This blog post is really all about the mechanical side of the Christmas lights – for, for us, the switch-on was the culmination of all our work.
On the day, everything performed as it should. When Pam Guiver, that amazing exemplar of the Girl Guide movement, pulled down that big double knife switch, she really did turn on the lights – well about ten percent of them, as the switch, running on a 12 volt battery, turned on one feed by a system of relays. Three other people were in immediate sight of the podium – one, Edgar, about to celebrate his 80th birthday – and they switched on their feeds immediately afterwards, and then a couple of others sprinted up the street from switch to switch until all the feeds were on.
Walking back down against the crowd is just the very best of times, watching everyone look up at the lights, spotting new things, how things have changed. And people really do know their lights; many of the overheard comments make you realise some people don’t miss a thing!
Afterwards, for us, there is an awful lot of clearing up, removing the special switch-on cables, the loudspeakers, tents, chairs, barriers – all that stuff we had spent the morning putting together. And, of course, we seem to be strangely related to the grotto crew, who did a fantastic thing in setting up the new Grotto in the Falcon Mews to replace the much-missed Grotto which was built every year by Brian Johnson and his gang.
Now, a week later, we have had an hour out with a cherry-picker, repairing the feeds to two set-pieces, one on the Hop Pole, and one in Church Street, to make them work properly, sorting a few dud bulbs, and “droppers”, and resetting the Church Street clock, which was out of sequence.
Sunday saw two thirds of the Christmas tree out; we quickly realised that some mindless prune had climbed up the tree and pulled some plugs out. Apart from being highly dangerous, all that did was to try and ruin things. Now if that inventiveness could be reapplied, we would welcome some further help in building rather than destroying things – any takers!!??
We do, between us, go through the lights almost every evening, and try to put right any major problems that same night, if we can. Dud lamps will obviously build up over time, but having a period with no failures is always very welcome. Thankfully, with LED technology, problems are very much less than they were in the old days, and the system has been remarkably resilient in recent years – let us hope that continues! But with thousands of lamps, and dozens of circuits, there is bound to be the occasional failure. It is interesting that Blackpool has two cherry pickers plus an electrician at the depot working flat-out whenever their illuminations are on. Even the very best systems need continuous care.
Enjoy the lights; if you enjoy them half as much as we do putting them together, we will be well satisfied. Have the very best of Christmases, and a Prosperous and Peaceful New Year!