Being a typical bloke, I left my Christmas shopping until the last possible moment, and, having unexpetedly had to work late, found myself chaining my bike to a railing in town as many of the smaller streets were covered in a solid sheet of ice.
Maxima had asked for a Slanket which, she explained, was a blanket with sleeves. She wasn't impressed when I'd offered to cut armholes in one of our blankets, so I inched manfully along the ice but all the shops in Cambridge that might have one had sold out, and by the time I'd searched through them all the shop that I'd identified as selling her back-up present had shut. So I've included a note saying "IOU a Slanket" in the box of goodies containing more things to decorate one's nails than a sensible person would want to own.
I'd wanted to leave the next day, Christmas Eve free, as we had to take poor old Granum, Professor Calculus' dog, to the vet. On our return our cat Magus was jumping jubilantly round the house, having apparently ascribed its doglessness to his sulking valiantly in Minora's room.
There was a Crib Service at St Gallicus during which lay ministers Significatia and Peripatetica helped Rector Pellegrina pick out children for a Nativity play, so there was no time for Hollywood hissy-fits about who would be Mary/shepherds/angels etc. The Star, a great gold-coloured icon on a stick, was followed round in procession by a constellation of angels, shepherds, kings, Joseph, Mary with doll, donkey and infants with tinsel headbands ringing bells (I haven't worked out that last one). I'm always affected when children sing Away in a Manger.
Later in the night, after an hour's nap, we left for a Midnight Service of Communion, celebrated by Pellegrina at St Gallicus' high altar with the altar-rails moved up from their usual position. It was a beautiful service and what was best was to be joined by Minora, who has been expressing doubts about her faith.
It was alarming to come home, switch on the radio and hear news of the Pope being knocked down as he processed through St Peter's to celebrate Midnight Mass. I pray he's ok; the incident highlights his willingness to take the same risks as his predecessor, John Paul II, in order to be close to his people.
I note in finishing that the Met Office (remember, the guys who helped lose the Medieval Warming Period?) has just declared a White Christmas. Personally I don't object to snow, but draw the line at sheets of ice and, with apologies to Bing, am dreaming of the end of this White Christmas!
A Merry Christmas to everybody out there, and my sympathy if you find this a difficult time of year.
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