Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Tree Tops Glisten

The switching on of Govan's Christmas Tree lights takes place beneath the benevolent eye of the Black Man. Above us a pearly white moon beams in a deep blue sky. Little children skliff their feet along the damp and frosty pavements on their way to meet the season's most welcome visitor.

And here he comes, running across the road from the PI in a bright red suit, smiling and a little self conscious. A plastic green and white gazebo has been erected for the occasion and under it a couple of DJs play "Do they know it's Christmas?" and a string of number one Christmas hits.

The little ones form an orderly queue and mums and dads look fondly on as they have a chance to shake hands with Santa and tell him what they are hoping for in their Christmas stockings. His helpers, in Santa hats and bubble jackets or winter coats and scarves, are handing selection boxes to Santa to give out to the girls and boys. The children are pleased and excited, walking briskly to and fro, showing each other what they got, tearing open wrappers and eating sweeties whilst the adults chat.
Now the man from the press steps forward to take a picture of Santa's visit and Santa poses with a girl and boy and then with local Councillor, John Flanagan and then with an older lady who sits on Santa's knee and whoops it up, cosying into Santa's beard with her arm hooked tightly around his neck.
Has everyone got a selection box? A few latecomers come forward shyly as the Christmas pop blares harshly through the air. Santa waves and runs across Govan Road and into the Pearce Institute. "Cheerio! See ye's all on Christmas Eve!" he calls.

The music stops abruptly and I cross over to chat to Ned who is walking towards the Cross. We watch the plastic gazebo being dismantled and Santa's chair being taken away. And then I see a scene unfold that is so sad I feel like I'm watching a heartbreaking Christmas movie. The little girl in the wheelchair with the orange wheeltrims has arrived at the tree, too late to see Santa and too late to get a gift. Her ten year old brother pushes her with expert care, and an eight year old sister walks alongside. The girls are wearing matching pixie hats, in the style of last century children. The boy quietly explains they have missed the event, but they take time to look at the weak blue lights on the tree and then set off on their way, trundling along in the darkness.

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