The lights on the village Christmas tree went on last night. The 'ceremony' - a prayer and the flick of a switch took only a few moments and was the cue for everyone to rush indoors out of the cold: a) to grab a seat and b) to have a glass of hot mulled wine. In that order. And what a crowd there was in the Village Hall. There wasn't room to slide a mince pie between the gathered folks. Under the glow of the room's primitive electric heaters heads got hot, coats were shrugged off and bottoms shuffled on the hall's serviceable chairs. Children wriggled. Rosy faces, bright with anticipation and wine, keenly awaited the promised 'Christmas Entertainment.'
Up front, whoever's holding the curtains together on the stage has a whispered argument, 'sotto voce', with someone else unseen. 'No' 'Yes' 'Not now.' 'Get on with it'. Finally the curtains part to reveal a scratch choir of village ladies and some judiciously placed scenery - a chimney, a wall and somewhat inevitably - Santa's sleigh alongside that other potent symbol of Yule-tide, a Post box. With a flourish the Vicar at the piano launches into 'Winter Wonderland' and we're off. A bell rings festively and a sack-carrying Santa enters the room - to loud applause. Santa Claus is coming to town! Hurrah! Everyone under the age of 10 gets a present and there follows much rustling as wrapping paper is torn away.
I won't inflict too many of Marton's festivities on a fragile world - only about 44 seconds worth of the '12 Days of Christmas' as performed by 2 local farmers. It's just as well that the audience were not too bothered about a polished performance - in fact the more gaffs and pratt-falls the better. This was definitely a work in progress. How we laughed! This is the village comfort zone, the well worn, much loved and innocent - and as somebody said on the way out 'Only in Marton.' Dave sings 'When a Child is Born', softly and a little self-consciously. He is a farmer and I suspect has rehearsed by singing to his cows at milking. We are all proud of him and applaud loudly. Well done.
Finally the vicar picks up his piano accordion and everyone sings carols very thoroughly, verse after interminable verse. Maureen, sensing that at this rate we'll be here until morning, hisses loudly and authoritatively through the curtain 'Get on with it. Top and tail 'em'. That seems to do the trick. 'Silent Night' is abruptly silenced. The serious business of munching mince pies, drinking tea and talking about the woes of farming can now begin.
And that's it really for another year, bar the totting up and submitting expenses.
The little tree and its cloud of white lights twinkles outside the Hall at the edge of the Village. If you're coming through Marton I hope you'll like it.