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In an effort to generate more festive spirit, Husband and I always buy a real Christmas tree which usually prevails until April against Husband’s protestations. Last week, Husband and I went to Spinneys to purchase a tree in a high state of excitement (to be entirely honest, Husband was in more of a high state of weary resignation.)

We got home and while I brewed up some mulled wine to lubricate the occasion, Husband unsheathed the tree. Well, we could have draped some tinsel around an upended brush for better effect – there would certainly have been more bristles on it.

The emotion quotient was now registered at a medium state of excitement, yet still sufficient to press on with decorating the tree.

An hour later, I switched on the fairy lights. Raff and Carole made encouraging comments like: “It’s very minimalist. I hear that’s all the rage for Christmas trees this year,” and “Well at least there will be less pine needles to sweep up,” and “Perhaps it will look better after another mulled wine. Or several.”

Husband said very little, but he was probably feeling guilty about the fact that he had chosen the tree. He tried to make out later that he had warned me, but I have no recollection of his hissing ‘Get down!’ then pushing me to the floor and shielding me with his body.

The following day in the sobering morning light, I sat on our sofa and glared at our tree. Without benefit of mood lighting and mulled wine, it looked scrawny and frankly geriatric. A tree not so much in the twilight of its years as the darkest, deepest night.

“I’m very unhappy with that tree,” I announced.

“Mm-hmm,” said Husband.

“Very unhappy.”

“‘S fine,” mumbled Husband.

“I think it’s outrageous that Spinneys can charge US$ 150 for a crappy yoke like that,” I persisted. “I’m really not happy. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m not pleased at all, AT ALL.”

Husband finally realized he was not about to get to read his motorcycle magazine in peace. (The giveaway was my prodding him with my toe.)

“Look Niamhie, we BOUGHT it-”

“It was covered with plastic at the time-”

“Well we can’t take it back-”

“Hey! That’s a great idea! We’ll demand a refund. After all, Spinneys sold us faulty goods-”

“It’s a TREE! What’s faulty about it?”

“It doesn’t have any branches, so technically it’s not a tree as much as a very large twig.”

“Niamhie, they won’t take it back-”

“They will if we turn up with it and wave it threateningly at them.”

Husband dredged up a great sigh from the bottom of his diaphragm.

“Ok look. If you really REALLY don’t like it, we’ll take it back.”

I would like to invite you to reread the sentence above.

I bet you’re thinking, ‘Gosh, what a lovely man. Look how far he’s willing to go to keep his wife happy. WHAT A TREASURE.’

You would not be mistaken on the treasure bit; however I’m sorry to say the rest is a lapse of judgment. Don’t feel bad about it; he has everyone fooled. Husband is a master of reverse psychology. His guilt trips come complete with complimentary truffles. Allow me to offer a direct interpretation:

“Woman, when I pledged to spend the rest of my life with you, I didn’t realize you were crazed. I trust my demonstration of logic and good sense highlights and contrasts your unreasonableness, thereby putting an end to the matter.”

“Great,” I said. “I’ll take off the decorations. See if you can find the plastic cover in the bin, will you? It should be about a third of the way down, under the fish heads.”

Husband made me call Spinneys before scrounging through the bin, in the vain hope that Spinneys would refuse to take back the tree and suggest some alternative storage places for it. However, upon hearing my tragic tale of woe, the Duty Manager offered to refund the full amount complete with interest, and apologized profusely for any mental trauma inflicted. He even offered to send someone around to pick up the twig, but I graciously agreed to return it in person.

Fully refunded, we went to the Garden Centre and procured a tree for US$ 35 less.

The Spinneys tree had been so spindly that we had been able to press our outdoor umbrella stand into service for the presentation of the tree (that particular brainwave attributable to Carole). The Garden Centre tree was so BEEFY that the trunk would not fit into the umbrella stand. Husband and Raff spent a lot of time competing over who could come up with the most colourful swearword as they tried to prop up the tree in a bucket, but it remained stubbornly lopsided.

I left them to it – after all, erecting the Christmas tree is Man Work, there’s no doubt about it.

Returning half an hour later, our tree was proudly perpendicular in the corner. I was engrossed in decorating it, when I noticed what looked like a brush handle nudging the star at the top of the tree. Ever practical, Husband had upended a rake handle in the umbrella stand, lashed the tree to it and swaddled the base in tin foil.

Our tree is positively bristling with pine needles and emits a wonderful foresty aroma in the living room. I am now happy . . . and I would even venture out on one of its sturdy limbs to suggest that Husband is too

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