Tuesday Evening: carol singing around Eaton to raise money for Dove Cottage.
Nothing like a bit of rousing carol singing for expelling ear worms. I had suffered an infestation of Slade's Merry Christmas Everyone which I'd picked up on Melton Market earlier in the day but few verses of 'We wish you a Merry Christmas!' and it was subdued. No doubt it is still lurking ready to strike again. Strict aural hygiene will have to be observed: earplugs if I venture into shopping centres, no TV, care exercised when I try to tune the radio.
I really enjoyed the singing. No doubt a scientific paper somewhere demonstrates that we sing because it releases a special hormone, enhances social cohesion, produces vitamin B12 or whatever, but such explanations are really just the verbal reductionism of obsessive geeks who want to put all kinds of raw human experience into manageable boxes. Singing is good, it's nice to be with other people who are also singing, makes you feel connected: it's as simple as that.
It was stunningly cold around the village, but that was part of the experience, as was looking into other people's houses, which is always fascinating. In most houses the phantasmagorical flickering of coloured lights could be glimpsed through windows: the product of the big TV screens. It worried me [ me being me this is the kind of thing that worries me] that so many people were just sitting there in an hypnotic stupor sucking in the banal nonsense that 'viewing' consists of these days. Shouldn't they be reading books, writing bad poetry [my options], practising hobbies, meditating, feasting, participating in orgies, taking drugs, planning world domination...? No they just appeared to be slouched on the couch. This gave me one of those moments of angst that arise in me every Christmas. I can't help it. I can't help seeing [surely we all can?] the dullness and loneliness beneath the noise and bright lights and, in particular, the isolation of the old.
This feeling was intensified when we sang 'Silent Night' in front of Mister S's door. His wife died a few weeks ago. He listened to us and when we finished, wept. We were going to conclude with a noisy chorus of We Wish you a Merry Christmas. But we were struck silent. The stark sorrow of Mister S crushed our jollity. We stood and looked at Mister S. He stood and looked at us, not only sad, but embarrassed too. An Englishman crying. Had we been Italian we would have rushed to him and hugged him and wept with him. But we were English. We muttered goodnight and continued our rounds.
The incident is with me still, making me feel sad. I don't want anyone to cheer me up either. That would be false.
Christmas:underneath the glitter, the horror. The horror which we should all acknowledge and then do something about. The plight of the sick and the homeless is obvious, but that of the lonely is hidden away in rooms in warm houses all round the country.
Sorry if this sounds bleak and sermonising. Anyway my resolution for 2011: do something about the loneliness we all share.
Choir Practise. Perhaps that's what we need.