The Christmas service was very English. It oozed that Englishness that makes me proud, set in the most beautiful old Norman ever crafted by man. OK, I'm biased, it is our town's church, and I don't even know if it is truly Norman. I could ask my wife, who is a fountain of all knowledge and knows all about these sorts of things, but she's on the phone to her mum, so I'm just going to guess. But hey, if you're bothered - maybe you're a church historian or some geek with a book on Norman architecture - then feel free to examine the picture.
There weren't many people, which was both sad and surprising. Actually, I wasn't that unsurprised, given our nation's slide towards a culturally vegetative state, but it was sad, and I had hoped that families would have put the turkey on, and then headed to this beautiful old church to thank God for a short hour - come on, it was just an hour folks - but never mind.
We sat at the back, partly because neither of us are Church of England - or for that matter know anything about Church of England - and it was all a bit unfamiliar, and partly because little baby R was due a change and feed, and more importantly, 10am is her poo time. Without fail, between 10 and 10:30am the little one roots, gurts and poos, thrashing her little legs about with the freedom of baby that has no understanding of propriety, extorting the most incredible expressions.
The last thing we wanted was to be on the front row, reading the wrong liturgy and struggling with a gurting, pooing, thrashing little rooter. So we found a spot on the back row.
The vicar - or would he have been a curate, clergyman or priest? - was a gentle, kind, bumbling old man. He had one of those bumbling, rambling, almost unintelligible posh accents where his r's are almost w's, a kind of speech impediment that is merely the result of upper-class breeding. Hilarious to listen to. I don't think I took a single word in, I was too busy enjoying his bumbling, Boris Johnson-esk, and trying to pinpoint his accent. Canterbury perhaps.
He had a great hooked nose - I found myself imagining a caricature where his nose nearly reached his feet - and with all his robes, hood, and small round glasses he had the appearance of a benevolent eagle-god. Or an owl-god. I nearly wrote that he reminded me of an owl-god, but as I haven't ever met (or worshipped) an owl-god that would be untruthful.
We were all equipped with a hymnal and a little red book, which contained liturgy, readings, prayers and had the most infuriating page-numbering system known to man, animal or alien. At the bottom right of each page was the "real" page number, i.e. standard sequential numbering. At the bottom center of the page was another number. This was seemingly arbitrary, but teasingly sequential. For example, the real page numbers went from 1 to 55, the other numbers spanned from between 107 and 348. Those numbers are from memory, so if you challenge them, please don't be cross with me, just my memory, which at a tender age of 26 is deteriorating alarmingly.
Bizarrely, the owl-god was driving from the arbitrary numbering and not once did I find the right page. I did find the right page once, but only in time for the "Amen". Before you question my incompetence, let me defend it. Frequently we were asked to turn to, say, page 111, but I didn't have a page 111 in either numbering system, so after thumbing forwards and backwards through the book I gave up.
Maybe I had an old copy.
There were lots of nuns in the congregation, some in blue robes, some in black. This distracted me, would that have been personal preference or a simple matter of orders, or classes? I like the idea of classes, you know, when you reach a certain level of nunhood you get a blue robe. In fact, I like classes generally. Not in a discriminatory sense, though in the true sense of the word it does help you differentiate between people groups, but rather for clarity's sake. I do like clarity. It settles my stomach and makes my heart sing. Our trains have first class seas (which generally are empty because none of us can afford first class season tickets), and standard class, which are overcrowded. I'd like them to bring back cattle-class, carriages with just a couple of benches and lots of dung. Tickets would only cost a few quid and I would be there, amongst the cattle.
The choir was motley crew, apparently much depleted by winter colds, and consisting of a few children, a couple of grannies and an aging rocker. Ah yes, the aging rocker, no choir, band or group of people - no matter what the function - is complete without one.
Little R timed her morning poo to perfection. She timed everything to perfection. Quiet during the hymns, shrill wails during poignant moments of prayer and readings. I think babies know exactly what they are doing.