A Funny Thing Happened After the Carol Service

I have TBM to thank for my recent spate of posts about London.
You see, shortly after I started following her blog, http://50yearproject.wordpress.com she announced she was moving to London with her partner, dog and cat.
Being a bit of a Londonoholic, I was hoping she would celebrate the capital in words and photos as she had Boston, her former domicile, and the many other places in the world she has visited.
The pride of London was at stake. It’s a big place and can be, as I know all too well, overwhelming. I was keen to share some of the wondrous secrets it has to offer.
I asked where she was going to spend Christmas, and learning it was London, launched into a range of churches where Christmas music is sublime, and out of the way places like St Peter-ad-Vincula in the Tower of London where anyone can go to celebrate midnight communion.
For myself, the Nine Lessons and Carols at St Bartholomew-the-Great is the way I usually really get into the Christmas mood. It has become a tradition over the years, and I generally attend with a group of friends. I have written about it before here: http://wo.me/pMKim-mT
I know many people spend Christmas Eve listening to the Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast from Kings College Cambridge. If home, I do myself. It is beautiful, and theirs is a professional choir of the highest quality, but the setting of St Barts the Great is so wonderfully atmospheric, the choir is semi-professional, that I should happily recommend it to anyone and be confident of their enjoyment.
I’m evidently not alone. The church is packed. Ours was a party of six, so we arrived forty-five minutes early to secure seats together.
Apart from a problem with the public address system, which meant the rector’s voice cut in and out during the last, most dramatic, lesson (why use a pa anyway? His voice carried perfectly well and didn’t seem to be issuing from somewhere from my right and behind me instead of from his mouth); and the first lesson read by a young City of London policeman who didn’t seem to understand what he was reading at all; the music was superb. The organist was having a grand old time, maybe making up for being stuck in Germany last year due to the snow and thus missing the service. The words of the First Nowell always make me give up and wonder how such dreadful rhymes ever achieved such iconic status. The shadows in the upper reaches of this last surviving Romanesque church in London, the candles, the cloaks of the various Masters of Livery companies, and the Lord Mayor, the soaring voices, captured the mystery and magic of the Christmas story.
Afterwards, there was mulled wine and mince pies in the cloisters. We thought about staying, but half our party had to rush off and the remaining three decided a shared bottle of wine in the pub would be more to our tastes.
Horror, the Rising Sun was closed, so we went instead to the Red Cow. Inside there was a very noisy group playing games. There is a whole selection in the bar and this group seemed to have been working to way steadily through them, drinking all the while. Let’s just say their inhibitions were lowered.
A tallish woman wearing a hat stood near the stairs. I asked her if there was any room on the first floor. She said something, I think, about a private party, or maybe it was people upstairs singing.
We found a table by the noisy group that everyone else had avoided.
Andrea waited and was ignored at the bar. It is rare that someone has less bar presence than I do, but Andrea is that person. She passed the baton to me and headed for the loo. Jamie held our table against all comers.
I took up my place ready to ask for a bottle of house red. None of us had much money and we had to do a whip to raise funds for our drinks. It occurred to me we might not have enough. The tallish woman, still in hat, was also at the bar with her companion. I asked if I could have the wine list which was in front of them and we exchanged some small talk.
When my bottle came it was very cold. The barman went off to search for one approaching room temperature. Time for a little more small talk. They ordered their beers and I returned to my friends.
The next day, I learned on TBM’s page that she had been to the service. We chatted. I mentioned the pub. She said she had been there too.
I know you are ahead of me, but yes, she was the tallish woman in a hat.
What were the chances of that? The church was packed. We could easily have stayed for the mulled wine. Even in the same pub, I don’t think I spoke to anyone else.

10 thoughts on “A Funny Thing Happened After the Carol Service

  1. Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world…….

    I once sat next to an American golfer in the Indian embassy in Edinburgh waiting to get a visa, and helped him several times with his form. A week later, I came down to breakfast in the hotel and walked into him 😀

  2. Yes, almost meant, one might say.
    If you want to see pix of the church do go over to her site.
    On the basis of this meeting, and having had a chance to check each other out unknowingly, we have tentatively arranged to meet and take photos in the City sometime soon.

  3. It is funny that we met and didn’t know it. And I completely forgot that you asked me if there was space upstairs. I couldn’t figure out what was going on upstairs. There was a singer right at the top of the stairs and I didn’t want to push my way by her in search of a table. As it turned out, that was a good thing or we would have missed our chat at the bar.

  4. What a great story…….how nice that you and TBM connected although you didn’t really realize who was who at the time….in such a big city the chances are so small – it simply was meant to be!


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