It must have been the second Saturday in December, around 3pm, that sales of Christmas trees in the
middle class suburbs of inner London reached their peak.
That day - spruce Saturday, you might call it - young single people and foreigners watched in amazement as smart-casually dressed dads staggered back from the local tree market with a six-foot spruce, sealed inside a sort of giant tree condom, over their shoulders. As often as not they would have cheerful children skipping along beside them.
What a great day for family values - the first big event of the English christmas, decorating the tree en famille.
What a great day for the sellers of these trees, which this year seemed to range in price from about £20 for a tiddler to well over £50 for a grand spruce with guaranteed stay-on needles. Maybe not such a great day for the trees themselves - though the debate over the ethics of Christmas tree cultivation seems to have died down, except on the UK hippy website. Anyway, in places like these - Dulwich, Blackheath, Greenwich, Herne Hill, Clapham, Balham, Battersea, Wandsworth - a healthy proportion of these trees will be "ethically sourced".
Last Sunday was the inevitable, sad sequel to this heartwarming story, the day of the expulsion of the spruces. It wasn't even Twelfth Night, but it was close enough. Monday morning's early commuters cursed their way to the tube station, as their normal route had been turned into a fir-forest obstacle course by all the big and little trees thrown out onto pavements, then blown around by the overnight gales.
A quick glance down this street revealed probably two grand's worth of trees, abandoned in their prime, less than a month after they were so warmly received into their owner's homes. Most seemed in good condition, and some even had bits of tinsel wrapped around the needles.
A sad story, but then these are not the sort of trees anyone would want to hug. On the other hand, there's at least one better way to re-cycle your old christmas spruce - feed it to the lions of Linton Zoo.