It was to be a double celebration this year. The first Christingle for local schoolchildren that was going to be attended by the new wife of our beloved appallingvicarbastard, Ivor Parrish. The kids always enjoy their Christingle as it is a real sign to them that their favourite time of year was actually here. Much had been made by the reception class teacher, Miss Tanya Hyde of the arrival of the new Mrs Parrish, who was coming to join them from the other side of the world, where Christmas was very different.
Liyana Parrish, nee Kok had met Ivor Parrish on a brief visit to this country the year before, then after a brief courtship, they were married in South Africa by her father's cousin, Bishop Roger De Quire. Ivor had to return without his bride, but she followed him some months later. This was to be her first public engagement in Farkham Hall's church St Olav the Ignominious.
Excitedly and egged on by Tanya Hyde, the children assembled inside the church, all clutching their extravagantly decorated oranges and jockeying for position at the front so that they could be first to welcome the new VIP. Candles were lit, faces were filled with eager anticipation and eyes were wide.
Eventually, Ivor Parrish, the appallingvicarbastard of the Farkhams appeared in his cassock and surplus, looking every bit as impressive as his diminutive stature and pasty expression would allow him, then assuming what he could in the way of a smile, welcomed all to the church of St Olav the Insignificant. Slipping into the patois of vicars everywhere, he put the sponsor's message on the morning, telling them that their oranges represent the world, the red ribbons, the blood of Christ, the fruits and sweets, the gifts of God and their candles were the light of Christ... A few yawns broke out. One child tried to cover the blue ribbon on his orange with hands that were just a bit too small.
Eventually, the announcement came that this year, there was a very special guest who was going to come and gree the children individually. Did the children know who it was going to be? "Santa?" came one eager answer. "No, try again". "Rudolph?" asked another eager child. "Rudolph doesn't exactly appear in God's teaching." the appallingvicarbastard snapped. Losing his patience, he answered his own question and announced that his new wife was there, all the way from South Africa.
The small voice that squeaked "Where does she appear in God's teaching?" was ignored and Liyana was led to the beginning of the row of children standing at the front. They all knew who the guest was going to be anyway and were curious to meet her.
"You look happy", she breezily dispensed to the first infant. "Why is this time of year so special to you?". "Because everyone smiles and we get presents and eat lovely food all day long and mummy and daddy are off work and we are all together as a family with the dogs and the cats and everyone...". Sometimes, when you are four and very excited, only a good blurt will do.
Liyana looked a bit taken aback by this outpouring of joy and replied "Yes, but it's not always happy is it?". When asked why not, she went on "Well, think about the people who aren't there any more, what about your grandparents, were they there?". "No, granny and grampus have gone to live with God." "Well, I expect that made your mummy and daddy very sad didn't it? How about your pets? How old are they?". The little girl was getting a bit red in the face now and tears were beginning to well up. "Joey the spaniel is 11 and we got Sammy the terrier last year, so he is only two. Mummy says that Joey won't last for ever, so Sammy will replace him.". Liyana's eyes widened "Joey has lived to 11? I am very surprised that a pedigree spaniel would live that long. Make the most of him this Christmas, as he will probably not be there next year.". The little girl's tears couldn't be contained any more, she started sobbing violently.
While Tanya Hyde comforted the first child, Liyana Parrish slowly moved along the line holding similar conversations with each child in turn until the entire class was in tears and poor Ms Hyde was rushing around trying to comfort them in turn.
As she left, Liyana asked who had expected Santa to visit the church. A young boy put up his hand. "He doesn't exist you know. Santa Claus is an imaginary character, used by your parents to make you behave better and go to sleep early.". A new outbreak of sobbing ran through the class.
The candles had all nearly burned out by now and the service proper hadn't started, so Tanya Hyde was running around blowing those out too. This combined with her condition, which was clearly stressed brought on an asthma attack and she had to be taken outside by Snoop, the verger to get some lungs full of fresh air and a good jolt on her inhaler.
Meanwhile, inside, Ivor Parrish sought to regain the attention of the children by getting the singing under way. Starting with "In the Bleak Midwinter" didn't seem to lift the children's mood much, so he tried "Night of Silence" without much more success. Eventually, the service was called to a halt, the children and Ms Tanya Hyde were released back to the relative cheer of the classroom to look forward to whatever they had left of their vision of Christmas.
Apparently, Liyana is the Zulu word for "It's raining". Liyana Kok... Sounds quite appropriate. I am sure that Ivor Parrish's meeting with the board of school governors next week will be illuminating. Major Farr-Coope, whose granddaughter was at the service, and who is the chairman of said board is said to be less than best pleased with the appallingvicarbastard, so ticket prices for flies on the wall are pretty high about now.
See more news items in our blog.