In the seventies, I sang in a church choir in Balham (anything to get a place in Heaven). At this time of year we would visit the now extinct St James’s Hospital (I accept no blame for my singing being the catalyst for its closure).
I never had fond memories of the hospital; I was in constant fear of having to remove my clothing as we walked and sang (who said men can’t multi-task?) between wards. This fear stemmed from having to go to St James’s to have a verruca examined, only to be asked to take off all my clothes. It was mid-Winter and I’ve never looked my best naked when there’s a chill in the air.
We would sing for an hour and then rewarded with mince pies in the hospital refectory; although, it was reward enough (as a teenager) sharing a table with loads of nurses to whom I’d have willingly demonstrated my verruca in true St James’s investigatory style. However, a teenage lad with mince pie crumbs round their mouth and all over their Christmas jumper was unarguably unattractive.
After the hospital we’d convene to The Hope on Wandsworth Common (mince pies can be very dehydrating). A consequence of this visit ensured that during Midnight Mass at least one choir member, at the beginning of each verse of “Once in Royal David’s City”, popped out to the topically holly-infested outside toilets of St Mary’s Primary school.
These were the days before pub closing times were extended, so the church was packed (with a third of the congregation wondering why the band wasn’t terribly upbeat and why were too many songs about donkeys on the juke box?). Although they were soon topped up with a Communion wine sharpener – certainly the ones who didn’t fall down the (particularly if you’ve had a few ) steep chancel steps.
This year I’ve asked Santa for a nurse’s outfit. Knowing my luck, it’ll be delivered by someone who was once in Emergency Ward 10 as they’ll be 100!
Happy Christmas, mine’s a verruca.