Whither And Why: Nairntivity
From the festively-festooned decorative desk of Gerald Honk, esq.
An undoubted highlight of our village’s annual Christmas Eve church service is the local Sunday School’s production of the nativity story, and it was this subject that drew me one morning to the home of my friend, the erroneous Adventist and uneducated Unitarian, Sir Hilary Harrison-Nairn.
“Happy Honkmas!” my friend exclaimed, the bells on his hat jingling all the way. “I have news. A Harrison-Nairn exclusive, not even revealed to The Pelican yet! You are aware that my housekeeper, Mrs Clutterbutt, also masquerades as head of the local Sunday School?”
I nodded. When it came to the theological education of our village’s youth, the usually demure Mrs C had a fervour worthy of any Old Testament leader.
“Well, she has asked Samantha,” HH’s wife, recently returned from touring her one-woman physical theatre show, “and me, to help out with this year’s nativity!”
“You must exercise Caution,” I insisted, for the local police dog had been leaping all over me for the past several minutes in a vain attempt to lick off my moustache.
“Yes, she has been rather restless,” my friend replied. “I fear retirement is not suiting her. She attempted to arrest the postman not a few days ago for trespassing! But when Sam and I heard she would be in need of a home we decided to proceed with Caution and allow her to stay. She and Bismarck have been getting on famously…”
I returned to the subject at hand. “HH old chap, Mrs Clutterbutt takes the nativity play extremely seriously, as she rightly should. I plead do not be… well… you… and turn it into an extravaganza of any kind. Simply assist her, and by Christmas, all will be well.”
Some weeks later, I attended a rehearsal. Samantha and her actor’s instincts, I observed, appeared to have taken over somewhat. I watched as, one by one, she took over each of the children’s roles, offering a donkey’s soliloquy in ancient Aramaic, a succession of shepherds, each with a different dialect and an utterly convincing childbirth sequence. HH meanwhile was badly understudying the doll that would take the role of the baby. To suggest Mrs Clutterbutt was displeased would have been an understatement the size of Portugal. Her ire rising like the temperature of a boiling kettle she was the colour of a new bruise when she’d finally had enough.
“Mrs Harrison-Nairn!” she yelled, louder than I had ever heard her before. “This WILL NOT DO!” Samantha stood in shock. “You will not alter this story, the Oxen need not engage in a metaphysical discussion! The parts will be played by the children! That is final! Do you understand?”
Samantha, aghast, nodded as her husband attempted to hide under the manger.
” I will make you a star, young lady!” Mrs Clutterbutt said to Samantha with a deafening finality.” There was a truth in her – admittedly – cryptic words. One that I would only recognise on the night of the one and only performance.
Christmas Eve jingled its way into view and with all the excitement of the upcoming celebrations accompanying us, Lillian and I went to church to sing carols, listen to the service, and watch the nativity.
Bismarck and Caution made fine sheep and oxen, after a fashion. My friend narrated, proving he could stick to a script with the right incentive – or fear of a skittle drought. And Mrs Clutterbutt stuck to her word. Samantha was a star. The star, in fact, dressed in yellow, limbs outstretched, static, with not a single line of dialogue and suspended from the Church rafters with a line of stout tinsel.
The whole thing went as it usually does, which is to say, not without incident, but overall, wailing children aside, it was a splendid part of the festivities
HH and Honk hope to see you at their local church on Christmas Eve, where they promise neither they nor their associates will have any involvement in the Nativity portion of the service.