Thursday, December 6, 2012

On the Sixth Day of Advent: The Libyan Christmas Tree

1984, then, was to be my first Christmas out of England, actually my first Christmas not spent in the family home, and I hadn't missed Christmas church in my 27 years on Earth. 

Alright then.  I'd make a real effort to create some kind of festive feeling.  Libya being a strict Islamic culture, this wouldn't be easy but nonetheless I hunted for a tree.  I know now that there are indeed conifers growing in north Africa, in Libya even, but I swear there wasn't a Christmas tree lookalike to be found anywhere in Tripoli.  Naturally I didn't imagine I'd find shops selling them: Fayed's Famous Fir Trees, right?  As it was difficult enough to find simple household items for every-day life, I knew that was beyond my expectations but I had thought some expatriate somewhere might sell me a fake fir tree, or even something I could make resemble a fir tree.  Apparently, though, if expats had made what would surely be a supreme effort to bring a fake tree into the country, they either kept hold of it until they left for good at which point it would be sold on the black market for thousands of dollars; or it had to be pried from their cold dead hands like Charlton Heston's gun.

Honestly, what was I thinking?  Crazy, CRAZY, to imagine I might find a Christmas tree - real or fake - when it was so hard to find even a regular house plant.  The only way to procure a genuine potted plant, i.e. a Busy Lizzie or a Spider Plant or a Wandering Jew (not called that in an Arab land, of course) was to go to the above-mentioned house sales of folks leaving forever in the hope that they'd be selling off their domestic greenery.  Single, white females would fight over a healthy rubber plant much more vigorously than they'd fight over any single, white male.  In acts of desperation, young female expats (I number myself among them) were inclined to dream up ways of making potted plants from vegetables.  I grew many a straggly "hanging plant" from a sweet potato in a jar of water.  Of course I grew many more mosquito-ridden, mold-covered, soggy lumps of waste matter, but seriously, for the sake of a little greenery, it was often worth it.

Although not famous for my crafty ways, i.e. my ability to create something out of nothing with my hands, I decided to build a Christmas tree out of paper.  As I've mentioned many times, paper wasn't easy to get hold of but I dug up from somewhere a couple of sheets of green craft paper and I made myself a tree.  When you think that my brother is a graphic designer and gifted artist, and my sister, a naturally talented sketcher (more artistic talent in her pinky than I have in my whole being) it's hard to believe that I could create something so naff.  But there it is.  And here's a picture to prove it.   As you see, I obviously located bits of red paper, yellow paper and shiny paper too, because the fabulous tree displays a few equally naff decorations (hearts and bells?) and a star on top.  I went all-out on the creativity and made a silver angel from toilet roll innards and kitchen foil, complete with a little white net cape to represent its wings.  Don't ask where the netting came from.  God...and perhaps the angel...alone know.  It looks more like a martian bride.

A Very Naff Christmas

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