Hark, the herald whaaat?
Christmas is a time when everyone’s busy. Obviously, really. Shopping, cooking, more shopping, eating, more eating - and that’s without taking into account the varieties and degrees of friction that manifest themselves in every family home at this time of year. So this is a season when I can feel grateful for being a temporary person. At least I can opt in and/or out of almost anything. And therefore relax a bit.
But not being a great one for inactivity, all that relaxation can rapidly become too much of a good thing. So I am pleased to announce that I shall be busy this Christmas. Which, on the face of it, is a good thing, isn’t it? Er, well: depends … Lest you become alarmed, I hasten to explain that I myself will be not only engaged but also having a whale of a time. Others, alas, might be seeing things differently. Some might even regard my endeavours with horror (there are always philistines in our midst, are there not?). Actually, quite a lot of people might interpret the scenario as horrific: a ‘horror story’, you – or they – might even say.
Allow me to begin at the beginning. This morning, in fact. When representatives of the church I attend near Current Temporary Abode ['CTA'] in London were out in force this morning, with priest, choir and sidespersons variously singing or rattling collecting tins on behalf of the homeless (which is at least a suitably seasonal charity as well as one with which I can identify). Boss Priest was there sporting his winter-strength cassock, looking saintly – and not a little red-nosed, not to mention blue-fingered. Passing him by unnoticed is never an option on the best of days, so creeping past among the hordes of Saturday shoppers on my way to buy a tin of WD-40 (don’t ask. I might tell you. And in excruciatingly dull detail) was not going to work. So I pootled up to him and shoved an embarrassingly tiny amount into the tin, with a sickly smirk of self-righteousness overlaying an equally queasy combination of guilt and resentment.
Having exchanged the necessarily brief greetings (brief due to eagle-like priestly eye constantly scoping out further sources of dosh), I tuned into the singing.
Singing? Hurrah! And lo, the church choir – about half of it anyway – was huddled in the porch, muffled up sufficiently to defy any form of differentiation, and giving the old carols some hearty welly complete with obbligato stamping of frozen feet and sniffling of icy Schnozzles. Their reward was to be mince pies and coffee. Mince pies! I hadn’t had one this year. Well, to tell the truth I haven’t had one since Christmas 2007 (I know, I know: such deprivation is truly terrible to contemplate. So we won’t).
Thinking of my stomach as always, I waited for a convenient lull between carols, sidled up to Winifred – the diminutive choirmisstress who is parade-ground of voice, wild of hair and beady of eye – and offered vocal support. She accepted. Hey ho, singing for one’s supper has always struck me as a tad too much effort; but a few minutes’ singing in return for a pair of mince pies (you didn’t think I’d stop at just the one, did you?) seemed a fair exchange. So I squeezed into the available space between a sturdy, elderly soprano and Winifred’s piano, and got stuck into some caterwauling or, more accurately, droning away in the lower register (Gethin, the silver-tongued sadist from the Valleys who was conductor of the Welsh Choir I sang in long ago, made me sing soprano. Needless to say, I couldn’t hit the high notes – imagine if you will the opening notes of ‘Zadok the Priest’, the ‘In Paradisum’ section of Fauré’s Requiem and other similar forms of torture. The result was, mostly, that I didn’t actually sing anything at all. Which might not have been such a bad thing, at that).
Anyway, back to the parish church of my CTA: I duly received my mince pie(s) and coffee accompanied by craic with Winifred and the members of the choir – all delightful people – lovely!
But they – beginning with Winifred – were not letting me off that easily. Oh, no. For as soon as the session had ended I was nabbed by Herself and, indeed, nobbled by same. Fixing me with a basilisk stare, she invited me to join the choir: between Winifred looking me in the eye and my stomach grumbling for a mince pie, I was trapped. Thus, just to get her off my back and a pie into my tummy, I agreed. Duly fed, watered and feeling more human (relatively speaking), I was given a timetable plus introductions to other choir members before being handed over to Thea (‘misstress of the robes’) who carted me off to be kitted out with cassock and cotta (or surplice). I must confess to being more than a bit miffed by the lack of ruff (this choir doesn’t wear ‘em). But I am making the very best of what is on offer, you may be sure: I shall be accessorising this outfit with black polo-neck sweater, jeans and black knee-length biker boots (lined with the obligatory x 2 pairs of socks): severe elegance with a touch of street-style, dahlings. Clearly, there are sartorial consolations to be gained from freezing one’s arse off in a chilly church while doing corncrake impressions to the greater glory of the Almighty. By God, there must be some compensation …
So picture, if you will, your friend Min toddling off early tomorrow morning, braving snow, hail, sleet and/or rain (this is Britain after all) in order to swell the heavenly (?) chorus. And spare a thought for the unsuspecting congregation, who will now have to endure the full horror of a choir – one already hardly overburdened with musicality – which has now increased to the cacophonous tune of one, very bad, alto.
Oh, and if you really do wish to envision it: I’ll be the one at the back, eyeing up the handsome, charming sexagenarian baritone, peering around to see if there are any rude or comical carvings in the choir stalls, and running a poker school during the homily. Got that?
Merry Christmas to you all (aren’t you glad not to be here?), and all the best for the New Year.
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