2023 lists: Rob Pursey’s Top 10 Christmas Tree Baubles

Rob Pursey’s (Heavenly, Swansea Sound, The Catenary Wires, Skep Wax Records) Top 10 Christmas Tree Baubles:

I’m sorry, this is probably the most sentimental top 10 list you’ve ever read.   But I have just entered that melancholy phase when, looking at our Christmas Tree, I realise it has to come down soon – and then I’ll have to confront the rest of the winter without any twinkly distractions.

Christmas is a big deal in this house. It’s got nothing to do with religion: we are all atheists and so were our parents. It’s more like an accumulation of memories of all the other times you and your family did exactly the same things, every year: parents stopping work, kids getting presents, everyone playing old board games, eating special things. The winter is transformed, briefly, into something wonderful because of the people around you. And because of the baubles and twinkly lights.

So, my first bauble was a gift from Alexandra, who is the very skilful knitter and craftswoman and partner of John, head honcho of WIAIWYA Records. It’s a felt rendition of the first record by The Catenary Wires.

Bauble Two is a strange little stretchy man. He doesn’t dangle like the other baubles do, he grips the branch of the tree like a cartoon soldier. I don’t know why he entered the canon of baubles. One of the kids put him up on the tree a few years ago, he made us laugh, and now he comes out every year.

Bauble Three is the newest one. It was a present from Bob Collins, who plays guitar with us in Swansea Sound. It’s an image of Priestfield Stadium, where Gillingham FC play.  We went there (with Bob) a couple of days ago and saw Gillingham lose  2-0 to Crawley. It was a horrible experience, but we will be back there very soon.  And the Priestfield bauble will be back on the tree next year.

Bauble Four was made many years ago by our older daughter Dora. She made a lot of items in pottery class when she was a little kid.  I have a goblet, a candlestick holder, a vase and many other chunky, colourful items. This bauble is quite fragile and I worry about it surviving through all future Christmases.

The fifth bauble is this tiny stocking which clearly belonged to Ivy (our younger daughter).  I don’t know where it came from – maybe it was part of an advent calendar, or was attached to something bigger – but it is now an essential tree item.

I like this sixth bauble a lot.   It is the most substantial decoration on the tree as it includes the entire text of the first book of Paradise Lost by John Milton, which is my favourite poem. I am not sure that Milton, a fairly austere Protestant, would have approved of this frivolous and decorative use of his major work. But he might also be pleased that his poetry is honoured, four hundred years after it was written.

Bauble Seven. Some years ago, I can’t remember when, the kids were given a set of toy germs. This one is eColi, and he has become a regular fixture. There were five or six other germs, including halitosis and the common cold, but eColi is the one who got hung on the tree.

This little robin started life as a cake decoration, but got upgraded to the tree a few years ago. He has efficient claws and so he can perch on the branch, just like a real robin. Except he is only about an inch long. He is bauble number eight.

Sorry, not  a great picture, but the fairy is right at the top and I couldn’t get close enough without knocking the whole thing over. She is the oldest bauble – she sat on top of the Christmas Tree when I was a little kid. She is a bit lopsided, but she is hanging on.

Ok, Bauble Ten takes us back to music, and it’s another one by Alexandra, with Le Jardin de Heavenly-style butterflies on a little felt square. (I have no idea why people accused our old band of being twee.)

By the time anyone reads this the baubles will be heading back into their box, and winter will have resumed.  I hope you have a happy new year.