Forgive me if you’ve heard this one before. I’ve told it over a few nights on my recent tour but, considering we are so deeply into the season of Advent, I feel there is scope for one more retelling.
A couple of years ago my old car died. The kids christened him George…..’He looks like one,’ they said. It didn’t just get traded in or handed on – though I did try; it died. The engine gave up and it stopped being the car it was meant to be, a thoroughly reliable estate car. For the record it was a Mercedes E Class. It carried 6 of us with any one of the kids still being able to bring a pal and room for the dog in the boot too. Had it not predeceased us it would probably done a decent turn as a hearse itself as all the seats came down transforming it into a van carrying old beds, garden waste, junk for the city dump and, oh yes, every year, a Christmas Tree.
The car predated the birth of my, now 15 year old son, and for years it would just be his sisters in the back as we went down to the same garden centre every year to pick up a tree. When he was old enough he joined in the ritual too. We’d work out a formula where we could fold down just enough of the seats to squeeze in the biggest tree we’d dare to bring home.
‘Any size at all,’ I’d boast, ‘There’s no tree this old car won’t carry.’ Then we’d squeeze back in as disparate, stray branches determined their way under seat belts and stroked our ears on the 3 mile run home. The tree unpacked and the lights put on I’d return to the car the next day and always get a mild surprise as the family car, which for most of the twelve months stank of left-over food wrappers, horse riding detritus and and assorted uncaterogisable waste, suddenly smelt of a rich scots pine forrest and gave off the sure scent of Christmas.
So tonight, before we go on air, I hope to have completed that same journey with a teenager and a twenty one year old to recreate the old magic. We squeeze a slightly smaller tree into a smaller car that smells a bit better for most of the year and we ruefully reflect that the old bus would have taken it with much more ease. Here’s to you George, gone but not forgotten.
By the time we get home and the lights are on I’ll begin to feel that Christmas is truly happening. As the baubles go on we usually opt for Jim Reeves and Bruce Cockburn’s respective Christmas records.
So if you’re doing something similar this evening why don’t you simply turn on the radio and we’ll sort out the soundtrack. We’ll play you some beautiful country songs of the season and sprinkle in some of our favourite artists of the last year. Look out for songs by Jason Isbell, Angaleena Presley, Andrew Combs, Punch Brothers, Kitty Wells, Nick Lowe and Mindy Smith.
We start at five past nine on BBC Radio Scotland. Join me if you can.