Just look at this stuff!
Dreaming of a white Christmas were you?
We get back from a weekend in UK and whammo! Straight into half a metre of the white stuff (Oh, it's snow I'm talking about here)
Yes, Christmas shopping in London where we saw marvellous things. We saw The Queens' collection of Italian art at Buckingham Palace (well, not actually IN the Palace but in The Queen's Gallery on the side), an exhibition of Futurist Art in Islington, then to Camden market, where we got a Chinese meal for two quid, and finally the new St Pancras station where we had champagne in their new bar there in sub zero temperatures (only the English, I said to Lili.... only the English would conceive of ,and enjoy, anything quite as daft) we stayed with our friends Sheila and Tony who fed us quails eggs and huge breakfasts. Then we zoomed up to other friends, Franca and John, near Cambridge, and arrived in their quaint little village of Brinkley just in time for the Carol Service in the church opposite.
Lili was quite intrigued at the thought of attending an activity in an Anglican church (being of the Papal ilk herself) but I don't think any of us were prepared for what we experienced.
It was odd, very odd indeed.
And this is what happened...
There we were, the congregation, adults, families with kids of all ages, packed within ancient oak pews, all of us clutching our carol song sheets, ready to sing our hearts out, as we English love to do and suddenly, from the back of the church and obviously in a rush arrives the vicar, a lady vicar, a vicarette, carrying a tatty cardboard box which she plonks on the floor beside the alter.
'I suppose you're all wondering why I'm not dressed in my usual vicar's attire' she asks 'and dressed in this coat? Well, maybe you think I'm bonkers, or absent minded, but it's not either of these. I'm dressed to go out because tonight we are going on a journey'
The congregation exchange nervous glances (no mince pies?, out in the freezing cold?). 'We are going on a journey to Bethlehem, to be at the birth of baby Jesus'.
(phew, a metaphorical trip, ok, ok, ok.)
'Let's think first about Mary', she says, 'Now she was only twelve years old when an angel came to her alone in her room one evening and asked her if she'd mind giving birth to the Son of God. "That would be just fine" Mary said, "Oh thanks, but don't tell your mum just yet" said the angel, and then disappeared.'
'Now', says our vicarette, directing her questions at a couple of young girls in the front row, 'What would you feel if your mum and dad had gone off to Tesco's to do the shopping and an angel turned up in your room and asked if you wouldn't mind giving birth to a divine babe? And you were just twelve years old?'
Nervous giggles from the girls and a few muffled grunts.
'You'd be really scared wouldn't you?'(more giggles and shuffles)
'And would you tell your mum and dad? No, because the angel tells you to keep it a secret between you and God?'
'Let's here say a prayer to Jesus for all the young people who have to make hard decisions in their lives'
And then sing a carol 'Away in a manger'
'And poor Mary, can you imagine going all the way to Bethlehem on a donkey in her condition? Not a lovely warm BMW! And being only twelve years old, and arriving there and finding all the hotels full?'
'And what about the shepherds?' she asks 'The angel flies up to them on the hillside and declares the imminent arrival of Jesus to them and asks them to go down to Bethlehem at his birth. What must they have thought?' (adults beginning to exchange increasingly nervous glances)
She then drags out the Tesco's cardboard box she'd hidden under the altar and asks the children to come out and put the little shepherd figures into the box along with the manger.
'And then poor Joseph, what must he have thought when the angel told him his 12 year old betrothed was pregnant not with his baby, but with God's? Would one of the children like to come out and put Joseph in the box, uhm.. manger?'
Little boy hops out and bungs Joseph in Tesco's box.
'Now I would like all the children to come up and meet Joseph' (increasingly reluctant children forced by parents to go to front of church)
'Now what sort of job did Joseph have, children?'
'Fireman', one says, 'TV producer' says another.
'Well, he worked with wood, what would that make him?' 'A lumberjack' says a little boy.
Vicarette somewhat impatiently tells them no he was a carpenter.
And so on with more carols and prayers to baby Jesus for all shepherds, carpenters and lumberjacks who have difficult decisions to make in their lives.
Finally (and by this time the congregation are in a state of suppressed mass panic),
She says 'And guess who I've got in my pocket? Yes baby Jesus, I've been keeping him safe and sound and warm all day' And she lugs him out (in the shape of a little cloth mummy) and drops him on the church floor (oh crikey!)
Then she asks a little boy to take BJ and put him gently in the manger (Tesco's cardboard box) 'But don't drop him', she says.
A finally a prayer for the animals in the manger who must have wondered what an earth was going on (what about us in the congregation, I'm thinking, we'd like to know what's going on)
And then we sing 'Oh little star of Bethlehem', a quick prayer to BJ and then outa there, most of the parents rushing home for a quick brandy and on to Google to ask how old Mary was when she had BJ.
Wanna know? try this link, (but not if you're Catholic)
Phew, glad to be back safe and sound in the land of a million nativity scenes (presepe where Joseph and Mary are both thirty years old at least, the animals and shepherds are all happy in their respective positions and the three wise men haven't been forgotten and are also inside the Tesco's box, ......I mean manger).
I'll leave you with a picture of a snowman I made yesterday in the garden.
I've made him look about twenty one years of age, although he's probably only eleven.