I always say there is nothing like a donkey for bringing a smile to your face.
Actually, now I come to consider that statement
more carefully, I have to concede that it is a massive fib. Not the effect of donkeys on a person’s wellbeing, you understand, but I don’t always say it - in fact, I don’t think I have ever said it before. Not in my own hearing, at any rate.
Having got that abject confession off my guilty chest, I can now return to the subject of donkeys, four of which - all wearing red coats and Father Christmas hats (presumably
with holes for their ears though I didn’t venture close enough to check) - were waiting patiently in the car park at the Heene Community Centre this morning for the fun and festivities to start. Clearly the organisers of today’s Christmas Fair
are people after my own heart - I can imagine them saying to one another at one of their fair planning meetings: “Why have one donkey, when we could have four?”
The organisers have surely pulled out all the stops this year. The Centre was closed to the public all day yesterday so that they could deck the halls, in the words of that well-known Christmas carol. Their efforts paid off and every hall in the
centre is duly, well, decked. Well done to one and all!
I am not here to check on either decorations or donkeys but to sing with our U3A Singing for Pleasure choir.
We are first on, after the Mayor of Worthing has declared the fair officially open. He says it is the first Christmas Fair he has been to which has donkeys. You can tell those donkeys are making an impact.
What kind of impact we make is more difficult to quantify. Because the Centre was closed yesterday, as I explained above, for Prettifying Purposes, we were unable to meet as usual on a Friday morning for a final rehearsal.
Worse still, the previous Friday we were (I) without our conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, who was feeling proper poorly, and (ii) unable to practise because Morag our pianist, to her dismay, had forgotten to bring the right sheets of music. You could say,
therefore, that we are a trifle rusty.
What we are definitely not, however, is downhearted. We are here to sing, and sing we will - even though we know the Worthing
Rock Choir is on stage after us and will probably have more of the “wow factor.” We are all kitted out in our red shirts and black skirts or trousers, while Morag and Muriel are wearing matching red and black scarves decorated with treble clefs.
We definitely look the part.
We start, appropriately enough, by Decking the Halls after which we wander somewhat aimlessly in a Winter Wonderland, take a
turn at Walking in the Air (without the help of a snowman), dream of a White Christmas, and decide - with no thought whatsoever for the poor donkeys outside - to Let it Snow. At this point, Muriel decides to cut out my favourite song, a rather plaintive Russian
folk song called Metyelitsa, about a love-sick fella who watches from his window the girl who comes to his street to sweep the snow away. Muriel’s reasoning is that (i) it’s quite a soft song; and (ii) there’s too much background noise for
people to hear the words we are singing. My friend sitting beside me thinks this is A Good Thing because we haven’t practised this particular song for ages. I am alone, it seems, in wishing otherwise. We finish to generous applause with a special arrangement
of Christmas is Coming. Looking around the hall, there’s little doubt about that.
I stay to listen to the Rock Choir, visit a few stalls, then make my way
outside where the donkeys are doing a fine trade. Lots of littl’uns are lining up for a ride round the car park - not quite so many, perhaps, as in the queue inside for Santa’s Grotto but a goodly number, given how cold it is.
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, there’s nothing like a donkey to bring a smile to a person’s face.