The 12 Days of Christmas
Everyone knows the classic Christmas song The 12 Days Of Christmas, which describes a suitor giving his love a different present on each of the 12 days of the festive season.
We thought it would be fun to follow in the footsteps of the anonymous adonis and see if you can still buy the items today. And, if you can, how much would they cost?
Being an Internet site, we thought it only right that we limited our search to the world wide web. So, with credit card in hand, we tried to remember the words and get the goods...
"On the first day of Christmas..."
The first gift was a partridge in a pear tree. Typing both phrases into MSN Search revealed that there obviously wasn't a calling for fruit trees with accompanying bird anymore, so we decided to search for them separately.
Ashford's Game in South Gloucestershire offer day old partridge chicks from £3.20 each. Obviously we have to wait until the bird had got its wings, so to speak, but we were convinced we could get it into a pear tree.
As for the pear tree, Keepers Nursery in Maidstone have three-year-old Bergamotte d'Esperen pear bushes available for £26.00 So although we would have to wait for nature to take its course with both our partridge and our pear tree we could get the two together.
Total cost so far: £29.20
"On the second day of Christmas..."
Next on the list is two turtle doves. Now, turtle doves aren't available in the local high street. In fact, numbers are falling in the UK. So, in the interest of preserving wildlife and also avoiding having to climb trees and hedgerows to get hold of a pair, we decided to go for an inanimate equivalent.
Looking at auction site eBay, there's a whole range of turtle dove ornaments, we've plumped for a Royal Grafton plate at £4.99. Not the real thing, we know, but we're too busy trying to get our partridge to fly to handle another two birds.
Total cost so far: £34.19
"On the third day of Christmas..."
Whoever wrote the song had a penchant for birds of the feathered variety, as next on the list is three French hens. Another Internet search led us to the Kintaline Farm Plant and Poultry Centre in Oban where you can buy day-old Marans hens for £2.50.
Total cost so far: £41.69
"On the fourth day of Christmas..."
What exactly is a calling bird? We decided if we wanted a tuneful bird it would have to be a parrot (as they often call out unexpected phrases). So, four parrots.
Another online search led us to B & T Parrots' site. They sell baby African Grey parrots for £575 each. A tad more than we were looking to spend perhaps, but hey it's Christmas. So four parrots at £575 is £2,300.
Total cost so far: £2,341.69
"On the fifth day of Christmas..."
At last, we've moved on from birds. Five gold rings presents a somewhat easier purchase. We went into MSN Shopping and found five mood gold rings at £17.99 each from LX Direct, £89.95 in all. Easy!
Total cost so far: £2,431.64
"On the sixth day of Christmas..."
Back to the birds, and six geese a-laying. Geese for sale seem to be as rare as hen's teeth but a search for "wildfowl" led us to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. There, you can adopt a duck, sponsor a swan and guard a goose. I presume for £15 per goose per year you get visiting rights (not to mention sampling the eggs, they make a very good custard apparently). So six (adopted) geese at £15 each is £120.
Total cost so far: £2,551.64
So having got our partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves (albeit on a plate), three French hens, four calling birds (parrots to be precise), five gold rings and six (adopted) geese a-laying, we've racked up a total bill so far of £2,551.64.
And so we continue our attempt to try and buy every item in The 12 Days Of Christmas. And, surprise surprise, day seven has more birds in store...
"On the seventh day of Christmas..."
Ah, seven swans a-swimming. Well, the cheapest option would be to go to the local river and try and grab them. But as well as being a criminal offence, no one fancied the idea of subduing an irate swan.
So, instead we head back to the world wide web. Judging by the paucity of websites dedicated to the subject, rearing swans isn't a past-time that's passed into cyberspace.
So as with our six geese, we resorted to sponsorship. Riding to the rescue quite literally was the Swan Rescue Centre in Hooke, Dorset. They offer the opportunity to sponsor a swan for £10 per year and we can go and watch them swim there any time. So another small cheat of a solution sets us back £70.
Total cost so far: £2,621.64
"On the eighth day of Christmas..."
Now, this is even more of a challenge. Eight maids a-milking. So we're going to be somewhat lateral. Supposing you found eight young ladies willing and able to squeeze a cow's udders (not to mention wear a costume).
Assuming that the ladies you found were between the ages of 18 and 20, you could pay them the minimum wage of £5.55 per hour. So, for our purposes, we'll assume we're only going to need them for an hour, that's 8 x £5.55. Which is £44.40. Hypothetical, yes, but there seems to be a drought of milk maids advertising their services online.
Total cost so far: £2,666.04
"On the ninth day of Christmas..."
Next, we need nine ladies dancing. The song doesn't state the dance to be performed so we've gone for some very modium podium dancers. These can be hired from the Visible Agency in Bristol for £135 each.
9 x £135 is £1,215. Things are getting expensive...
Total cost so far: £3,881.04
"On the tenth day of Christmas..."
Costs are starting to escalate rapidly now. Aside from the fact that it would probably take a great deal of persuasion and a great deal of brandy to get ten Lords to leap, hiring such a distinguished person is not a cheap exercise.
Looking at the JLA Speaker Bureau website, who boast Lord Winston (now well known for his TV work) among their clients, hiring the services of such an eminent person will cost in the region of £5,000-£10,000.
The After Dinner Speakers Bureau provided no better news, with Lord Heath's wisdom costing £6,000-£10,000, Lord Lichfield £16,000-£12,000 and Lord Steel (£21,000-£25,000. And that's before the leaping is mentioned.
So, say we take the bottom end of their price spectrum and assume they will agree to leap, that's £48,000 already. Now let's pretend that to obtain the services of six other Lords would cost in the region of £50,000. Call it £100,000 and keep the change.
Anyway, our wish list for Lords we'd like to see leap would be: Lord Attenborough, Baroness Boothroyd, Lord Bragg, Lord Heath, Lord Lichfield, Lord Lloyd Webber, Lord Montagu, Lord Puttnam, Lord Steel and Lord Winston.
Total cost so far: £103,881.04
"On the eleventh day of Christmas..."
After the huge expense of their Lordships, we were relieved to hear that hiring 11 pipers to do their stuff would be comparatively cheaper. The National Piping Centre in Glasgow hires pipers out at £100 + VAT each for three hours.
So 11 x £100 is £1,100 plus £192.50 VAT, which comes to a total of £1,292.50.
Total cost so far: £105,173.54
"On the twelfth day of Christmas..."
Well friends, this is our final hurdle. To add to the general cacophany of Lords leaping, maids milking and pipers piping we add 12 drummers drumming.
So, to keep the pipe band theme going, we found the 10th Finchley (Scottish) Scout Group offering their wares for £1,200 per day. And, as this quest has been all about inspiration, we'll get 12 of them to bang drums instead of playing the pipes. Or they could swap places with the pipers. Let's hope they don't stray too near to the milk maids or it could get messy...
So our grand total is: £106,373.54
As you can see, getting hold of these gifts is not as easy as it might once have been, even with the aid of modern technology. Now, we've got all these birds and not a turkey in sight... Merry Christmas.