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.
St John's Wood, London
1 day ago