Christmas can be so overwhelmingly busy, sometimes I feel I need to step out of it and take some time to reflect on what it’s all about. By the 11th event in my Year of Microadventures I had cottoned on to the fact that what makes a successful idea was not necessarily anything particular adventurous or strenuous, but something that you wouldn’t normally do, that challenges you to look at and do things differently. For the December event it felt natural that it should have a seasonal theme, so I proposed that I would go and collect the family Christmas tree on foot this year. We have a handy garden trolley that could take the strain, but obviously it would be empty on the three mile journey there.
This year I have been working with groups from the Keighley Food Poverty Action Partnership; every day of the week one of this fantastic band of voluntary organisations hosts a free hot meal service to those in need and are also distributing food to struggling families via a series of food banks. That these services are so necessary and so well used in modern Britain is shocking and unjust. I decided to fill the trolley with food to donate to the food bank on the way to get the tree. I’d put the idea to Louisa on our dawn walk last month, and being the kind of friend that is always up for adventure, she jumped at the idea.
So one Sunday in December we, plus our two youngest daughters, two dogs dressed as reindeer and one decorated trolley set off on the walk to the Christmas tree farm, (the older girls were too embarrassed to walk with their mums in Santa hats!). We were full of good spirits and Christmas cheer, spurred on by occasional drivers beeping their horns and waving. We stopped at our local chippy and took it in turns to pull the trolley so we could eat our chips as we walked. Calling in at the supermarket to top up more food for the trolley, I was extremely proud that Bea chipped in her pocket money to buy some cans of soup to donate.
We arrived at the Salvation Army as families were gathering for a Christmas service. Ushered through the congregation we wheeled the trolley round to the storeroom to unload. The Salvation Army officers warmly accepted the donations and came out to take pictures of the girls for their Facebook page.
We now set off through Keighley to go any get the tree at the other side of town. It was already starting to get dark and the farm still seemed a long walk away. With a much lighter trolley, the girls took it in turns to have ride, pretending the dogs were huskies towing them along. At last the lights of the farm were in sight and we went into the barn to pick the right tree – big enough to make an impact, small enough to push all the way home. The walk home was in the dark and the girls were starting to flag, with no room in the trolley for tired legs. We challenged them to spot the Christmas trees in the windows we passed, with sweet money for each one they spotted. 24 trees later the girls were snacking on sweets and chocolate while Lou and I recharged with mulled wine outside a pub. The last leg was a walk past the Christmas windows and lights of town, then the big push up the hill back home. We sang songs to spur us along and despite being shattered, everyone was full of the spirit of Christmas.
Every family who celebrates Christmas has their own traditions, some handed down for generations, some just appearing by default because you do something fun and decide to keep it. This microadventure had been cooked up to try and put some meaning back into Christmas. We came home proud, glowing and looking forward to the season ahead. It felt like the way we should always collect our tree and the start of a new tradition.