My Bromley writing buddy - who, like me, is an atheist with a fondness for carols - invited me to her local service. The church was full and had been nicely decorated, though it wasn't really the 'candlelit' event promised in the literature.
Many of the words were different from the versions I sang at primary school; Once In Royal David's City in particular was greatly changed, and I was caught out several times before I learned to look at the words - I was quite literally not singing from the same hymn sheet - while that nice Advent one with the 'Evermore and evermore' chorus must have been a different translation, as I only recognised it when the familiar tune started up on the organ.
I suspect I'm exactly the sort of person you don't want to be next to in church: I sing loudly, and deeper than I really ought to go, while looking fierce and bouncing my left knee. But I do enjoy it.
My friend does proper singing with a choir and was a delight to hear, though she complained that most carols are slightly wrong for a mezzo. I confessed that I didn't actually know what I sang, and she laughed and said "I think you're a tenor." Apparently female ones are in demand! This could be my exciting new career!
In his closing address, the vicar made reference to a video currently popular on YouTube: "I think that this time next year, Fenton will be forgotten, but that other name - Jesus Christ - will still be drawing people together."
We drank our mulled wine, dodged anyone who looked like they might be trying to sign us up for the Alpha Course, and made our escape into the frosty night.