A few years ago, I left London behind and returned to Worlebury for a family Christmas. Time passed agreeably and on 24th December I found myself sinking cider in the Windsor Castle pub with two friends, Max and Daniel. As I recall, we were sitting outside despite the penetrating cold, an idiosyncrasy of the group. We had decided that Christmas Eve warranted more than just the pub; sometimes that has manifested itself in the consumption of Chinese food, but on this occasion we felt compelled to conclude the evening in a more traditional manner. By this stage we’d had a reasonable amount to drink. Though we are an irreligious trio, attending first communion at Kewstoke’s small Norman church dedicated to St Paul, seemed like the thing to do.
Up Milton Hill we marched and I think there was snow on the ground, though this might be fanciful. Down Monks’ Hill we gingerly slid. Arriving a little early, we headed to the rough-and-ready New Inn. The atmosphere was boisterous and we were a little nervous at intruding on a regulars’ party. We were swiftly put at our ease though, with an offer to share in the communal platters of sandwiches, sausage rolls and crisps – an offer I happily accepted, though Daniel and Max looked a bit aggrieved at the lack of vegetarian options.
After polishing off a couple more pints it was time for church. As we took our place in the pews, I glanced across at Max. He looked peaky and was uncommonly quiet. I was concerned. The service started and though there were some nods to Trad, generally speaking it was wetness that prevailed. I did my best to belt out some carols. At midnight the Rev invited us to sing “happy birthday” to Jesus. I rolled my eyes. Daniel shuffled his feet. I didn’t dare look, but I could tell that Max was swooning nauseously. Not having eaten many sandwiches, there was a lot of undiluted alcohol sloshing around in his system. As we filed out, Max muttered “I was very close to being sick”. I felt contented and glad at the world as we trudged home.