We are hosting our annual Christmas concert which has become an annual institution, in recent years including Wendy and a line up of other varied local musical talent. As everyone gathers for the evening of choral delights, I’m struck at how familiar a scene it all is. It’s like an episode of Midsomer Murders. One verse in to the first song, I’m fully expecting a discordant twang from the piano and the subsequent discovery of the body of a church warden, with a hitherto unsuspected shady past, stuffed inside.
Wendy, of course, is Joyce Barnaby, and I fancy that I, with the inevitable migration of my waistline towards all southerly points of the compass, make a passable Inspector Barnaby. Emily, on the other hand, has called it the ‘Winter Musicale’ because for her everything in life at the moment is compared with High School Musical.
Sadly (though this is not to detract from the quality of the singing) there turns out to be no body and by the interval, having gasped several times at the talent of our local ladies, we are all now gasping for a drink. The children have been told that they must attend to listen to Mummy’s singing whether they like it or not and the first half has not been without its trials. Half way into the first number, Emily has counted up how many songs there until the end and is happy to share this information with anyone who’ll listen.
Having all downed a hearty supper of chilli and rice before commencement of the proceedings, Oliver is the first to announce in a stage whisper that he has let one off. This, of course, sets Emily giggling. I am no more grown up about the whole thing and before long all three of us have shoulders heaving up and down and we are trumping uncontrollably. I can only guess at how Wendy is coping in the choir as she had second helpings. Fortunately, we are hidden from Wendy’s view by the conductor so she doesn’t see us misbehaving and our gas releases seem to have been absorbed into the soft furnishings. Nevertheless, it’s a relief to eventually get to the bar where it’s blissfully quiet because most of the rest of the audience have gone in the opposite direction for tea, coffee and the mulled wine and nibbles they have paid good money and skipped supper for and are not going to be done out of.
Shortly before the second half, Oliver and I disgrace ourselves again. Oliver is standing in Wendy’s place imitating her singing facial expressions and I am waving the conductor’s stick around in the style of Monty Python when the pianist comes in behind us to check her music. I resist the temptation to lighten the moment by reassuring her that I have checked the piano for bodies and it’s all clear, replace the baton gently on the music stand and back away quietly. Oliver just legs it.
There’s a sudden shriek from the Dining Room. A murder perhaps! I hurry to investigate and yes, a crime has definitely been committed. But the Blacksmith’s wife doesn’t get out much so she can’t be held guilty of wearing red, orange, and green together. It’s clearly her late summer herbaceous border look that has yet to be consigned to the back of the wardrobe and we can only be thankful that she didn’t plump for her spring look as daffodil yellow, hyacinth pink and green would surely have warranted an arrest. The shriek was, in fact, in response to Harry (who features far too heavily in these stories), our very long haired short haired cat (long story, another time) who has sneaked up onto the table and is making light work of the spicy lamb koftas. The inevitable after effects of those mean he’s definitely being shut out tonight.
It’s time to resume our seats for the second half not a moment too soon. Emily, Oliver and I decide to take up seats on the back row on a squishy low sofa where nobody can see us. Holly joins us so we all squeeze up and try to behave ourselves. Holly hasn’t had any chilli for supper but this seems to make no difference to the workings of her insides and she has soon disgraced herself as well so we shoo her away to join Harry outside but not before having all taken the opportunity to blame the dog for our own indescretions.
It’s a lovely evening. People from all walks of local life have come together to enjoy some pleasant music and Wendy loves being involved in it all. There have been mutterings about doing an outside concert in the summer but I can’t help feeling this is a little ambitious.
However, once the entertainment is over, there's a marked segregation of the crowd. With the free mulled wine exhausted, the 'I need to park for a quick getaway’ two thirds of the audience have their coats on and are making a quick getaway.
The rest of us head for the bar and against everyone’s better judgement Wendy breaks out the homemade limoncello.
A very good friend protests that she isn’t to be trusted with the stuff as it has an adverse effect on her judgement. I take this as challenge laid down and after just a couple of glasses she is making an audacious kidnap attempt on one of our veteran Augill teddy bears.
‘No Ameilia, that one is from two years ago, it’s the only one we have left. It’s not for sale.’
‘But I like this one’, and she starts to undress the defenceless bear, ‘but I don’t want this jumper.’
“No Amelia, the bear stays here.’ Eventually she plumps for another glass of limoncello but not before she’s taken our entire collection of ten bears, one for each year since 1999, and changed all their jumpers. Her husband intervenes and we see little more of Amelia until breakfast.
We stay up until we can't stand up and retire wondering whether, if we weren't covering it, the drinks bill would eclipse the charity donation. But it's all in a good cause.
Come back on December 24 for a Simon's blog Christmas special...