For some people a simple Christmas tree and some fairy lights is not enough. Jack McKeown meets joiner Richard Simpson, who has illuminated his Leven home with more than 7,500 lights
Coldstream Crescent is a sleepy residential corner of Leven, on the Fife coast. At night, darkness reigns over the street – apart from one solitary house, which is a beacon that must almost be visible from outer space.
This is where Richard Simpson lives. The 53-year old joiner put a few lights up outside his house several years ago and things soon got out of hand.
“I started doing it as a bit of fun for my kids,” he explains. “And it just got bigger and bigger. Now I can’t put any more up. There’s literally nowhere for any more lights to go. Every wall, window ledge, bit of roof, tree and fence is already covered.”
At a certain point Richard had to admit he was no longer doing it for his children. “They’re 19 and 22 now,” he chuckles. “So they’re a bit past the stage of believing in Santa. The truth is it just feels like a nice thing to do.”
There literally isn’t any part of Richard’s house or garden that isn’t bedecked in Christmas lights. They climb up every wall, arch over every doorway, surround every window, twist round every tree. He’s even been up on the roof and run lights along every ridgeline of tiles right up to the apex.
It must have taken him ages. “I think if I did it all in one go it’d be at least three days of full time work,” he explains. “But I just do it here and there. I’ll start in November, putting up a couple of strings of lights whenever I have a spare half hour.”
For the past five years Richard has held an annual switch on to raise money for charity. “We have neighbours, friends and family round for a few drinks,” he continues. “Everyone gets involved.
“Last year we raised more than £800 for the Mary Leishman Foundation and this year we’re raising money for CHAS. We took in more than £400 on the switch on night alone.”
Richard’s wife Aileen suffers through him spending evenings and weekends clambering up trees and onto the roof of their house.
“I think she secretly quite likes it,” he says. “She works in a primary school and the kids love when she shows them pictures of the house.”
Richard has lost count of the number of lights he’s bought over the years but reckons there are well over 100 strings totalling more than 7,500 individual light bulbs.
Remarkably, all of the lights are connected together and turned on and off from a single socket.
The dramatic fall in cost of ultra-low energy LED bulbs has prevented him being bankrupted by his festive hobby.
“I did a wee calculation and it costs around 0.6 pence to run each string of bulbs for a day. So I’m spending around 60-70p a day keeping them on. That doesn’t feel like too big a price to pay for something that puts a smile on people’s faces at Christmas.”