A Christmas Tale - And a Sneak Preview 

I can't say for sure that all of this happened, or that it all happened on he same day, or even the same year. It's funny how our memories tend to cluster into periods or even decades and I'm sure that we end up confusing things that we probably would have done with things we actually did do, not to mention the urban myths that arise in families when some memories become shared or even misappropriated.  I'm still arguing with Richard over which of us lived in the real "House of Angles" although I am prepared to concede it sounds like his turn of phrase and us songwriters are notorious thieves when it comes to these things. Anyway, let's take a trip back to December 25, 1974 (this'll do as the date most likely to fit the bill).
The sun shone bright that Christmas morning and the Evans children (all five of us) were busy playing with our exciting new gifts provided by loving grandparents and ignoring the practical gifts provided by our practical parents. There were the usual shrieks of anger from my younger siblings as I tried to show them "how to do it properly" or my sister Jackie attempted to organize us into some kind of game of which she was the boss. Then, as the sun rose in the east the ominous sounds of Dad's voice echoed through the house. "Come on children, it's time to get ready for Church". 
I was roped into this as at that time I was the only "server' or alter boy at St James Drysdale so I had no choice. Off I went to find my Sunday clothes from the bedroom. It didn't much matter what they were as they would be covered by my Cassock and Surplus (funny how I can still remember the names of those ridiculous garments) however I did need to look reasonable after church so muddy shoes and pants were not appropriate. 
My brothers and sisters, on the other hand, had no official duties and hated church with an intensity that I was reminded of years later when taking my dog to the vet. As the word "church" reverberated off the large plate glass windows of the sun room the back door slammed shut as the last sibling escaped out into the wide world in a desperate attempt to avoid the hour of stultifying boredom they knew awaited them. Some climbed up the pine trees that lined the back yard. Others, a little older and more courageous, made it down the dirt track at the back of the yard that led to the beach, sliding down the coverage of pine needles and rabbit droppings on the bottoms of their trousers looking for a hole in the box thorn bushes they could escape into and hide.
It was all to no avail. One by one my mother found them and hauled them up into the Combi Van where Dad and I were sitting, engine idling, waiting to start the two mile journey to St James' Anglican Church, Drysdale. It must have been a rare sight, the Evans clan arriving at church with Dad dressed in his suit, Mum in her dress but still slightly puffed after chasing her offspring up and down the steep slopes of Clifton Springs and four little kids, still covered in sticks, spider's webs and with the odd open wound inflicted by a stray box thorn. I went around to the vestry door and went in to greet Father Donnelly, a small red faced man who had partially retired but was still conducting services in this parish while the search for a suitable incumbent continued. I put on my serving garments and got on with the job of kneeling and day dreaming while the service got underway. 
There is nothing quite like the drone of a half engaged clergyman reciting the text from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. The only thing quite as boring was the reciting of Latin declensions and conjugations I was to endure over the next couple of years at Geelong High School. It is fair to say that I learnt absolutely nothing from either of these experiences except for the ability to switch off and let my mind go where it will, still a useful technique in airport lounges and doctor's waiting rooms. 
As the service came to a close and the last quaky notes echoed from the mouse eaten circuits of the old church Hammond organ our spirits began to rise. This was the best (or least worst) thing about church. The feeling of release as we came out of the old church building and into the sunlight, blinking as our eyes adjusted to the light and our souls adjusted to the new found sense of freedom, was euphoric. There is a particular sense of community and joy among local parishioners as they mill about the front of the church after a service, especially if the turn up has been good (which usually means Christmas and Easter). I remember one of my Dad's old mates contrasting this to the sneaking out, faces hidden, of the audience leaving an adult cinema. I never really did get this one.....
Dad was particularly enthusiastic with his season's greetings this Christmas, partly, no doubt, due to his relief at having managed to get his family there and through the service relatively unscathed. It was a beautiful morning, God was in his heaven and Christmas lunch on the table. Having shaken hands, kissed cheeks and exchanged appropriate salutations he climbed back into the van where the rest of us were already seated and buckled up, anxious to get back home and get on with the real Christmas, meaning a trip to the grandparents, more presents and lashings of ham and gravy. The engine started up, coughed and spluttered into life and Dad swung the van back ready to head through the church gates and back home. CRUNCH!!!!! The sound of breaking glass and crunching metal brought us back to the here and now. Dad had reversed straight into a Hillman that had been parked by a little old lady in her hurry to get into the service on time.
"Bloody Hell!" Dad shouted. "What stupid idiot left that there?" Actually the language was a bit more colourful that that. Dad could swear like a trooper when he wanted to but for the sake of politeness we'll leave it at that. 
I don't remember the aftermath of this event but I would imagine he had a fairly frosty Christmas day after the incident and as I recall there was no further compulsory church going from then on. I sang with Dad in the choir at St James for a few years later on which I really enjoyed and learnt a lot of my musical heritage during those years. "Alleluia Moves Me Still" is a song about those times. I've posted a demo version of it here. So, Happy Christmas and I hope you have a wonderful New Year.
See you soon.
Patrick

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