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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.

‘Horror story’?

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.

Bench end mermaid, Upper Sheringham by John Salmon (Geograph Project 815860)

Mermaid bench-end, Upper Sheringham by John Salmon (Geograph Project ref. 815860)

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!

Cromer lighthouse by Stavros1 via Commons Wiki

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 …

Un-angelic/cherubic - and not even remotely seraphic - jammie-clad choral singer contemplating heralding Christmas

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.

Copyright © Minnie at Les Minimes (‘minniebeaniste’) 2009-2011. This content is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this content feed on other websites breaches copyright.

  1. 18/12/2011 01:22

    This so reminds me of the time I was cashiered at the Governor General’s church here in Ottawa by an old friend – they needed tenors for Christmas Eve – or rather bodies that could appear to be tenors. My protestations of my complete inability to read music were countered with a barking order to “sing the bloody melody then”. I did and the GG was none the wiser!

    • Minnie permalink
      18/12/2011 09:22

      Ah, dear Willy – so yet again you know just what it’s like … I shall think of your tenor-by-ear when my occasionally silent alto is conveyed by some (I hope!) convincing miming this am. But trying not to giggle might just be a challenge too far!
      PS Stop press: I didn’t have to mime! Well, minimally …;-)! It was hugely enjoyable, in fact.

  2. 19/12/2011 18:17

    Happy Happy Christmas, me dear – I was so sorry not to meet you after all a few weeks ago. With love

    • Minnie permalink
      19/12/2011 20:26

      Thank you! Yes, me too. Still in London tho’ – still in temp. accommodation (some things never change, more’s the pity). Love & hugs, Mynne x

  3. Pascalou permalink
    19/12/2011 22:36

    As a former altar boy, I remember funeral masses as the most profitable of all (maybe a side effect of inheritance)… Fortunately I didn’t have to sing anything : catholic funerals seem to be planned to deter anyone to die, I think I will go to New Orleans for mine.
    And about wd-40 spray : mine is empty, as usual, sorry I can’t help you.

    • Minnie permalink
      19/12/2011 23:31

      By ‘eck, Pascalou – d’ye get pourboires at funeral masses? I am in the wrong church, and must obviously begin investigating conversion to Rome forthwith. I could do with some of what junior doctors call ‘ash cash’. I do love Anglican choral singing, tho’ – especially when the choir makes it so easy for me to fit in (+ I don’t have to sing soprano!).
      It’s all very well your deciding to have your funeral in New Orleans, you know; but do remember that you, er, won’t actually be there to fully enjoy the gig.
      I am sending you some virtual WD-40 as a cadeau de Noël.

  4. 20/12/2011 17:40

    Yes Minnie, Sunday masses were “pour l’amour de l’art”, but we used to get cash for funerals from the families…
    Thank you for the gift : I will send you back some fine duck grease from the pot (it works well when baking a cassoulet!) :o)

    • Minnie permalink
      20/12/2011 19:52

      Aha – so ‘ash cash’ after all! Hm. Will have to think seriously about this.
      De rien. Thank you for the duck grease, vital ingredient for an authentic cassoulet. Once I have access to an oven again, je vais me régaler avec un bon cassoulet :-)!

  5. 26/12/2011 21:15

    Hi – Hope you had a Happy Christmas – and as I have found out, – there’s no such thing as a free mince pie! Good to hear you’ve found your voice.

    • Minnie permalink
      27/12/2011 11:24

      Many thanks, Harriet. I had a super Christmas: a lovely new friend treated me to a delicious Christmas dinner, stimulating conversation and a relaxed, family atmosphere. All much-appreciated – and worth any number of carols!
      Singing in the choir is fab, and I’ve been made so wonderfully welcome. But I’ll be on the move again soon, the 12th in 9 years. One of the things I hate most about this is the constant series of ‘goodbyes’ to people and places I know I will miss.

  6. 01/01/2012 11:13

    Hi Minnie
    Great to see you back here again, and to catch up on your latest adventures! Loved the story about the choir, and good for you for joining up!! Good luck with the next move, and wishing you all the very best for 2012, from this small corner of Africa!

    • Minnie permalink
      01/01/2012 13:50

      Hi yourself, Karen – yes, I shall miss this choir when I move on. Continual ‘goodbyes’ to people you know you’ll miss dreadfully is one of the worst aspects of not having a home.
      Do hope all has been well with you, wherever you were at Christmas. Thank you so much for your good wishes: they mean a lot. Totsiens!

  7. 12/01/2012 18:01

    Having lived in Canada for decades, you thought I just might know enough French to read the sprinkling of that language in other blogs, but I admit I’ve to resort to the use of Google Translate. :) Thanks for stopping by Ripple Effects and commented on “The Artist” movie review, now I’ve discovered your very interesting blog Les Minimes. I wanted to comment on your Nice post but the comment section is closed. Yes I’ve come a bit late, but still happy to have found you. Look forward to your future posts, your UK narratives.

    • Minnie permalink
      12/01/2012 19:06

      Arti: thank you for dropping by and leaving such a lovely comment. The French language is glorious, but not easy to learn (perhaps all the better for being such a challenge). I definitely haven’t got to grips with it yet.
      Now, which ‘Nice post’ would that be? Because, you see, there are rather a lot of posts about life in Nice … ;-).

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