The main criteria for anyone wanting to join Marton's merry band of carollers is a chipper disposition; the ability to laugh when lashed by winter's winds and a persistent drizzle has turned the song sheet to papier maché. It appears that the voice of an angel isn't a requirement - I alternately squeak and growl in the background but always with a smile on my face. I pass the test. On this, my inaugural outing, I was made most welcome.
A small group of us set out last night to visit homes on Marton's main street to bring seasonal cheer and raise a few pounds for the Church roof fund. (Another bottomless pit I suspect.) Had we wished to go round the whole parish we would need to have started out earlier in the year - a lot of the village community live in outlying farms and cottages. Not the best of nights to be out, cold and wet, so a limited number of homes was a good idea. But hey! Well wrapped up and with those sunny smiles firmly in place off we went, 'topping and tailing' (that's the first and last verses) all the old favourites, reserving 'Away in a Manger' for houses with children. We were accompanied by 2 flautists and 2 clarinetists who added a little je ne sais quoi to the scratch choir.
There were a lot of folk out last night - either that or sitting in the dark behind the sofa saying 'Shhh' as Rosemary's gloved finger pushed the doorbell and she prepared to proffer her collecting tin. Still there were enough people in to make it worth while. Doors opened and householders stood and shivered, listening as we sang loudly and enthusiastically, taking our lead from the two who do actually have the voices of angels. A glass of sherry was most welcome halfway round, thank you. Our players treated the householder to 'Frosty the Snowman' by way of thanks and we all 'la-la-ed' lustily along as the words weren't on the churchy song sheet.
The last elderly lady pushed a neatly folded fiver into Rose's tin and wished a us 'Merry Christmas' and was persuaded to take herself in out of the cold. Grace's clarinet had fallen to pieces - might the rain have dissolved the glue? - and the other musicians were obviously a little concerned about the damp affecting their instruments. We now look less like a band of carol singers and more like a gang of drowned rats with raindrops on our whiskers.
So what did we do? We did what carol singers have done down the ages; took ourselves to sit in front of a blazing fire with a glass of something warming and waited for the sensation to return to frozen fingers and toes. Ahhhhh Glorious!
Young Farmers' Carol Service on Wednesday. That will be indoors but there is no guarantee it will be any warmer.