You might have noticed an absence of new posts from me in the last few weeks, mostly due to an unrelenting workload of exciting new business pitches that just kept coming. Everyone in our office has been absolutely flat-out, and while it’s been both exhilarating and challenging (mostly in a good way), it has meant that this blog has been somewhat neglected…
…but finally, it feels like there is some respite (although I’m already nervous about January!). So indulge me while I reflect on how we’ve at least started to have a very merry Christmas…
Ever since my schooldays in the annual carol service choir, I’ve loved the range of different carols sung in this country. I can still remember our music teacher taking us to task over breathing (some carols have v-e-r-y l-o-n-g lines), or that line in O Come, All Ye Faithful. It’s “born the king of an-gels”, not “born the king of ay-n-gels”. It just is. Take my word for it.
Anyway, as I’m finally writing this early on Christmas Eve yet, I’ve already been part of three fantastic carol-singing opportunities.
The first was at the usual “turning-on” of Tetbury town’s Christmas lights; except this year it wasn’t usual. HRH Prince Charles and his wife Camilla (the Duchess of Cornwall) are well-known locals, living only a couple of miles away, and this year they switched on the lights. And so, at the end of this very Royal year, Tetbury had made a big effort. Schoolchildren made lanterns and we all processed up the main street, and hundreds of us stood around the Market Hall singing carols until the Royal couple arrived. It was bitterly cold, but the atmosphere was terrific.
During all this, Rachel and I were lucky to be stood fairly near the front of the crowds. We were behind a guy sat in a motorised wheelchair, offering us a good view over his head, until he took a massive camera out of his bag, and stood up. It was so unexpected it filled us with unstoppable giggles. He was a big man.
Just a couple of days later, we were very lucky to be in the audience for the City of London Choir’s performance in St John’s Smith Square in Central London. This was a high-class performance, but for all its professionalism the highlight was still when the children in the audience were invited up on stage to sing “Away in a Manger”…
Lastly, we packed into the beautifully tiny Avening Church for a service of nine lessons and carols, this time attended by HRH Princess Anne (another local!). Rachel had been asked to accompany some of the choir’s carols on her oboe, and I’m not just being biased when I say she was fabulous.
This evening, we’ll be in Tetbury for the Christmas Eve Crib service, designed for children to participate and make Christmas about more than the wrapping paper and the presents, the chocolates and television.
Our company parties have often been legendary affairs, often for a combination of reasons, such as fantastic creativity, brilliant fancy dress, dance-floor or karaoke performances, or simply the fact that the alcohol consumed so addled everyone’s memory that the retelling of events might be patchy at best. This year we scrubbed up extremely well with a 1920s theme. I’ve never seen so many white braces and black shirts, feathery fascinators and strings of pearls in one place. And the cocktails… marvellous.
The invite suggested we dress in ‘silver screen glamour’, and so I went for a literal version of this, channeling Douglas Fairbanks, Jr as a classic cinema icon. I enjoyed walking through Bristol at rush hour in full costume to reach the party, and at seeing my silhouette beneath the street lights…
And then on Saturday, we gathered with friends in Tetbury’s Market Hall (the same one Prince Charles illuminated a couple of weeks ago), to drink and chat and watch our children dance to Gangnam Style and Lollipop. It was noisy, chaotic and brilliant, reminding how lucky I am to live here, in a lovely town with fantastic friends.
The School Nativity
In all honesty, these can be mixed affairs, for all their innocence. But this year the KS1 children at St Mary’s (and their teachers) outdid themselves. A Tale of Two Birthdays told the parallel stories of the traditional Nativity alongside that of King Caspar’s 40th birthday. His party came complete with circus performers and exotic dancers. The wives of the Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar were like something out of Sex & The City, coveting the new star in the sky like a glittering diamond, and commanding their hen-pecked husbands to retrieve it for them. The reason the Kings travelled from The East, was actually a last-minute shopping trip! I’m not saying they were typecast, but Sophie, Isobel and Amelia were perfect in their roles, at once a crystal-clear depiction and commentary on modern-day consumerism.
Fergus exuded astonishingly natural regal authority as Caspar, bossing his hapless companions around, feeding people their next line, and apparently improvising more than a couple of his own. He was amazing. There were also messages on friendship, militarism and teamwork alongside the traditional Christmas story, all in 30 minutes.
Eleanor was one of two narrators, following in the family tradition, and she was great. While I’d helped her practise her lines, noone had told me that she and Katie (the other narrator) had a song which involved them singing unaccompanied, with no microphones. The sound of two 7-year-old girls’ small voices in a large hall was one thing, but when one of them was my daughter… let’s just say it suddenly got very dusty in there.
It’s been a frantic couple of months, and even now the torrential rain is causing a change of plan for Christmas as my parents’ living room now has puddles in, so we’re relocating the festivities tomorrow to our house. But today I shall bake a ham and bake sourdough bread, go to the Crib Service, tidy the house up and watch A Muppet Christmas Carol, and It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Wishing you all the very best.