John Stark’s Christmas lights and decorations will remain in his garage this year, but he’s already looking forward to testing out each bulb for a triumphant return in 2013.G084812

By Gav Ross

IT’S normally lit up like the most elaborate of Christmas trees, making it arguably the best festive display in Wonthaggi, but this year the Starks’ Wonthaggi home will remain quietly dim. With a voice filled with disappointment, John has announced that he’ll be unable to switch on the dazzling display he usually prepares with his wife, Maureen, at their Hagelthorn Street home, due to his recovery from a hand operation. “I realise that many families who look forward to the display will be disappointed, but there’s just no way I’m going to be able to put my lights up,” John said with a sombre shrug. “My wife and I have always taken great pleasure in meeting the regular and new visitors each year and seeing the looks of wonder on the faces of children as well as their parents, but I’m afraid we have to take a year off.” This was to be the sixth year in a row John has covered his elevated corner-block home with twinkling lights and other merry adornments, but he has suffered a condition in both hands where tendons have deteriorated and skin grafts have been required to straighten his fingers again. John has already lost most of a pinky finger on one hand and his other hand is still bandaged up and kept in a brace most of the time. “I knew earlier in the year I probably couldn’t do the lights, especially after how long it took my hand to come good after the first operation,” John said. “But I’m getting physio done and they’re getting better.” The enthusiastic decorator usually starts unpacking the mountainous load of boxes full of lights and ornaments housed in his garage each October for the annual project. “I take my cars out of the garage and then start testing all the lights,” he said. “Actually, I’ve got new lights I bought last year which haven’t been used yet, which is a shame.” Those who regularly drive or wander by the house usually spot John clambering up and down the ladder around the roof and spouting as early as mid-November in preparation for the big flick of the switch on the first day of December. This year, John’s absence from his front yard has been noticed by more people than expected. “I was in Big W the other day and a woman approached me with a very concerned look on her face to ask what was going on,” John’s wife, Maureen, explained. “She said her young daughter had pointed out that something was wrong if the lights weren’t up yet!” “The neighbours are all disappointed too,” John chimed in. “All their grandkids enjoy it, and there are kids next door who, as soon as they see me up the ladder each year, start screaming out ‘it’s Christmas!” And John believes there’ll be one other lad who might be especially disappointed by the cancellation. “There’s a boy who comes through the gate each year to leave a can of beer next to the Santa on our verandah,” he said with a smile. “I think I spooked him one year, though, because I said hello through the door and he bolted off!”