Friday, 19 December 2008

Hark The Herald Angels Sneeze


It's that time of year when we drop the children off at school early, leaving them aeroplaning round the playground with arms outstretched and hooded coats flying behind only attached by the head. A few parents then make their way across the road to sit for an hour in the Perpendicular St. Peter's church, awaiting the end-of-term carol service. A couple of bathroom heaters on the pillars and some bottled gas slowly warms the cold air. I'm first in, and make for a cosy back pew, but get moved by the headmaster- "You at the back there!". I'm eventually allowed to sit in the south aisle, and park my trilby on the head of Sir Richard Roberts' recumbent 1644 effigy. The vicar comes in, nods, and lifts up his cassock and holds it dangerously out over a flaming gas heater. "Air balloon principle, hot air rising. Keep me going for a bit". I like him. The children troop in in twos, but I can't see Youngest Boy anywhere. Alarmed, I imagine him on his own in the crypt, doing something to the electrics, but, no, there he is. Half way through Away in A Manger I get a sneezing fit. Anyone who's heard me sneeze knows that people two miles away take in their washing, and now teachers clasp alarmed infants to their bosoms and parents dive under altar cloths. The vicar then tells us all a story about Maximus Mouse, with a long-nosed green glove puppet on his hand that stares fiendishly out at the children on the edge of their pews. I really like him. At last it's Oh Come All Ye Faithful, but just as we're getting to the first "Oh come let us adore him" I feel another gigantic sneeze gathering. I reach out and steady myself on Sir Richard's armoured arm.

16 comments:

Vinogirl said...

It all sounds so lovely. I love carols.

CarolineLD said...

Oh, I remember similar 'bathroom heaters on the pillars' from my own school days! We never had glove puppets though...

Thud said...

Damned good of Sir Richard to help a lending hand(arm)

Jon Dudley said...

A lovely post.

Whatever happened to chilblains? Were they merely an ailment peculiar to unmitigated england? Always deemed to be the result of sitting near to sources of heat in otherwise freezing surroundings....like church...beware Mr.A!

Your vicar sounds fun but do please dissuade him from attempting the 'twist' or the 'frug' at the church youth club Christmas disco. He sounds as if he might have such inclinations.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankfully Jon I've never had chilblains, but do understand the Unmitigated element. I bet they're extremely painful, but they were always something other children had in post war England. I'm taking every precaution against winter ills, and am now seen wandering the local parishes looking like G.K.Chesterton.

Jon Dudley said...

Tenuous I know but here's an excuse for a Chesterton-tinged story. A young village boy, the son of a farm labourer in Shipley, West Sussex, sometime in the nineteen twenties was walking past Hilaire Belloc's house when the great man strode out and demanded to know if the boy could play cards. "Yessir, Nap sir" says he deferentially. "Oh well, I suppose that'll have to do" says Mr.B., and the youth found himself making up a 'four' at Nap with Belloc, Chesterton and Winston Churchill. Just thought I'd share that with you.

Peter Ashley said...

How brilliant is that. And so odd, because when I wrote 'Chesterton' the other alternative I had in mind was Mr. Belloc.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Chilblains are one of the Things We Have Lost. At least according to Michael Bywater in Lost Worlds. We don't have them thanks to central heating, better shoes, and driving rather than walking to the shops. In Bywater's taxonomy of loss they come between 'Chap, Old' and 'Chivalry'. Of course.

Sue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sue said...

Christmas here in Germany is wonderful but there are still some things I have a longing for from an English Christmas and this post somehow touched on them...

I think I'll read the "Dulce Domum" chapter from "The Wind in the Willows" and do some English Christmas wallowing.

And funnily enough, I was talking to my Mum and she claims to have chilblains. Whether they are left over from the 1950s or a new manifestation, I don't know!

Peter Ashley said...

Merry Christmas Sue! So glad you're a 'Wind in The Willows' fan. My Christmas reading indulgences will include seasonal bits from Kilvert's Diary and Cider with Rosie.

Fred Fibonacci said...

Lovely post M'Lud. Didn't we meet at The Savoy (sorry everyone) for a livener after a lovely carol service at the Chapel where Ron had one of his weddings?

Peter Ashley said...

We did indeed Fred. In the company of women. Ahem. Or Amen.

Jon Dudley said...

'Passing the love of women - follow me 'ome' As Kipling had it...

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