Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Good will to all ignoramuses


On Saturday afternoon I attended what, in my family, constitutes the annual kick-start to Christmas – or at least the month after November that we might as well just call ‘Christmas’. I attended a church (shocker) in Covent Garden and dutifully sat through over two hours of school choirs performing such heart-warming carols as Away in a Manger and The First Noel. Thankfully an over-active little boy with nil coordination and a tendency to dance like Mr Bean kept my Mum and me in hysterics for the majority of the performance.

Of course, my only legitimate interest in this pleasant but at times cringe-worthy showcase was my sister – my own flesh and blood – who incidentally sang beautifully. And I understand that everyone was primarily, if not exclusively, interested in seeing their own sibling or sprog. But does this familial devotion have to be expressed in a way that is so self-absorbed and downright ignorant?

I presume that this annual event is held in a religious building in the hope that it encourages the children and, more importantly, the audience to be on Best Behaviour. Unfortunately even the threat of eternal damnation is not enough to prompt ‘good will to all men’ in all men, or women.

The church was packed with woolly-wearers craning their necks to get a glimpse of their own little bundle of joy. Nine of us virtuously crushed onto our bum-numbing pew whilst a mere five luxuriated on the one directly in front.

For the purposes of clarity I shall depict the following events using the names ‘Standing Man’ and ‘Sitting Man’.

Standing Man was a member of the party with whom we were sharing our pew. During the applause between songs he came to sit down and upon discovering that there was no room at our ‘inn’ he approached the Sitting Man who was surrounded by several coats at the end of the bench directly in front.

At this moment the choir burst into song and Sitting Man removed his phone from his pocket and held it aloft, grinning inanely, hoping to catch his munchkin’s stage debut on camera. Sitting Man did this without so much as a turn of the head or a glance of the eye to acknowledge Standing Man who was patiently hovering less than a foot away and gesturing towards the four empty seats.

This embarrassing situation continued for at least a minute whilst all nine members of our pew stared in disbelief. I imagine we looked not dissimilar to the startled stable animals at the birth of the baby Jesus. How much of an ignoramus must you be to be surrounded by empty seats and yet outright refuse to acknowledge a fellow human being who is standing inches away from you, awkwardly, in the middle of a church performance?

Eventually Standing Man, in utter disbelief, made some irritated sighing noise and moved to the back of the church to wait politely until the carol had come to an end. Aggrieved on behalf of this patient man, I muttered “ignorant idiot” loudly enough to be heard by the offending party and loud enough also to make my mother blush.

At the song’s conclusion, several minutes later, Standing Man returned from the back of the church and asked Sitting Man quite pointedly whether it would now be possible for him to sit down. Sitting Man shrugged and begrudgingly moved his coat to make way for the sixth member of their pew.

I could only presume that the reluctance to share pew space meant that Sitting Man had at least three, if not four, more guests arriving to make their pew up to the appropriate nine bottoms. Two hours later, when no one else had arrived to join him, I felt perfectly justified in having pegged him an ignorant idiot.

His little darling is no more photogenic than anyone else’s, nor does he reserve the right to be less uncomfortable on his pew than we were on ours. Rather than the kid learning from parental example, let’s hope dad heeds child’s incessant singing on themes of peace, love and good will. Otherwise he’ll be lucky if St Nick brings him more than a lump of coal this Christmas. Read more by Cat.