THE sparkling tinsel, glistening baubles and shiny stars of the nation’s Christmas trees light the way through the cold and dark of a bleak midwinter.
Except in Largs. Or specifically, except in Paolo Capocchi’s hardware shop in Largs.
His Christmas tree was once resplendent in greenery and decorations… but that was two years ago. It is now Scotland’s saddest little Christmas tree, drooping, brown and about as Christmassy as a can of WD40 and a box of nails.
The tree remains in place 365 days of the year, twinkling fairy lights and all, and he says the fir has become such a talking point and feature of the seaside town that he’ll never take it down.
Paolo, who has run David Gavin Ironmongers for 22 years, said: “It’s become a talking point. People come in and say don’t dare take that down.
“When people hear about it they come for a look. Folk come down from Paisley and Glasgow to see it.
“I first put a tree in the window in November 2016, when I began selling real trees for the first time.
“I think the locals thought I’d forgotten about it or maybe that I was crazy when they saw it was still there in February or March, but now they tell me they would miss it if it goes. It’s become a part of the fixtures around here.”
At first, there was method to his madness, as Paolo wanted to prove a point.
“I started selling the trees after the main shop that sold them in the town closed down. People would come in that first year and ask, ‘How long do they last?’ and ‘Do the needles fall?’, so I thought I would leave it up all year to show people how hardy they were.
“The fact it was still there last Christmas with no needles dropped proved a point.”
After slow sales in 2017, Paolo decided not to stock real trees this year.
“I was left with quite a few last year as so many other places had jumped on the bandwagon.
“I was buying in premium ones, which I sold for £30 to £40, but there were cheaper versions around.”
It’s just one of many obstacles Paolo has encountered running a traditional, independent shop in the modern day, and he says if the tree helps to attract potential customers to his store, it will remain.
“As the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity,” Paolo said.
“You hear of hardware shops closing every other week – it’s tough.
“Between the internet and now Brexit, which I think has made people wary to spend cash, it’s not easy. It’s just myself these days – I can’t take on any staff.
“I’ll leave the tree up for as long as it keeps taking on water.
“It’s amazing how much it drinks – it takes two pints every five or six weeks, so there must still be some life left in it.”
He added: “It’s a nice tree – it looks good in the dark when the fairy lights are on.
“The tree is now a nice autumnal colour and it’s gone almost like dried flowers.
“This is a big shop, and cold, so it’s perfect conditions for the tree.
“And leaving it there also means I don’t have the hassle of putting up a tree every year!”