The Christmas Carol Concert
and here a single Christmas tree - multi-coloured and signalling the entrance to the town hall
with its marble columns and pink Cheshire sandstone blocks. Then inside a great wooden staircase, stained glass windows, a chandelier and a smear of green garland. It is Christmas
and time for brass bands and choirs singing carols, and joining in (because I know each word) and feeling that at just that moment I am happy. All the recent cares fall away and I remember how it was when I was young that I meant every word and I too could 'sing in exultation'
as if I too were an angel dressed in a swan-white dress
praising God or blasting the last trumpet or wishing I had been a shepherd with the other shepherds blowing on my fingers against the cold
or, better, in with the wise men smelling of frankincense or myrrh following a star to a stable smelling of a sweet fug of hay and a child mother too young to be anything but innocent and beautiful.
And then the music stops and winter sets in and I remember other Christmases - that time in Manchester when a woman seemed so raw with grief that it hurt to see her from my window on a train, and then, more recently my parents determinedly laughing over unfunny jokes, and last year my mother-in-law delightedly opening presents from a large man dressed as a fairy - and then opening exactly the same presents again with just as much surprise and happiness a few seconds later.
Outside Father Christmas oversees his kingdom and the choir marches past. 'I hate Christmas' one of the altos told me last week - with such a quiet intensity I did not ask why.