I can always tell when someone my husband doesn't know is on the phone, his voice becomes all worker/banker-ish... bit curt. I could not decipher from the one end of the conversation I could hear, what on earth was going on or who could possibly be on the other end, despite my best frantic mouthing gestures of "who's on the phone!"
I became concerned when I heard, "when is that?.... Oh Christmas eve...... right, well I'll have to talk to my wife..." (and here comes the real killer bit- deserved of an immediate dead-arm thump), "But I'm certain she would be VERY happy to help!"
I'm close to manic by the time he gets off the phone,"WELL??????"
I should point out quickly, we live in a tiny village, controlled very much my 'The Parish Elders', also known as the Parish Council.
They are a meddling bunch of old people with FAR too much time on their hands and who believe anyone that didn't witness the War is an ungrateful, indolent, self-indulgent plague upon their beautiful rural way of life. It has over the years been affected more and more by 'commuter-belt' syndrome, and become home to many people who weren't born and raised in the village. Much to the distaste of The Elders.
I joke often it bears close resemblance to the town from the film Hot Fuzz, " Its all for the greater good..."
It is fiercely frowned upon, therefore, if us young new-blood, do not join in with community activities. You're either IN or OUT. And as many have found out the hard way, (me included) if you do something to annoy one of these Elders, they can make life a real misery for you when you least expect it.
So... when the fits of explosive hysterics subside, my husband informs me that we have been 'selected' to play Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in the crib service for the whole village on Christmas eve.... O H M Y G O D. Literally.
My second thought, after excruciating anger/embarrassment is, "What about our older daughter?"
Sure we have the baby boy to fit the bill, but he happens to have an older sister, almost four, who would be mighty miffed to be left out of the festivities, given the little performing-attention-seeker she is.
Of course, in all small villages there is always a slight stray from the original plan, and they assured him she can be included as the less-known older sister.
I have, religiously, been to every one of these little Christmas gatherings since we moved here, and am always moved by the sheer comedy of how seriously The Elders take it. They even have a real Donkey, among other wildlife, IN the church, the Centurions (!) on the door hand out Quality Street to the children and EVERYONE attends.
Second really sticky point, we live OPPOSITE the church. Directly opposite. I can hear the hymns on a Sunday morning, and can see the pews from my daughters bedroom window. So HOW can we say, politely, NO!
I just know there will be rehearsals, meetings and costume discussions, held in the articly cold minute little church. It truly is every episode of Vicar of Dibly you can imagine all rolled into one big nightmare! Mine!
I used to be a suit-dressing, power heeled, cocktail drinker, living in London, attending Fashion Week shows, not Nativity Carol Services. What did I do to deserve this?
Spot the difference??????