Last night I had the most pleasant surprise. Lisa came to join Andreas and me for a light evening meal in our flat, and at half past 8 the door bell rang. When I answered I was surprised to discover that it was Reverend Canon Paul Greenwell at the door, he was in London for a meeting and came to find me! We had a good chat in the hour that he stayed, and I must say I was very pleased to see him. (For the benefit of the readers of this article from Saint Matthew’s, Paul Greenwell and I are from the same place, and are both products you could say, of Saint Saviour’s Church, Shotton Colliery, the only difference is he is now the Precentor of Ripon Cathedral and I’m a poor and lowly Pastoral Assistant).
It seems odd to be writing for the February issue talking about events in December, but that is the way it works out so items are submitted in time for editing and printing. I had a very good experience in the middle of December, and at the same time achieved an ambition I’ve had since I was 12 years old. On a school trip to London in 1998 (which I am sure I have mentioned before) we were shown Broadcasting House. And that was it; we saw it from the outside. And ever since I’ve always thought that I would like to go inside and see the home of the BBC.
Fr Philip gave Andreas and me two tickets to go and be in the live audience on the radio. We set off on the Wednesday afternoon to get the bus to Regent Street and before long we were outside the building that has a sign by the door that states “British Broadcasting Corporation.” I was finally here, and was amongst some of the first people in the queue. We were finally allowed in, and had to pass through air-port style security, which was an experience in itself. We had time for a cup of tea as we had an hour to wait before we were going to be permitted to go into the studio. We were finally allowed to take our seats at 20 to 5 ready for the programme to begin at 5pm. I found myself in the front row of the audience in the radio 3 studio. The programme is called In Tune, and we were there to hear the Christmas special. It was quite a bizarre thought, sitting not many feet from someone playing a grand piano, and Alistair McGowan, who recited Noel Coward’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and several other performers, and while I was listening, it was being sent up a wire, and broadcast to the nation on BBC Radio 3!
The week before Christmas, I ended up with the bizarre task of telephoning the Metropolitan Police to tell them that I’d found an abandoned rickshaw. One had been left in the church parking space, and was taking up valuable car-parking facilities. It was one of those strange situations that you never think you’d hear yourself saying-“hello, I’ve found a rickshaw.” The police operator must have thought I was crackers! Two calls later, after no sign of any police coming who said they would (I’m still not sure whether the did), the rickshaw disappeared of its own accord after being there almost 4 weeks!
As Christmas approached, I was apprehensive that I would be terribly home-sick, as it was my 25th Christmas this year, and the first I spent away from my family, and that I wouldn’t enjoy Christmas at all this year. I’m glad to report, I was wrong. I had a very pleasant Christmas thanks to several people and certain factors. In reflection, it feels as though the Christmas celebrations went on for days and days. Andreas’s parents and sister came to stay over Christmas. In our flat, we had a small Christmas tree, which when they arrived was decorated with real candles with the candle clips they brought with them. The 5 of us began the Christmas celebrations in the German tradition on Christmas Eve, sharing a good meal and even exchanging gifts in the evening, which is how I understand it happens in Germany. Gifts are said to be brought by the Christ Child on Holy Evening, which is the 24th. We then went off to mid-night mass, and then things took on a more English approach. Off to bed, and then up for Church in the morning. After Church, everyone moved to the sitting room, where we all exchanged gifts, ate smoked salmon and drank champagne. We spent couple of hours sitting chatting, before watching the Queen’s Speech at 3 o’clock, before sitting down to our Christmas Dinner. There were 16 for dinner altogether, and the meal seemed to go on for miles, with turkey and ham, and vegetables of every sort, bread sauce, gravy etc etc. All followed by stewed fruit, trifle of Christmas pudding and brandy butter! A fine feast was had by all. In the evening, I went for a walk with the Wenzels to take in some sights of London. It is the first time I’ve ever been on Christmas Day and seen the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, probably one of the most famous Christmas trees there is! I can’t thank every one enough for a very good Chirstmas, particularly Andreas and his family for allowing me to share in a family Christmas, something I feared I would miss this year. Then I had the pleasure of repeating it when I came home!
Our pastoral assistant, Andrew, has been writing his "Andrew's Travels" column in his Parish magazine for three years. He continues to contribute and his current articles will be published here.