Friday 26 December

That aspirational bargain of DVD/CD equipment from Goodwill doesn’t seem to have delivered. I got the thing connected up and I fear the disc reader motor is malfunctioning!

On Saturday I was in work by 9am to prepare for the Christmas Choir rehearsal at 1030. The choir numbered about 24 and they did a really good job. Some of them seem to be finding it difficult to deal with my observations about their performance but this is not the first time I’ve had this reaction. As they get to know me I hope they will discover that my remarks are made with good intent. The rehearsal was followed by a wedding which brought a visiting singer whom I was pleased sang Acapulco!

After that came the first of the weekend’s masses. Sunday’s four masses were followed by carols for the M25 Christmas dinner. Matthew 25 is an amazing operation of mercy for those who are struggling. 350 folk sat down to a specially prepared Christmas Dinner in the Celtic Hall, received generous presents and got me singing carols with them. What could be better?! For the last few weeks parishioners have been leaving all manner of generous gifts in the church, most of which have been temporarily stored in the music rooms behind the church!

I dropped into my favourite charity store and was appalled to see a white family enter and immediately spot a black family with a hereditary condition which caused distortion of the face. The white children registered their disapproval with shared pointing and immediately the kid who must have suffered such jibes so often reached for anything to cover his face. I suppose you can’t blame the kids but my mind went back to similar events in my childhood when my parents made it perfectly clear what reaction was appropriate. I was horrified by this to the extent that I was moved to talk with the African Americans and offer what I hope was a more accepting reaction.

The 7pm Mass is a wonderful experience for me. Just when I am getting very tired the musicianship of these young instrumentalists keeps me going.

Monday started with the printing of a service sheet for a funeral, some more carol-singing with mothers and children at a nearby low-income estate. The needy bring out the Christ in us all and I am grateful for that.

After the funeral I set about writing more instrumental parts for the Christmas Masses. This kept me at work until quite late.

I had hoped that Tuesday would be a day of staff party and nothing more but ‘best laid plans ….’

The 24 parish staff gathered at 11am for a prepared brunch followed by gift sharing. Each member brought a $20 gift to the party and folk picked one from the table in turn. There was then the opportunity for the next person to take that gift or to select another from the table. My gift was a bottle of gin, some tonic and two lemons. I was surprised how promptly folk recognised the donor!

After the party most went home but I met with our technical guy to sort out the amplification for the keyboard in the Higgins Hall.

There was an unexpected knock at the door just before I left for church on Christmas Eve. It was a postman. The package was a box of luxury chocs kept cool with a freezer pack. How typically American, I thought. But the present came from Bernadette Farrell and family complete with the advice to enjoy, earn a fortune and get back to UK! What lovely friends they are. Last year she offered a me a cake slice ‘ so that I could have my cake and eat it!’

The first Mass of Christmas was in the Higgins Hall, large enough for the 1200 folk who attended. It was a family affair and rather noisy. It started with a Nativity play with music and then went into Mass. In his homily the Pastor reminded us that Santa’s ‘Ho ho ho’ is derived from ‘Holy, holy, holy’! A storm was brewing as the procession left to bless the outdoor crib scene. I was anxiously breaking up the amplification gear to return it to the church for the next mass before the rain came.

Just in the nick of time all was set up for the 5.45pm rehearsal for the 6.30pm Mass. We had 4 violins, trumpet and 2 cantors. All excelled themselves. My revised instrumentation for Silent Night went down well.

I had time before the rehearsal for midnight so I adjourned for a Chinese meal to keep me going. The rehearsal was in good spirits and I found time to be positive with them about my hopes.

Midnight mass went well I was in bed by 2am only to be awoken at 6.15 to get back to church for the 7.30am mass and the three which followed.

Work done I dashed home for my 2pm Skype call with the family. It was great to be able to share their gathering even at a distance. It was particularly good to see my twin whom I have not been able to Skype and therefore see since August.

I had been invited to join the family of one of my instrumentalists for dinner. It was a vey Italian affair in terms of food and conversational volume!There was a familiar exchange of firmly held opinions, some a little extreme, but it was great fun. During the evening I retired to the long bar where I met up with some familiar faces before returning home for a  film. I didn’t get further then a sip of wine before sleep overtook me!

Thrly and was able to watch Chelsea beat West Ham live on TV. As I type Man Utd are facing Newcastle but this does not have the same attraction for me!

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