It is the custom in Austria to put up your Xmas tree on Christmas Eve. Very dangerous, as far as I'm concerned, since that particular day for me and my pals nearly always ends up in a catatonic stupor brought on by grossly excessive amounts of celebratory booze. Xmas eve 2000, Renate Klaus and I left their flat at 11am with the intention of collecting their tree from Renate's father. First stop, a swift half in their local (for medicinal purposes you understand due to the previous nights hangover) Big mistake. Everyone in Austria loves an Englander. As soon as they sussed out where I came from, large vessels of heated spiced wine came winging my way faster than I could drink them. First, a free one on the house, since the lady who owns the bar is an old friend, then many more from the customers who all wanted to chat with me. Oh no, here we go again. There then followed an all day pub and house crawl of monumental proportions, (all on an empty stomach), very little of which can I remember.
My eyes unglued themselves about 9pm. I painfully wrenched them open, and found myself staring straight into the ghostly white face of Klaus, who was still unconscious on the settee beside me. We were back in their flat, and Renate was nowhere to be seen. Reading a note she left us, it turned out she'd been unable to wake us, so she had gone to collect the tree herself. Hurriedly waking Klaus up, I told him how much poo we were in. As we sat there, trying to assemble our thoughts and remember just how we ended up in this situation, the door bell rang. It was Renate. She told us there had been a disaster with the tree, since her Father had cropped it off far too short at the base, and we would struggle to find a way of holding it up. Not to worry, we optimistically said, we're engineers, we'll find a way.
So off Klaus wobbled to collect the tree from the car. 10 minutes later, he still hadn't returned, so Renate trotted downstairs (they live in a 3rd floor flat) to find out where he had disappeared to. Just a few minutes later, I heard a terrific commotion outside their front door. There was Klaus, looking very sheepish, with what looked like a toy tree. It turned out that in his sozzled state, he had dragged 2 thirds of the tree out of their car, and then slammed the door on it, breaking off the top 12 inches. So, imagine the scene. It is now 10.30pm Xmas eve, and we are left with a Xmas tree with no bottom, and no top. (Nothing to stick up the fairy's bum.) O.K. To work. They say necessity is the Mother of Invention. Within 15 minutes, Klaus had knocked up a very dodgy looking timber framework to support the bottom of the tree, and Renate had located a 12 long silver spike to whack on the top to give the illusion of height. All the decorations then came out. No time for a 'themed' look. I just chucked everything out of the boxes, and where they landed, that's where they stayed.
We finished that damned tree at 11.57pm Xmas Eve. Phew, talk about a close one. Nearly in the shit with Santa.
P.S. 2 days later, at 2am, the tree collapsed on me whilst I was in a deep sleep. Talk about Day of the Triffids. I needed a new set of underpants after that incident.