The rain starts falling as I leave the cottage, empty boxes in hand. Trudging to the car, I spot my new neighbour over the road.
"Are you sure you are not a bit early?" I ask.
"Not a bit of it," enthuses Short Andy. "You can never be too early."
I gaze doubtfully at the two large festive characters that perch askew atop his garage. Three-dimensional and dazzlingly illuminated, one is a recognisable Santa Claus figure, the other being some Christmassy person of indeterminate origin. They buffet around in the rainy squall.
We exchange some damp neighbourly pleasantries before I get into the car. The rain stops immediately. He places a ladder up against his wall, in order to try to fix things down more effectively. I drive off to pick up some more worldly goods.
On my return the indeterminate figure is upright, its hand still raised in a cheery wave to the neighbourhood children. But Santa has plunged forth, leaning at a seventy-degree angle off the edge of the building. What's more, its right arm has launched itself forwards like Superman attempting to take off or, at a stretch, a very elderly and bearded Alan Shearer celebrating a goal by dressing up in red and running around on a garage roof in a gale.
I step out of the car. The rain switches on again immediately. This has been happening for several days.
I give the tarmac a hard stare, examining it for pressure pads.