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Barrow’s Christmas Houses


Gaynor Barton gets switched on to snowmen and chubby Santas...

If buses slow down and cars stop altogether, if people make detours to visit and your children hassle you for an early a switch on, your house must be one of Barrow’s ‘Christmas Houses’, decorated from roof-ridge to doormat with festive lights.

This autumn I talked to some of the people who had decorated the outside of their houses in 2008 to find out when they started, why they did it and if they were going to do it again.

The answer to the last question was a resounding, ‘Yes - definitely’. This is because the main designers/putteruppers just love it. If not trained electricians (although some are), they have the knowledge to cope with all the wires and plugs.

But these houses should be thought of as ‘works in progress’ as the putter-uppers like to make changes every year and if possible squeeze another snowman or chubby Father Christmas on to a still boringly blank piece of wall.

Beware!

Consider the case of Derek Fletcher on Breachfield Road. He started out by putting up a couple of strings of fairylights across some windows and this modest display has morphed into a wonderful front-of-house extravaganza needing 43 separate plugs 14 years later! On New Year’s Eve, Derek will put up the next year, ie 2010, in lights and at midnight this will come on automatically after the other lights have gone off. Then the figures will appear every night until 12th night.

A similar story is told by Clive Edge of Babington Road who started off with far fewer lights about four years ago but then expanded and how! He is in the enviable position of having not only a lot of wall to play with but a large front garden in which glowing reindeer can bend and stretch and nibble the lawn. He told me that it’s hard to get the bigger pieces these days as the major players such as B & Q aren’t stocking them any more.

This sentiment was voiced by other ‘afficionados’; lights break and maintaining a good Christmas display becomes a struggle. Mr Edge loves his lights because of the pleasure they bring to children and passers by and he likes his house to be a bit different.

But why do others do it?

Delighting children is again the main reason; sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, grand-children and children’s friends are all very important.

This is exemplified by Mr and Mrs King of Melton Road who began to decorate their house fifteen years ago when their son Tom, who has Down’s Syndrome, was collected by his school’s mini-bus and the Christmas lights gave his school-friends so much pleasure when their bus stopped
at his house.

For Lewis Rook in Huston Close the ‘little kids’ motivation came five years ago when his nephews and nieces were small and visited the house regularly. With a little help from an uncle, Tony Rook, he created the dramatic blue waterfall of icicles cascading down the front of the
house.

Another reason he mentioned is that No. 2 Huston is the last house in Barrow easily seen from Sileby Road so at Christmas time this colourful display marks a cheerful end to the village.

Yet Jonathan Doda of Holbourne Close had a different motivation. Jonathan began decorating the family home five years ago because he likes returning to a brightly lit house on dark winter evenings.

He strings mixtures of traditional coloured lights and LED lights through the branches of trees and makes patterns along the porch roof and under the eves. “They’re quite low key, as outside Christmas decorations go,” he says, “not too ‘in your face’ so everybody seems to
like them”.

A final thought.

Barrow is famous for its boats; are they decorated as well? Yes, some of them certainly are. Mike Turner started putting colourful Christmas lights in and around his boat ‘Joel’ five years ago just to be seasonal. He wanted to increase the festive feel of Meadow Farm Marina and this has certainly happened as nowadays other ‘ boaters’ have followed suit. By the river on a pitch black December night, far away from any of Barrow’s street lights, the festive boats look absolutely super floating quietly on the dark water amongst their colourful, shimmering reflections.

Gaynor Barton