submitting yourself to total agony. Even a task as mundane as putting your socks on can create enough suffering to convince you that there can’t possibly be a God. It was so painful that I was even swearing whilst opening my advent calendar; surely becoming the first person ever to do so.
‘Gah, F-ing day 7. Oww. You F-ing F-er. A picture of a F-ing Christmas pudding.’
I staggered into my lounge and set up camp for the day. It was a worrying glimpse at my retirement years. This would be my life one day: watching daytime television and listening to the wind come down the chimney.
With the exception of my eyes, it seemed my every movement required the use of my back. I couldn’t even change the channel or check my watch without screaming. I made some terrible, terrible noises. I used chambers of my throat that I didn’t even know existed. The sounds emanating from me ranged from the sad, isolated caws of a lost seagull to the wild screeches of a chimpanzee getting his fingers caught in a blender. The rest of my noises sounded like Michael Jackson ad-libs.
Hee–hee! A-hoo! Oww!
I didn’t know when it would end. I wondered if I’d be locked up in my flat forever, watching The Wright Stuff and adverts for the Postcode Lottery. The last time my back had been this bad was four years ago; I’d had to end the pain by manually inserting wax crayon-esque suppositories. I hoped it wouldn’t resort to such an appalling solution this time. You haven’t known indignity until you’ve cradled your nude body into the foetal position and thumbed a Crayola up your back passage. In terms of shameful behavior, it’s up there with putting yourself forward to Guinness for the most swear words used in a 24-hour period.
That’s all from me for now. Merry F-ing Christmas. See you next year!
P.S. If anyone reading this happens to work for the Guinness Book of Records, I’d like to note that my period of spectacular cussing was from noon, Sunday, on the 6th Dec 2015 through noon, Monday, on the 7th Dec 2015. Also, my back is now fine.