All those bulbs to check

CHRISTMAS is never far from mind for John Merrett – at any time of the year.For whether it's March, May or October, he can be found surrounded by Santas, snowmen, trees and garlands of twinkling lights.

CHRISTMAS is never far from mind for John Merrett – at any time of the year.

For whether it's March, May or October, he can be found surrounded by Santas, snowmen, trees and garlands of twinkling lights.

But now with just weeks to go to the big day, Mr Merrett is working harder than ever, ensuring that when the switch is thrown Felixstowe's shopping centre will be transformed into a festive fairyland.

For the former merchant navy man and electrical engineer is head of the team that donates around 1,300 man hours a year to put together the resort's annual Christmas lights display.

The display features 10,000 coloured bulbs – now ten-watt ones, which has cut the power needed by around 45 per cent – along with 377 metres of garlands, and a selection of seasonal characters.

"It's an all year round job, especially as we want to make sure everything is ready in time and not have a last minute rush," said Mr Merrett.

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"We have a month off after Christmas and then start work again in February. Every bulb has to be tested and checked, and all the equipment given a complete overhaul.

"Many of the displays have to be redesigned or are uprated as we want to improve the display each year."

The six-man team from Felixstowe Lions works in the basement of the Martello Tower on which the Barlet Hospital was built and where the lights are stored.

This year there will be a new display inside the Great Eastern Square shopping precinct, as well as improved ones at the cinema and Bank Corner. The team has also made 29 double-garlands to improve the lamp-posts in Hamilton Road.

The display on the outside of the Bartlet will also be in the place again.

On the weekend of November 15 and 16, the team will be joined by around 25 other Lions to begin the work of putting the lights and the town's Evening Star-sponsored Christmas tree in place.

Then it will be the countdown to the lighting up day, which takes place on November 29.

"It's a big day for us and that's when I'll always admit to being a little nervous, especially at that moment when the mayor throws the switch!" said Mr Merrett.

N Do you know someone who lives for Christmas? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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