Article 6 of the Christmas Lights Judging Committee’s Rules of Engagement state that no Christmas Lights Competition may take place until the previous year’s Verdict has been moderated, grade-curved and ratified. As you can imagine, this made the first ever Christmas Lights Competition very difficult. Back then, when the committee did things by the book, it was delayed at least eleven times as no-one could produce the previous year’s Verdict. The first ever Chairperson retired from the committee having served a whole decade without a competition ever having been held. To break the deadlock the committee met in secret and held an equally secret Competition, off the books, simply so they could have a Verdict to present for the following year. As the only entrants that year were Judges, the inaugural Competition was marred by claims of corruption. Thankfully those dark days are behind us.
This year the station of Amanuensis Elect falls to me. Article 3 states that the verdict must be unanimous amongst the Judges. This has taken approximately a year. The Founding Committee created Article 6 to handle precisely this eventuality. Happily the delay in reaching agreement is due not to want of consensus but coördination. At every point throughout the year, one of us has been washing their hair, or transferring fluid to the water tank or subsequently to the septic tank.
It is my solemn duty to cast light on the 2018 illuminations. That delay of almost a year past has provided some perspective. As the light of late last year streams across the months it illuminates the fast closing evenings of 2019. The events of the intervening year cast their flickering shadow. With the benefit of distance one can judge which elements were of lasting significance and which were simply a flash in the pan.
All of which is not to say that the details of 2018 are entirely cast in sharp relief. The light is hazy. Not only that, but the theme of the competition was ‘Birth’ and we find an excessively detailed examination of the entries vulgar. The committee has therefore decided to return a narrative verdict.
The entries are listed in alphabetical order of Environment Agency registration number, with a secondary ordering (where called for) based on the gas certificate number. You will find these printed respectively at the top right of your annual registration document and the bottom left of your gas certificate (if pink) or top right if the document was issued under the Old Scheme.
Talpa presented Whiskers in Surfeit. A constellation of pigments, deposited in a matrix of warp and weft, provided the impression of keen, attentive and friendly mammals. Over-friendly perhaps: bonus points were given for the choice of species known for high birth rate.
Tallis didn’t disappoint. Spectators were left sweaty but gleaming. Bonus points were given but the Committee decided to redact further detail so as not to prejudice future competitions.
St Crispin followed in the tradition of Classical depictions of the Infant Christ. Bonus points were given for a detail that the entrants might have thought went un-noticed. Reference was made to the more oblique Apocrypha in which Mary hastily fashions a twin from almond paste, preserved fruit and grain. Though modern scholarship casts doubt on the historical accuracy of the beheading, no points were deducted as the matter is not entirely settled amongst scholars.
Monstronauticus’ entry leaned heavily on the narrative framing, blending diagetic concerns with ginger and gluten-free flour. The result left the observers staring directly into full-beam car headlights as they were instructed to imagine the process of birthing, all the while munching on a low-glaecemic-index ginger biscuit. Bonus points were awarded under duress.
Ambassador really spoiled us with a decagonal incandescent flourish. Balance was thrown to the wind as Early Christian symbology was mixed with semiotics that left little to the imagination. Bonus points were given for the straddling of a dichotomy between a continuous unbroken circle with string lights.
Briongloid truly out-shone itself, and arguably, all others. Telling the story of the visiting stork through the medium of shadow puppetry. The only fault the committee could find was with biological accuracy, choosing, as they did, to draw a veil over the nuance of delivery. Bonus points were given for pure class.
It is no co-incidence that each entrant was awarded a first class honours degree. Grade inflation is an ugly phrase to throw around. But in all my years of participating the Christmas lights competition I can say without fear of contradiction that the grades awarded have been nothing but steady for a good many years.
This year’s competition will be held according to the Rules of Engagement with the addition of Article 27: Visiting Exhibitors will be furnished with a source of electromotive force.