THIS is a time of year people begin to think about paper chains and baubles. Not me as my home is decorated year round with other objects. Our boney baubles are not just for December and not everyone wants to decorate their living room with animal remains but I find beauty in bones so bear with me.

When getting my house valued the estate agent remarked ..”oh yes, I remember - it’s the one with the skulls in the porch”

Collecting skulls became a habit when I moved to the Dales where there is a profusion of sheep and rabbits skulls scattered across the fields They are now scattered around my house - in bowls and hung on walls.

Drawing them became my defence for a collection seen by some as weird .

For a birthday I gave my partner, Alfonsas, an artist, a human skeleton. They are not ‘real’ bones but moulded in resin but it is very realistic and provides a useful, if rather Victorian, corrective to any hubris in the household.

A horse’s skull was also desired for artistic purposes but that proved difficult until we cheated by acquiring a real zebra skull from a junk shop. I was relieved it has a certificate of authentication which told us it had not been illegally killed and it is as close as dammit to a horse!

Favourite are bird remains: their bones disappear quickly in the open, get eaten or disturbed by predators. They are delicate, disintegrate more quickly and are more difficult to find. They are also very beautiful and, being small, are not easy to display though old print trays are perfect for displaying these smaller objects.

Walking near the NE coast recently I came across a dead gull and, plastic bag in hand, took it’s head home. Having buried it in the compost to let worms eat any remaining meat and feathers I was pleased with the final skull. The mandible is particularly vulnerable and is often missing from skulls found in the wild.

A friend found this complete blackbird skeleton in a Seaham chimney breast during a house renovation, preserved in it’s entirety. It was given to me with some relief I think as she “knew I liked that sort of thing” How true.

So when you are putting your December decorations up please think of the alternatives and don’t worry too much about shocking your visitors.