With a new month now underway, many of us are reflecting back on what felt like one of the longest and dreariest Januarys on record.
Ongoing restrictions, school closures, and non-essential retail and hospitality shut-downs have meant that England’s third national lockdown amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hasn’t exactly given us much to cheer about.
But all of the doom and gloom of the past year is what prompted one mother-daughter duo to take their love for all things Christmas and “have a bit of fun while things are crazy”.
Charlotte Barker, 25, and her mum Sharon, 50, – both from Manchester, and both nurses at Manchester Royal Infirmary – are clinging onto the festive season and combatting the new year blues with a project that will see them keep their beloved Christmas tree up all year round, but with a twist.
Instead of the traditional decorations you’d expect to see at Christmas, their tree will take on a new, seasonal theme each month.
The two “tree fairies” have even started an Instagram account – @notjustforchristmas_ – to lift spirits by documenting the beautifully-decorated trees each month, and it’s already picking up new fans from throughout the local community and across the country each day.
While Charlotte and Sharon have plans to continue decorating their tree right through to December of this year, the pair actually got a head-start in 2020 by kicking things off at Halloween.
“We love doing our Christmas tree,” Charlotte told us.
“[We usually] start planning our colours for them six months before Christmas, and we made a Halloween tree for the first time [last year], which we loved”.
But their inspiration actually started a lot sooner than that.
“Since last summer, we were planning a Christmas grotto for my nieces and nephew,” Charlotte continued.
“It was so much fun.
“I played Santa, and my mum and auntie were the elves, [and] that’s what give us the idea to start the Christmas tree themes each month.”
She continued: “It’s just something fun that we love our doing,
“[And] our tree is a running joke in the family of what we have planned next.”
February’s themed tree has, of course, taken inspiration from the celebration of love itself, Valentine’s Day – with the tree covered head to toe in love hearts, tinsel, and plenty of other themed pink and red decorations – but with another 10 months of the year left to go, what else do they have in store?
“So we have a few ideas lined up,” Charlotte admitted.
“Such as St Patrick’s Day [for March], Easter [for April], and a summer holiday theme [too, but we are] still planning other themes.
“We want to try and do a nurse themed one for National Nurses Day in May too”.
While the pair seem to have plenty of ideas in the pipeline to give their increasing fanbase something to look forward to, they’re always on the look-out for inspiration, with Charlotte adding: “If anyone has ideas for themes, please let us know”.
To take a look at all of the trees so far, show your support, and follow along with Charlotte and Sharon’s journey, head on over to their Instagram here.
And don’t forget to suggest some future themes for them too.
Grealish holds his hands up over Almirón dig: ‘I do stupid stuff’
Jack Grealish has finally held his hands up after mocking Miguel Almirón, assuring that while he has made mistakes in career, he has a “good heart”.
Speaking to the media at the national camp in Qatar, the footballer was asked about his now-infamous dig at the Newcastle player, quipping that teammate Riyad Mahrez “played like Almirón” in a sub-par performance during Manchester City‘s 2021/22 title-winning match back in May.
Ironically, Grealish‘s Almiron joke has preceded an incredible run of form from the winger this year, arguably being their player of the season with eight goals to his name already.
Despite the 28-year-old insisting he has “never really paid attention” to what people say about him, he will have inevitably seen the viral clip.
Nevertheless, the England and City star took accountability for the unnecessary outburst, confessing, “I do stupid stuff, that was one”, whilst assuring: “Obviously I’ve done stupid stuff in my life but I think everything that I do good is from my heart.”
The 27-year-old went on to say that describe his Premier League peer as a “great player”, adding: “what a guy… if that was me and somebody had said that about me, I’d have probably been the other way and been like: ‘f*** it'”.
While he said he didn’t think the drunken video would go public, he knows it wasn’t the most professional of moments and that not only is he “buzzing” to see Almirón playing so well but that he will be sure to “show him the most respect” the next time they meet on the pitch.
Army ‘on standby’ as UK prepares for more postal, rail, lecturer and nurses strikes in December
The armed forces are said to be “on standby” to help fill various roles ahead of a new raft of strikes across health, education and postal sectors this month.
Royal Mail workers, university lecturers and sixth-form college staff are committed to walking out over pay disputes on Wednesday, 30 November as various organised strikes persist across the country.
Countless employees from various industries who feel they are underappreciated and underpaid are set to join the ongoing rail strikes, as well as the thousands of nurses expected to follow suit on the picket line throughout December.
Now, as per the interim chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery, given the strikes’ proximity to Christmas, roping in the British military now seems likely. Dr Emma Runswick of the British Medical Association said there is there a simple way to put an end to mass industrial action: pay people fairly.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday morning, Cordery confirmed that while the army is waiting in the wings to help fill relevant NHS roles, “the reality is if the army or other armed forces step in it will very much be at the margins rather than going out and driving ambulances”.
It remains unclear whether army personnel will be needed to combat the impending labour shortage across other industries. Regardless, the Communication Workers Union are going ahead will a series of strikes in December.
Having formally called on Royal Mail employees to join the national demonstrations for strike action on the following days:
Friday, 9 December
Sunday, 11 December
Wednesday, 14 December
Thursday, 15 December
Friday, 23 December
Saturday, 24 December
As for rail workers, RMT Assistant General Secretary Eddie Dempsey shared a similar sentiment, assuring that while the train drivers and the transport sector, in general, are standing firm, negotiations with Network Rail and other operators continue this week.
In addition to RMT members across 14 rail companies striking on 13-14 and 16-17 December, as well as 3-4 and 6-7 January, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) said that staff working onboard and station roles will take action against Avanti West Coast on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December.
Meanwhile, the National Education Union (NEU) which represents 77 sixth-form colleges in England are also striking over pay, stating that in real terms, teachers have suffered a pay cut of around 20% since 2010.
Furthermore, the University and College Union (UCU) already held a 48-hour strike last week and is now set to hold another 24-hour walkout among university staff. As well as organising a large rally in London, union members across at least 150 different institutions will be joining the December strikes.