Whooping it UP with The Salvation Army


I spent yesterday afternoon at the Salvation Army Christmas Carol Concert in Letchworth Garden City. It was a family thing ... my stepfather was launching his new song, backed by the Sally Army band in a new arrangement, then we all went on to my nephew's 18th birthday party (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MATTHEW!)

The show opened with a bang, three girls in their dark uniforms on the timbrels. Tinsel streamers hung from their tambourines which they bounced along their arms and waved in the air with choreographed precision as a band played a marching tune. And not a smile was cracked. It was reminiscent of a celebration by dour young wonderwomen of the Soviet era. The MC for the occasion was a white-haired man in uniform with a curious wit that passed me by.

It was fine. Trevor's stint was excellent and it's always pleasant to hear a good brass band. The Stevenage Ladies Choir was in good voice, Father Christmas trotted in for an appearance. Curiously as I sang along with each of the first two carols I had to work to stop myself bursting into tears. Maybe it's past Christmases flooding back, who knows, a peculiar wave of emotion I just managed to hold in check.

All this too, I realize, is England now. I hold back from voicing the perception that the Salvation Army is leading the way of the right-wing charities in the USA, agreeing to run along with the Bush plan for channelling government funds through faith-based giving so long as he allows them to continue with their rampant homophobia, to roll back the laws that have forbidden aid to charities who practise gay discrimination. It doesn't seem worth propelling such an exocet into this quaint English tradition and gathering. That's part of being a writer here in the UK, something I have to face as I settle back for a while. Sharpness can fade in the face of cosiness. What might be fodder for biting satire elsewhere here can become more whimsy, writing filled with local colour and eccentrics.