It was when I was working in a bank at a branch in rural Sussex. The Number 2 on the staff lived on a smallholding where he allowed people to park their caravans over winter in a large barn and where he had a small Christmas tree plantation. He was quite a character, was Bill Hemmings. Totally unsuited to banking, really. There was a story how, when working at another branch, he had gone out to the market, bought a calf and put it in the bank strongroom until he was ready to load it into the back of his car and take it home! Possibly apocryphal; indeed, probably apocryphal but just the sort of thing I could see him doing.
But to get back to the real story. The Old Bat and I went out to Bill's one weekend and dug up a tiny tree, roots and all. After Christmas I planted it in the garden where it thrived. I dug it up and brought it indoors for several years after that but it eventually grew too tall and straggly for that and, in the end, it died. So it's back to buying a tree each year. I bought one last Friday and on Sunday afternoon the Old Bat decorated it.
She also put out one of our oldest Christmas decorations - a crib scene I bought in Holland many years ago. I had gone over with a party of Scouts to meet up with Dutch Scouts with whom we had established a sort of twinning arrangement. Looking round the shops in the Hague I saw this and it proved a big hit when I got it home.
I'm not sure that Joseph should really be holding a crook, but there you are.
It is reported in this morning's paper that the Norway fir, long the country's first choice as a Christmas tree, has rivals. The Canaan fir and Jacobs fir are, it seems, preferred by many as they are slimmer. (Our Norway fir stans about four feet tall and three feet wide.) Both the Canaan and the Jacobs are natives of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Some years ago, the Old Bat and I spent a holiday in Virginia (with side trips to Maryland, Washington DC and West Virginia) especially to travel the Skyline Drive. I was disappointed that it wasn't until we had turned back towards the airport and our return flight that I found, printed on a table place mat in a diner, a map showing the Trail of the Lonesome Pine which I would have liked to visit.