It has been an exceedingly busy year, in the wider world as well as in our own little family group. There have been some very happy times, but there have also been utterly dreadful moments. The Christmas traditions have this year provided me with an anchor in a stormy world and have been productive of great mirth. It is worth mentioning how much of our ideas of traditional Christmas we owe to Mr Dickens. Christmas at Dingley Dell with the goblin stories, the goodness of the Peerybingles and the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge are responsible for much of the 'season of goodwill'.
One of the high points of the festive season this year has been my first attendance as a proud parent at a nativity play. The Infant Phenomenon’s class did tableaux of the nativity story during the school carol concert. As she had covered herself in glory at her first assembly (reciting a poem by herself as well as correctly pronouncing the word ‘palaeontologist’) I did not expect her to have a starring role. I did not really want her to either, I am a firm believer in sharing the limelight and giving everyone a chance. In the event, she was one of the sheep. She looked absolutely adorable. And of course, she didn’t know where she was supposed to be and ended up trying three different spots before she got it right. To quote from Mr Handel’s Messiah, like sheep, she had gone astray. I couldn’t see whether they’d dressed one of the others as a sheepdog, but I think it would have been useful.
It is a curious thing how people can be such perfectionists about so many trivial things and make themselves quite unpleasant over others' mistakes, yet, confronted with 30 small children, they would be quite disappointed if everybody had got everything perfectly right. There is something about ‘Away in a Manger’ sung out of time and out of tune which tugs the heartstrings like nothing else. Since then I have been teaching her 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'. With actions...
It is pleasant, and feels in keeping with seasonal good will, after having given a comprehensive list (see previous entry) of the Inexhaustible’s less endearing habits, to follow it up with a striking example of his best. Of course being the Inexhaustible, it was done in front of a select audience of attendees at a carol service in which I had the pleasure of participating the weekend before Christmas.
Some of you may recall my vocal tendencies from an earlier chapter and I am pleased to announce that this year, although far from perfect, my singing was at least not as disastrously flat as on that occasion. I was still slightly concerned about the carol service; not from a musical point of view, we were actually singing rather well, the choice of repertoire was excellent (no Rutter, Ms D!) and had enough singers in each part for good balance. All of which astonished the person in charge. What I was truly concerned about was the potential for disaster should the Inexhaustible decide to embrace his more vigorous tendency to sound and movement during the service. On the other hand, it seemed unnecessary, even unkind, to exclude him.
My dear parents accompanied Mr B and the offspring, so fortunately there was sufficient control should he succumb to the urge for self-expression. In the event, he was only moderately vocal, mentioning to everyone quite frequently ‘Mamma up dere! Mamma sing!’ and similar running commentary observations. He did not howl or run around, much to my relief. This alone was enough to make me feel that the outing was a success. But the crowning glory was at the end.
We had just got to the end of the last carol and the Inexhaustible, with impeccable timing, burst into a rousing cheer and started clapping. Everyone else joined in, which was extremely pleasant and the singers all laughed. I have in my time as a choral singer been as heartily applauded on more exalted concert platforms, but the wild enthusiasm of my own little boy for Mamma’s singing and his perfect timing, will, I suspect never be trumped.