‘Tis the Season: The Christmas Lights Specialist

For many, the notion that Christmas only comes once a year is something to pleased about.

Although it’s tempting to brand these folks as ‘scrooges’ and misers, the truth is that Christmas, for most people, is an expensive, stressful time of the year.

We may all be blessed with extra time off during the festive season, but can this really be counted as a ‘holiday’ when we’re essentially forced to go out into town when it’s as its most busy and spend hundreds of pounds on gifts for our friends and family?

The costs of the festive season don’t end there though – there’s also the hoards of food that we’re expected to load the house with each year.

This isn’t just a bumper shop either, at this time of year we’re pressured into purchasing the kinds of food that we would never think of going near at any other time in the year: we’re talking port, cheese (4 or 5 types at the very least), huge quantities of chocolate and don’t forget about bucks fizz – that strangely moreish beverage that you only drink at wedding breakfasts or Christmas mornings. Once we’ve fed the whole family (and then some) you’ve also got to ensure that your home reflects the festive season suitably.

As I’ve said, many are grateful that Christmas only comes once a year, but for myself and my competitors once a year is never enough.

I’ve been working as a Christmas Lights specialist for the last 10 years – it’s a fun, creative job that allows me to reap big rewards during the lead up to the Christmas season, but finding and sustaining consistent contracts is something that I’m constantly struggling with.

The kinds of clients that I work for on a yearly basis varies greatly. One day I might be designing a bespoke display for a particularly competitive Dad, looking to best his next door neighbour, the next day I could be installing a huge centre piece for a shopping mall.

As much as the variety of jobs that I work on keeps me busy throughout the year, it can sometimes be difficult to maintain the necessary festive spirit for the whole year round – unfortunately, like a perennial Santa Claus, I’m required to keep a cheerful disposition for 9 months out of 12, after all, would you really consider hiring a glum looking person to design¬†your Christmas decorations?

There is a reason why I focus solely on Christmas lights.

Despite having to constantly blind myself with shades of white, red and green throughout the year, working exclusively for the festive season means that I only work for 9 months of year, allowing me to enjoy the spring months of March through to the end of May without glowing neon outlines of reindeer haunting my dreams. Capitalising on the Christmas season has been my business for the last decade and I’m truly glad for every 25th December when it comes by.

If you’re one of those people who can’t stand the festive season forever encroaching upon the rest of the year, then I wouldn’t recommend stepping into my line of work.

Long Distance Land Surveying

Student life in the eighties was hard.

When I was studying in London, attempting to balance a new found love for booze with my land survey degree, I always felt like I was forever digging myself out of a hole.

I was one of the last lucky few students who got away with a free University education. Like many of my fellow blessed students, we were the first of our family to attend University. We’d already made our parents proud by grasping hold onto a degree, but graduation was just around the corner and we needed to produce results that would guarantee us a job in the challenging financial times we were about to head into.

Long days were often spent outside, learning the ropes from tired looking professionals who already had enough to worry about without having to teach hungover students for half a day. On one of these particularly gruelling days I found myself in the front of a Ford Transit with Ian – a land surveyor of 20 years who had a reputation for taking the most remote jobs possible.

I’d drank a lot the night before meeting Ian in a frosty car park outside of Sidcup. It was a Friday morning, my brain was clawing to break out of my skull and all I could think about was making it through this day and getting to the weekend. The bags under Ian’s eyes looked deeper than they usually did, each deep saggy pouch was flecked with blue veins making me wonder if he hadn’t been out drinking himself.

“You look awful – best get some sleep in the van, we’ve got a long way to go.”

I didn’t need telling twice.

The van journey slipped by in a comfortable haze of dusty car heating, drive-time radio and husky murmurs from Ian.

When I woke, it was cold in the van. The driver’s side door was open, letting a harsh breeze in that blew fragments of snow into the cabin with me. Ian’s theodolite sat next to me on the middle seat, along with his high-vis jacket, but the man was nowhere to be seen. I grabbed his things and jumped out of the cabin, thinking that he must’ve gone ahead without me and found myself on the edge of a wooded glen in a deserted car park with wood chips on the floor.

He’d not said we were coming out so far and I was struggling to remember where we were even going. A single path led away from the car park into the dark of the forest – with no other options, no mobile phone and no keys for the van, I picked up the gear we needed to do the topographical land surveys and heading into the darkness.

Ian had never struck me as the skittish type, a little dopey, but never the type to simply run off without a word. However, the further I delved into the forest the more I started to doubt myself.

I found the van keys at the end of the path, precariously balanced on a cairn in front of cave. Very little light managed to penetrate through the forest, the darkness from the cave almost felt like it was spilling out from that foreboding hole.

I’d already climbed out of enough holes that year and I wasn’t about to jump into another one.

Sometimes, when I find myself driving to a particularly remote job, I think about Ian and how deep that cave must’ve been to¬† swallow him, then I shake of that nagging feeling of regret and remember that I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t have to pay for his degree.