'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Thursday, December 15, 2005

All Lit Up

Cumbria, December. Fear stalks the streets. Yes, it's the moment when the good citizens of our county indulge themselves with the great seasonal potlatch of Christmas lights.
What began as a simple Christmas tree in the front window or a wreath hung upon the door has in recent years taken on the dimensions of a great public son et lumiere. Or at least a lumiere. No-one has (yet) thought of adding sound effects and music to the free entertainment on offer.
Over the valley in Aspatria, at the delightfully named 'Comely Bank' you can enjoy one of the best free light shows for miles around: a single house in the row is covered with illuminated abseiling Santas, ski-jumping reindeers, chiming bells, gift-wrapped presents, Christmas trees and exploding champagne bottles. It is quite the most spectacular thing for miles around.
And two things immediately strike you about this Christmas display. First, all the symbols and images are pre- or post-Christian - none of them refer to the Incarnation and its associated events. Second, there's a detectable socio-economic taxonomy to the displays. Put simply, the poorer the housing stock, the more lavish the display. Last year, on a sink estate in my hometown the house opposite my cousins', a post-war flat-top council semi, was festooned with lights on all four sides. I drew the conclusion, perhaps uncharitably, that this was some kind of coded Get your smack here message, as I couldn't imagine who else would have the resources for such a display on that estate. Then it occurred to me the pattern was more complex. The executive commuter houses of Bridekirk, protected by their great prairie lawns, sport clouds of white lights in their trees. Barn conversions exclusively feature straight electric icicles hanging from their eves (La Virtuosa's sports a rather fetchingly elegant set, appropriate to that property's chatelaine). Heaven knows what the castle-dwelling classes display. Older farmhouses tend to feature shimmering lines of wavy icicles (absolutely NOT the straight variety) beneath their guttering. Alas, none of Cumbria's elegant Georgian houses have decided to light up the skies. The only genuinely unclassifiable display seems to be that of the red-and-green flashing light-lines on small bungalows and cottages. What are they trying to tell us?
I'll try to photograph some of the more egregiously fascinating displays and post them to this blog. In the meantime, please send to us notable examples of domestic Christmas illumination. We'll publish & be damned . . .


Anonymous Anonymous said...

After MUCH persuasion (from Mrs R) we got a tree (from Top Bouch £21). The after further persuasion I took it out of the car and installed in the hall.... then after a suitable delay found some lights. Reluctantly.. lights now on tree AND sometimes I switch them on. Do they know it's Christmas afterall?

16/12/05 11:15 am  
Blogger Piers said...

Unfortunately their blogopolis seems to have stalled (http://crindledykeestate.blogspot.com), but the Crindledyke Terrace display is up and more gaudy than ever this year (http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/viewarticle.aspx?id=311208).

16/12/05 3:53 pm  
Blogger Nick said...

Piers - I'm obliged to you for the attestation of 'blogopolis' - too late for the dictionary unfortunately, but I'll see what I can do. Thanks for the link to the site. . .

17/12/05 1:17 pm  

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