Angels, Lovers and Songbirds – Chapter 09 – Helping one of the Angels
The next morning after a couple of lengthy phone calls to the club to catch up with the business side of his life Jack went out the door and took a walk in the direction of the church and discovered Gary had been true to his word, as one of the two vans parked outside the Church bore the livery of Sound in Spiers, he was tempted to go in and see how they were getting on but in truth he wouldn’t have been able to tell how they were progressing.
So he decided to go for an extended walk around the village as the previous days boozy lunch had left him feeling a bit brain fogged and he had just reached Stephenson’s Corner Shop when someone grabbed his arm, and he turned around to see it was Katie Watson.
“Hello Jack” she said
“Hello Vicar, you surprised me,” he responded then she surprised him again by giving him a bear hug which almost crushed his ribcage and then she kissed his cheek several times.
“You’ve saved my life Jack Morehouse” Katie said and hurried off towards the church and then over her shoulder she shouted
“You are my Christmas star”
When Jack walked past the church on Wednesday on his way to the Church committee meeting there was only the one van parked outside and there were a lot of strange noises emanating from inside and by Thursday lunchtime everything was set for St Lucy’s Day.
It all began once the darkness had fully descended with a celebration service and then after the church service a parade of school children from St Lucy’s school processed through the village carrying their Lucy lights and then threw them onto the bonfire to light the Lucy fire on the village green.
It’s all very pagan and a Swedish tradition originally, a mixture of the Christian and the pagan really, something that Elise Riley’s grandfather introduced to the village more than fifty years earlier.
It was believed that St Lucy’s light can lengthen the winter days.
The St Lucy’s day festival was always well attended as it’s such a unique event.
Christians from churches far and wide attended the service and a healthy crowd both church and secular turned out for the parade, even the odd humanist had been known to turn up, but to Jacks mind most humanists were odd.
Katie gave thanks to God, for all those involved and Gary Spiers in particular, for making St Lucy’s day such a great success.
For Reverend Katie Watson the second weekend of advent was a test of endurance but with the success of St Lucy’s day under her belt she approached the first leg of the marathon with renewed vigour.
The Carol Concert on Saturday night was an all ticket occasion and as always it was performed to a packed house.
The sound system was excellent and the new visual displays really came into their own.
But as successful as the concert was there was no time for Katie to rest on her laurels because the next morning brought the Sunday Service and the lighting of the second candle of advent.
After another success, with the morning service going off without a hitch, there was just time for a light lunch before she was off again for Christingle.
The Christingle Service has become ingrained in Anglican worship though its origins were in Eastern Europe.
It is a service of candle lights where very many years ago people gathered in the street, sang carols and collected gifts to help the less fortunate in the community.
It is a beautiful candle lit service of hymns, carols, recitations and bible readings, but Christingle goes beyond a candle light service and it tells a story.
A story is told with the symbolic use of the following items:
An orange, representing the world.
A red ribbon tied around the orange, to symbolize the blood of Jesus shed for his people.
Toothpicks, decorated with dried fruits and sweets are placed at the four corners of the orange, representing all the people of the world.
And a lighted candle in the centre of the orange, represents the gift of the light of Christ to the world.
It all begins in the morning at Sunday school where the children make the Christingle lights, and then they carry them proudly in procession into the church where they are lit for the service.
By Sunday evening it was over, Katie had got through it, the miracle marathon had been completed and she looked visibly relieved and hugged Kayleigh and Sarah who had been on hand at every stage of the proceedings, watching, supporting and worshipping.
It certainly had been a funny old week, a week in which Gary Spiers had saved the day, and Katie Watson’s sanity, and Katie had survived the miracle marathon and Hannah Peters had been drawn back to the church again and as a result there had been a spark of love lit in her heart as well as the flickering flame of her faith.
The following week by comparison was a quiet one but he still saw very little of Kayleigh partly because on Monday and Tuesday he chose to put in an extended appearance at the club just to make sure everything was on track, because it was the first Christmas in which he was not going to be directly involved and it would be the last time until the New Year.
As he walked in to the village on Wednesday for the Church committee meeting he saw Dr Anderson leave the vicarage and get into her car, he wasn’t sure if she saw him but she didn’t stop and as she drove away he wondered what the Doctor was doing there, after all making house calls was not in vogue and he had heard that Katie had been at the surgery only the week before.
When he got to the Church Hall he was almost the last to arrive and he found the assembled group in sombre mood.
Also in the room was a stranger who was introduced to him as the Reverend Paul Massey, a tall good-looking man a year or two younger than him.
It seemed that the stresses and strains of the previous week had taken their toll on Katie.
But by all accounts she would appear to be no more than thoroughly run down and had been advised to take a complete rest.
That was obviously the reason why Dr Anderson was leaving the vicarage.
Full bed rest for the week would hopefully put her right and she would be strong enough to participate on Sunday was the expectation.
Reverend Massey would be standing in for her wherever and whenever necessary until then.
After all there was still a busy program to get through, two more advent Sundays, midnight mass and Christmas morning itself.
The meeting moved on at a pace once they got started and they covered a good deal of ground.
One of the things covered was Jacks position on the committee, his Uncle Daniel, whose position he had been substituting, being deceased would not be returning to the committee, and as he had given a good account of himself, it was decided that it was an appropriate time for him to be made a permanent member.
For the last quarter of the meeting the committee planned to discuss the technical issues with the church audio and visual system and with this in mind, Gary Spiers was summoned to the meeting, however due to a family crisis he was unable to attend so his second in command
Martina Wingrove attended in his stead.
This was a quite acceptable substitution as it was Martina who supervised the initial work.
She was a tall striking looking young woman with an abundance of curly straw coloured hair, pale blue eyes and a curvaceous figure and when Jack introduced Martina to the Reverend Massey there was an almost instant mutual attraction and to be quite honest he and the other committee members might just as well have been absent.
And when she began her dissertation on the Church system she aimed it directly at the new reverend and it was apparent to all that her eye had clearly settled on the replacement Vicar and not only was her attentiveness not discouraged it was clearly being reciprocated .
However despite what they may have thought they were not witnessing a case of love at first sight because although none of the assembled group were aware of it the smitten couple were not strangers, far from it.
They had once been engaged to be married but that had been when they were University students, but it all went wrong, probably because they were too young, and also they both thought there was more to life than marrying the first person you fell in love with and so they parted company.
They had their adventures in the world and independently they did indeed discover that there was more to life than they realized when they were together, Paul discovered God and Martina found music.
It was ironic really because when they were together Martina was the Christian and he was a guitar strumming doubter.
Although their lives alone took very different paths one thing in those lives was a constant and that was a regret at letting the love of their life slip through their fingers.
But by the time they realized their mistakes it was too late and they had no way of knowing where the other could be found although in truth they had never lived more than 3 miles apart and if the fates had allowed they could have run into each other at any given time.
But although they were clearly still attracted to each other that was only a starting place.
After the meeting Jack reflected on how love had an uncanny knack of finding its way into people’s lives even when you weren’t looking for it.
He also reflected that he had never been so busy since he made the decision to take a back seat at the club and having thought prior to the meeting that he only had one firm commitment until the turn of the year, he now found his diary suddenly full as a result of it.
December had always traditionally been a busy one for him but this year was turning out to be an exceptionally busy one.
Then he stopped suddenly because he had remembered something his mum had once said to him.
“You should give more of yourself, if everyone gave one hour a week, what a change that would make to the world”
“I can’t argue with that mum” he said
After the meeting he went home and made himself a sandwich and sat down in front of the TV and started watching “The Bishops Wife”, which was one of his favourite Christmas movies, but he lasted no more than 10 minutes before the long blinks set in so he spent the afternoon sleeping on the couch in a fitful dreamy sleep.
And it was just when he had woken from that long afternoons snoozing and surfaced from a strange dreamland that he heard the sound of the doorbell.
The bell continued to ring as he made his way up the hall and when he opened the front door he found one of his neighbours Gemma Frost standing there soaking wet.
“Ah Jack” she said, “I am a damsel in distress”
“How can I help?” he asked
“I’m locked out” she said “and the boys won’t be back for at least an hour, could I take refuge here until they get home?”
“Yes of course” he said just being neighbourly “Come on in”
“Thanks Jack” she said as she stepped inside.
“Take your coat off,” he suggested “And I’ll put the kettle on”
When he returned she was sitting on the bottom stair taking her boots off, then she stood up and straightened her uniform.
Gemma Frost was a forty six years old divorcee and worked up at Plaxton Park as a Matron.
“Come in the kitchen” he said “You look done in”
“Yes I am rather” she admitted as she sat at the kitchen table
“Two of the nurses didn’t show up so I had to pull another double shift”
“Does that happen a lot?” he asked
“More often than I’d like” she said “And I’ll be working all Christmas if I can get some reliable cover”
“I’m afraid so” she said
“Well Christmas might have come early for you then” he said
“Do you want another cup?” he asked and Gemma checked her watch before replying
“Yes please, but I must have a pee first”
“Ok, I’ll take it through to the lounge” he said
He was sitting on the sofa when she returned, she was a short rotund woman with a heart as big as her bust size and she was definitely one of the angels.
He knew that as a Matron up at Plaxton Park she didn’t have to stay and cover for a no show nurse but she could never compromise on the care for her patients.
Over a second cup of coffee Jack explained about the Verger’s sister, Hannah, Gemma knew Sarah Peters obviously from church and the Doctors Surgery, where she was the receptionist, but she didn’t know her sister although she had seen them together from time to time.
“If she can do a shift or two over Christmas or New Year we can assess her and she can assess us and then we can take it from there” she said “Do you think she might be happy to give it a go?”
“Well there’s only one way to find out” he said and picked up his phone and after selecting a number he waited for them to answer after several rings it went through to the answer phone.
“Hi Hannah, Jack Morehouse here” he said, “If you were serious about wanting to live in the village then you may be in luck.
There is a vacancy up at the Plaxton Park and if you can do a couple of trial shifts you’re in with a chance, if you’re interested”
“I’m interested! I’m interested!” Hannah squealed as she picked up the phone.
“Ok I’ll put you onto Gemma and you can talk details” he said and handed over the phone.
“Hi Hannah” she said
While Gemma and Hannah discussed the details he cleared away the dirty cups to the kitchen and when he looked through the window he could see lights on at Gemma’s across the road.