“MEET for a coffee?” Tricia texted on Saturday.

“Later,” I replied. “It’s twelfth night, got to take my Christmas decorations down first.”

“Did mine on Tuesday,” she went on. “I was feeling a bit low, Lara was away and I just felt like I needed a fresh start.”

There is something sad about taking down Christmas decorations. Such a contrast to the excitement of putting them up. Dressing the tree, finding old familiar family heirlooms and reliving their history.

For the last few years we’ve bought something on holiday to put on the tree: a camel reminds us of our night trip into the desert; the little grand piano, a visit to Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg. We relive sunnier times.

“Where shall we put this?” I ask as I take the string of Santa Lights out of the Christmas Box (itself almost an heirloom).

“The same place they always go: there, Daddy!” Like I didn’t already know… Taking them down is a double whammy. After weeks of being assaulted by the central heating, the tree adds to the misery, a dried out and lifeless shadow of its former lush, scented self. The tinsel looks dusty and tired, its sparkle too familiar, and the cards arranged lovingly on the mantelpiece, now in the way.

Christmas arrives earlier and earlier – hard to believe that Christmas Eve was the traditional day to decorate your home. January 6, the traditional twelfth night of Christmas, now seems to be stretching a point.

Packing them up is a lonely business; memories and baubles confined to the box for another year.

I am reminded of that fabulous children’s story ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’ by Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Sheffler. An old lady appeals to a wise man to help her because her house is too small: a squash and a squeeze. He gives her some bizarre advice, telling her in turn to invite in first her hen, followed by her pig, her goat and finally her cow. Each in turn wreak havoc. The old lady cries out in despair ‘Heaven’s alive! It was teeny for four and it’s weeny for five. I’m tearing my hair out, I’m down on my knees. My house is a squash and a squeeze.” “Take them all out,” said the wise old man. “But then I’ll be back where I first began.” But she does as he says. And as the last of the guests, the cow is ushered out, she cries “Just look at my house, it’s enormous now!”

Putting away the decorations may be a sad business, but it’s lovely to have the house back.

As the old lady says: “There’s no need to grumble and there’s no need to grouse. There’s plenty of room in my house.”

Time for a fresh start…