diamond geezer

 Friday, December 08, 2023

For one day only I'm offering you the opportunity to write today's post. Ten or so paragraphs of factual musings, hopefully entertaining and illuminating, for the wider readership to enjoy. I'll pick the topic, you provide the words.

Don't worry, I haven't picked a topic of niche interest like fire hydrant numbering or zebra crossing provision in Pinner. Instead I've plumped for something you should all have some experience of, either recently or in the past, and which is also totally topical because it was the focus of a big event yesterday.

Don't worry, I'm not expecting you to write all of the post. A single paragraph would be great, and then I'll put them all together later to demonstrate what the wider readership is capable of. You can email your offering if you like (the address is in the sidebar top right) or just bung it in the comments box and I'll take it from there.

Feel free to add normal comments too if something about today's post piques your interest. But what I'm really after isn't comments, it's actual text I can cut and paste, something cogent and interesting, not just anecdotes. I'll also accept any photos you might have to replace my placeholders, ideally of this year's tree, and obviously taken by your own fair hand and not lifted from social media, other websites or Streetview.

Please contribute. If even ½% of you write something we could easily get the entire piece finished in no time. It's only 1000 words in total, how difficult can it be to come up with something other people will find both interesting and accurate in a few hours flat?

The Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square

Something brief and pithy to set the scene. Try to mention where we are, what we're looking at, a reference to the fact the lights were switched on yesterday and a tempting nugget hinting at what's to come. The opening is crucial and can take longer to write than a full-sized paragraph later on, but don't let that put you off.
Trafalgar Square was not at its best yesterday clothed as it was in a coat of mizzle, interrupted by intermittent heavier showers. The view down Whitehall towards The Palace of Westminster has temporarily been interrupted by the decorated festive gift from the people of Norway, which was lit with great ceremony at dusk. [Frank F].

Historical background
Everybody knows the tree is a gift from Norway but try to shoehorn deeper information into your paragraph, like when did the tradition start and why, and which specific forest does it come from. Also it's not actually a gift from Norway it's from the City of Oslo, so best get that right else you risk pedants popping up in the comments to tell you you've been disappointingly unspecific. Wikipedia is an obvious starting point but don't just plagiarise that, you need multiple sources to produce a fully rounded opener. If you unearth any good weblinks, please include them as hypertext.

A tree has been sourced from the Nordmarka forests near Oslo, Norway every year since 1947. The tradition started as a thank you from Norwegians for support from the British during the occupation of Norway during the Second World War, and has now continued for over 75 years. As per Norwegian tradition, the tree is draped always in vertical strings of white lights. [alex f & TW]

Facts and figures
It helps if these are vaguely original rather than just copied from elsewhere. Is it actually London's tallest Christmas tree? (you'll have to do some research to check, you can't just make an unsubstantiated claim). How many days is it from chopping down to lights on? (all the data is there, it's your job to tie it together). Is 7th December the latest possible switching-on date? (yes it is, but crucially why?). Here's a good one - Had this year's tree started growing before WW2 finished? It's over to you.

The 19m (62ft) tree, dubbed 'the queen of the forest' by the foresters who cared for it, was felled on 25th November, and started its four-day journey to Immingham a couple of days later via DFDS Seaways. It's checked over and the journey to London begins, ready to be installed and decorated in time for the lighting ceremony, which always takes place on the first Thursday of December. This tree wasn't even a sapling when the event it represents ended, being around 70 years old, and just pips Covent Garden's tree as the tallest (natural) tree in London. It's not the tallest in the UK, though, which prize goes to Kew Gardens' Wakehurst site in Haywards Heath, with a tree twice the size, at a massive 37 metres (121 ft). [Trevor S]

[photo by Adrian P]

A diamond geezer blogpost should include something readers haven't heard before, so in this case how about delving into all the techniques the Norwegians use to make sure the tree looks better than it might. I don't want to spoonfeed you their tactics but judicious use of a search engine will soon throw up a slew of cunning tactics which you can mould into an informative paragraph. Do it right and everyone will assume you're a journalistic genius, rather than just good at using Google.

While Norway has been known to donate Christmas trees to a number of cities across Europe, and even offered trees to Bethlehem and Washington, the country's tree-shipping activities were scaled back significantly over the years. Blame costs, environmental impact, and dissatisfaction with sparse nordmann firs. Edinburgh, Cardiff, Newcastle, even Tottenham, were once proud recipients of needled Norwegian donations, but source their own trees today. The same for Berlin, Paris, and Rotterdam. Beyond smaller cities such as Aberdeen, only Reykjavik remains as a capital alongside London displaying gifts from Norway every Christmas, but for how much longer? [commonliner]

Criticising its appearance
It's long been the case that the scrappy, asymmetrical nature of a real tree has been a magnet for sour-faced miserablist detractors. Has this become a running joke, something uninspired journalists always fall back on, or do you think it's genuinely true? Scour Twitter and/or Facebook and you should find multiple examples of people being prissy and dismissive. Copy a few, making sure you include the obligatory 'it looked like it was dead', and round off with your own personal opinion.

The tree's status as a Christmas tradition
Next it's time to focus on the tree's heritage and its place in the national psyche. This is the easiest paragraph to write because it's essentially just rambling from personal experience. If you're adept you can pivot from 'everyone has their own memory of the tree' into three sentences of self-indulgent nostalgia as you recount how you went to see it as a child and how you felt about the encounter. Were you thrilled, underwhelmed, frozen or just bored? Reference to feeding the pigeons is probably acceptable but try not to divert into what kind of bus ticket you used for the first leg of the journey.

(Photo taken by my wife's late friend Doris Shipway, we inherited her slide collection, which I still have. The slides only started being date stamped after 1962 so I guess this is from just before) [Chris M]

The sarcastic paragraph
I have an easy target for you. The tree has its own Twitter account which is a cringeworthy onslaught of puns, Elf gifs and overexcitabilities. It's awful and reads like it was written by a marketing intern with anthropomorphic issues and an emoji fixation (โœจ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ’…๐ŸŽ„โœจ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ’…๐ŸŽ„). Maybe select a few of the worst tweets and rip the piss out of them, it's so simple, indeed in this case it's an open goal.

Despite being well past retirement age, the spirit of the Trafalgar Square tree makes a bold attempt to stay relevant for the insta-twitter generation. Unfortunately its social media presence echoes a loving grandmotherโ€™s overuse of inappropriate emojis in her Christmas text message rather than rolling out a smooth Time Out factoid. Itโ€™s a short step from proud Facebook posts to sharing alt-right content and complaining about MSM. Oslo should keep a careful watch. [Lux]

The switch-on
Were you there? Did you watch the mayor flick the switch? I didn't go because I looked at the weather forecast but some of you must have been in the vicinity last night during the appointed hour. Paint us a pen portrait of the event, a broad brush description peppered with specific examples and humorous anecdotes. Feel free to go to town - this is the meat at the heart of today's post (and there are bonus points if you can link to this year's poem). But don't forget to mention the pouring rain at some point otherwise people may assume you never actually visited, you just sat at home and watched the event on livestream or YouTube.

[photo from Adrian P]

Christmas in Trafalgar Square
Now look forward to the coming month. The tree will be looking down on a multiplicity of festive experiences including regular carol singing, a Christmas market and defensive fortifications to prevent New Year revellers jumping in the fountains. Mention of goings-on at St Martin-in-the-Fields is encouraged, especially the date of the blessing of the alfresco crib. Broaden the religious scope by mentioning the giant menorah that'll be lit alongside over the coming week. Remember that accuracy is hugely important otherwise readers will tear your words apart, ditto spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, sloppy assumptions and ill-founded opinions.

Another short one this, but you have to cunningly tie the whole piece together while simultaneously referencing something meaningful and tree-related. One suggestion would be to mention the specific date this year's tree gets fed into the chipper and segue into sincere hopes that the tradition continues for another 76 years, but I'll leave it up to you.

I've added your best contributions so far, thanks.
Do please submit further paragraphs otherwise today's post is destined to be incomplete.

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