This time last week a casual observer walking the dog in Kilmun arboretum – it was pouring with rain so why else would anybody be about? – might have wondered what two women the wrong side of middle age skulking in the trees and wielding large black bags could possibly be up to. Indeed if they had ventured nearer and heard the excited exclamations, “Oh! Pendulous fronds!” “Fluffy filling!” they might have wondered further.
A partial answer might have been afforded should they stick around to see one of the women look about furtively then whip out a pair of secateurs and set about cutting branches from the nearby trees and stashing them into one of the bin-bags, slithering down perilous slopes to reach temptingly pink berries and having to be hauled up again by her partner in crime
A conclusion may have been reached as they watched the thieves stash their haul – four bin-bags bulging with greenery (and pinkery and purplery if they were to examine the contents more closely) into the back of a car. Christmas decoration. It was, after all, approaching December.
But they would be wrong. And should they decide to continue the investigation and follow the two women, they would have found themselves in Holy Trinity church in the encroaching twilight of late November. There they would have seen the bin-bags emptied out onto the tiled floor of the sanctuary amid more exclamations of delight and they might have risked an appreciative sniff of the heady pine perfume that was released.
They might have wondered why the candles placed in the creation taking form before them were purple, pink and white, matching the berries plundered so perilously and now shining delicately among them. Hardly the colours of Christmas. The ‘pendulous fronds’ and ‘fluffy filling’ were being placed amongst scots and umbrella pine and the women were standing back and admiring their handiwork while the observer puzzled over their excitement. Surely it was too early for Christmas in the church. Weren’t there still four weeks to go? Even in this frigid building the branches would be looking decidedly wilted by the big day. And isn’t it more usual to put up a nice artificial Christmas tree these days?
Should curiosity have got the better of the observer and caused them to note the time of the Sunday service to find out exactly what motive these women could possibly have for their off behaviour, they might have been struck by the sense of expectation in the small congregation as they watched one of their number light a single candle. A purple candle that shone its small light in the dimness and cold of that little Victorian church and perhaps for the first time they might have heard the word Advent.