The Grinch in Church

I went along to Beaufort Primary School’s Christmas carol concert presented by Years 5 and 6. The fact that a picture of Dr Seuss’s Grinch adorned the cover of the programme might seem a little odd. I soon realised that it was not odd, and not some modern fad, but very sensible and following a very old tradition.

The Nine Lessons and Carols performed at this time of year consists of nine short Bible readings interspersed with carols. Beaufort’s version was seven Grinch readings interspersed with Christmas carols and songs. And it was an inspired idea.

My grandchildren have all been brought up, or are being brought up, on the writings of Dr Seuss. The rhythm of his tongue-twisting stories have proved very helpful to their reading ability.

Those of you who do not know How the Grinch Stole Christmas will not realise what a great story it is. “The Grinch hated Christmas, the whole Christmas season. Now please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.” 

The Scrooge-like creature is very jealous of the people in the town who celebrate Christmas in a big way, and decides to steal Christmas. Thus he goes down chimneys, but not in a Santa Claus way, for he steals the presents, the tree and even the food – everything Christmassy – and stuffs it all up the chimney until he has stolen everything Christmassy from the entire town and taken it to his lair. 

It does not make him happy. He hoped to hear groans and moans from the town but instead heard the singing which he so despised. He hadn’t stopped Christmas. He realised that Christmas doesn’t come from a store “Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!” 

And so he took everything back to the town, including the turkey. How about that for a redeemed Scrooge-like ending.

Christmas tree

I have read that some families have two Christmas trees. One is for the children to decorate with a free hand as to what they hang on the boughs. Paper chains made of inaccurately glued colourful strips, wonky stars, Barbie with wings stuck on and tied, rather gruesomely, to the top of the tree – whatever.

The second tree would, according to those in the family with a degree of good taste, be decorated in a more refined, sophisticated fashion and be positioned by a window to be seen, and admired, by passers-by.

Many go for artificial trees, and this I can understand. No dropping needles for one thing, and however well you keep topping up the water the real tree stands in, there will be needles. The artificial tree is, in the long term, cheaper, as long as you have somewhere to store a tree until next year although many versions are collapsible. You might not even have to bother with scrabbling the twisted fairy lights: some trees come already dressed – well, some turkeys come that way.

I have been reading Enid Blyton’s 1944 The Christmas Book and there is an interesting chapter on the dressing of the tree. The children have, excitedly, brought down from the loft the box of decorations. You can tell the book is an old one, for the baubles are of glass – our last glass bauble broke years back. 

The children are delighted to find “a lovely lot of little coloured candles and candle clips”. They put “red crinkled paper around the tub to make it gay”, “cotton-wool here and there so it looks as if snow has fallen on the branches”. 

One of the children warns “Don’t put the cotton-wool on till I’ve clipped on the candles. You mustn’t put the cotton-wool near the candles in case it catches fire”. So, lit candles, cotton-wool, crinkled paper nearby, and all of this on a spruce tree.

I remember only once seeing a tree in a house with genuine lit candles. I would have been very young. It was in Woking. It was in a thatched cottage. It is a marvel how anyone survived Christmas before Health and Safety was invented to make us more aware of the grave danger we were in.

One for the road

On cold, dark, dank, nights the thought of a warm drink seems like a good idea. Tea? Coffee? Hot chocolate? All fine, but, hey, its Christmas. How about something more seasonal. Mulled wine? Wassail? Both are warm, and spicy – and alcoholic.

Mulled wine is warm, or even hot, wine with spices added, sometimes raisins. Wassail is cider, ale or wine, warm, and with spices added. Just because it is cider, and therefore considered, by some, to be less powerful than  beer, and because it sounds old fashioned, gets named in a Christmas song, and is by tradition, drunk in the New Year, it sounds  good – and a bit unusual. But before you order it, remember it is still pretty potent stuff. 

The problem  with booze is when  ‘just the one’, particularly at this time of year, often leads to ‘just the one more’. That’s okay if you are at home, but not if you are somewhere which necessitates a drive home. Taxi drivers do a good business at this time of year. 

Drink and drug driving are among the main reasons people are killed or seriously injured on our roads. For obvious reasons, the numbers rise during the festive season. That’s why you will see an increased police presence on Surrey’s roads throughout December, as Surrey Police take part in national drink and drug drive campaign, Op Limit.

If you know someone who is planning to get behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs, do all you can to persuade that person not to drive. 

It could be offering them a lift or helping them get a taxi. You could also warn them of the risks of getting caught or, if you feel comfortable doing so, take away the person’s car keys.

They may not thank you at the time, but they should thank you when they come to their senses – and when they consider what being ‘done for drink or drug driving’ could do for their future.

Not just a fine, or considerably worse, especially if they cause damage to anything or, worse case scenario, if they hurt a person, a criminal record could affect future employment, increase car insurance costs, and give you problems if you wish to travel to some countries, such as the USA.

If all these options fail and you know that someone is getting behind the wheel while over the limit or after taking drugs, call 999. You can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report online at

Its just not worth it, is it? 

If you decide to walk home, please make sure you are wearing light-coloured clothing. My favourite winter jacket is red. That looks bright and festive, and in the daylight you can see me coming. But at night I might as well be wearing black - and no-one would see me coming. 

The fixers

My kettle boiled. And boiled. And boiled. It would only stop if I lifted it, or switched it off. A lug in the lid had broken and thus the switch-off signal was not reaching the switch. My kettle was up the spout! 

But all was not yet lost, for I recalled the Woking Repair Cafe, of which I had written recently. The next cafe opening was scheduled for December 9 at St Mark’s Church in Westfield – the following one is scheduled for January 13 at Trinity Methodist Church in Brewery Road. I duly sent an email to let them know what I would be taking for repair – [email protected]

The room was reminiscent of Santa’s workshop. Not that I have ever visited his workshop, but this one was full of busy people wearing bright Christmas jumpers and Santa hats. I was just filling in a form when I was presented with a mince pie – the church is also one of the several Warm Hubs around the area. The kettle was then taken for a PAT. I was reminded not to call it a PAT test as PAT stands for Portable Appliance Testing, which is a routine inspection of electrical appliances and equipment.

The volunteer dealing with that is an old friend, and I later realised that several of the fixers were people I know. These volunteers – or Somebodies as I call them – crop up all over the place. Thank goodness. 

My kettle was weighed. Because stuff taken for repair might be repaired successfully, or might not, this will be a record of just how much weight has been prevented from ending up in landfill thanks to Fixers. Coffee was brought to me as I watched the work on my kettle. It looked as though it might be saved to boil another day. Even the water boiled to test it was recycled in the kitchen.

I took the kettle for a final weighing, only to have that lug fail once more. This was not all bad news. The kettle was taken by another old friend for possible cannibalisation. ‘A new kettle’ went on to my Christmas present list. 

Mr Sainsbury was pleased as a new kettle was purchased from his store. A daughter was pleased as she was told she had bought me a kettle for Christmas, so she could tick me off her list. We were pleased because we, obviously, were not going to wait until Christmas to make use of the new kettle. Win win!

At St Mark’s I chatted to Ellen Pirie, co-chair of Woking Environment Action and lead organiser of Woking Repair Cafe, and she told me how WEAct had been keen to set up the Repair Cafe as they had visited the one in Farnham and thought it was amazing! 

She had advertised for Fixers, which I thought sounded like something from The Godfather and this had attracted many useful volunteers. 

She has a couple of dozen on her books now and is always looking for more. Some are retired engineers and so forth, others have useful talents as hobbies. She said about half a dozen had been working as volunteers at the NHS vaccination centre and wanted to continue volunteering.

So there are Fixers who can fix electrical appliances, clothing and other textile-related jobs, furniture, garden tools, china and so forth. 

You broke it, they might be able to fix it. 

Since the first Repair Cafe at St Andrew’s in Goldsworth Park in June, which was followed by St Michael’s Church in Sheerwater in July, there have been some 400 items through the doors and the fix-rate was 70 per cent. 

Advice was given on a further 15 per cent of the items presented and just 15 per cent of the items were declared past it.

As one of my friendly Fixers explained, he was just carrying on with his hobby alongside a very convivial group. With refreshments on tap. More information can be found at

A happy Christmas to you all, and a healthy, calm, and peaceful new year to follow.

* Please send your items of community gossip to [email protected]