Lisa Markwell: Satisfied with life? When a Christmas tree costs £50!


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The Independent Online

So, we are imbued with "Blitz spirit".


Wow – looks like all those "Keep Calm and Carry On" (KCACO) tea towels and posters have had a significant effect on our collective mood. Putting that perplexing idea to one side (and assuming that the UK's citizens don't lie or even fib when asked for their opinion), it is extraordinary that in the teeth of a recession, with strikes, protests, redundancies, unemployment, debt and myriad other downbeat subjects on the agenda, some 76 per cent of us rated our happiness at 7 out of 10 or above.

It has been a challenge not to enter the Christmas countdown with a mealy-mouthed attitude; faced with the ramping up of advertising campaigns, and a never-ending array of gift guides that love the term "must-have". That term really only applies to water, oxygen and shelter, doesn't it, guys? (I've just tried to wipe from my mind the mention of a knitted soft toy, Wilbur "the perfect stocking filler" at £31.80.)

I can be snippy on this page, but not in front of the children. It would be mean to be all bah-humbug, we-can't-afford-it about Christmas, even though everything from large hams to small gadgets seems to increase in price and reduce in availability with every passing day.

But it strikes me that the merry majority will only stay that way if we can avoid the pressure.

Last night I passed the shimmering lights and loudly piped music of the local Christmas tree seller. "Just keep driving," I shriek at my husband. This year the charge for a very average tree has reached £50. Reluctantly, for the first year since I was the tree-wrangler-in-chief, I might not buy one.

It makes me slightly uneasy, but I might have to come over all Homemade Kirstie and get the children out to a park to harvest some fallen tree branches, then spray them with silver paint and dangle the baubles off them. Oo-err. It's all a bit Pollyanna, but if we're to have a jolly old Christmas I'd rather keep a lid on the peripherals (chicken not swanky Norfolk Bronze turkey, Ikea tealights not fancy tapers, and so on).

In truth, I'm even more interested in maintaining my good cheer when glum January comes around and the distracting twinkly lights have been put away. If that means adopting the KCACO cliché while wrapping home-made lavender bags and coconut pyramids, this year I'll do it (just don't make me put up the actual bloody poster).