Friday, 25 December 2009

One porter, one cider and one beer or Christmas Eve in the graveyard

I don't know what he was singing but everything stopped, the bells, the chatter, the wind in the grass. Everything except the backlit clouds stopped a moment to hear his song. We were sitting in the graveyard drinking, we had about twelve people, two guitars and one tambourine, we had beer bottles in brown paper bags and a thirst for howling out songs. It wasn't until I decided I had better go home, after Madam Squeeze and I picked out our careful moonlit way through trees, over fallen grave stones and down a path towards the gate that I remembered there was such a thing as churches.

The big church near the graveyard gates was busting at the seams with the bespectacled and the solemn. We snuck into the vestibule as the congregation rose as one and began singing a slow and ancient song. I had grass stuck on my dress and tinsel sticking out of my hair. I was holding three empty bottles, one porter, one cider and one beer. The stench of cigarette butts coming out of the empty beer bottle would have knocked out a lesser mortal than me but I felt quite sure that while I was happy to sit an old grave and drink beer and sing I wasn't happy to leave the empty bottles there. The song was slow and ancient and though they must have numbered in the hundreds I could hear above their voices that good old racket coming from the back of the graveyard where Spencer was perched on a headstone leading his own small congregation in song.

I sat at the edge of the circle in the graveyard tonight, lying on the grass to sip cider and puff smoke at the impossibly fast clouds moving across skies, trees and moon. Spencer and Madam Squeeze were there, Madam sitting comfortably beside me, Spencer perching up high strumming out songs. The rest of them howled, sang and rattled with their accustomed abandon, some of them waltzing like the possessed in a clearing. I'm not sure what I was doing, you can tell just by looking at me that I'm more careful with my heart, mind and songs. Some us of talked about ritual and the good urge for joining together in grief, joy, love and song. I wasn't quite ready to howl at the moon as the others do but I can tell you one thing, I'd rather be drinking on a gravestone than don my spectacles and stand in a congregation miming the art of music to what should have been a moving and ancient hymn but had instead the eerie effect of guilt, obligation, ironed trousers and isolation.

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