A collection of Nativity scenes from across the world built up over 30 years is looking for a new home
The smell of Advent is Copydex, Blu Tack and barn-roof mustiness. Pine needles and holy incense too, of course, but most frantic is the unpacking and mending of the unwieldy crib collection. The sounds of Advent include not only bells and carols, there are also curses of frustration from under the table. It is never the third shepherd or random angel who goes missing in the straw and bubble wrap but always Joseph, Mary, or the Child. One can actually do without one of the Magi, presuming him to be following on with the camel train. But when the Holy Family are split up by incautious packaging, it’s trouble.
My collection of cribs grew quite by accident. In 1984, having small children, I wanted a Nativity in the house that was not arty, ultra-modern or repellently sentimental. I remembered the santons de Provence of my French childhood (especially the Man With Chickens In A Basket On His Head). As well as the three kings a whole nineteenth-century peasant village arrives at the crib, including such characters as the miller and his sack, the poulterer, the mayor with a speech, the midwife with a cradle and the repentant brigand, Le Boumian. There must also be Le Ravi – the village simpleton – who brings nothing but his awe, throwing his empty hands aloft.