For some reason, Christmas mass in a packed church, with a lot of comings-and-goings at the back, reminded me of the Christmas Eve ritual of my teens. We’d tank up in several pubs before heading out to sing carols in the estates (poor them, but the money raised went to charity), then head back to the pubs that had licences to stay open later before getting to church (the church in the picture) for midnight mass. There was a fine art to this. You had to be there before the gospel reading and stay for the eucharist. In fact, I’d head home after the end of the mass but every year there was a large contingent at the back of the church that started heading home just as soon as the priest was giving communion. One year this so incensed Father Martin that, having given a fire-and-brimstone sermon from the pulpit (as the usual suspects crept in), he strode to the back of the church and locked everybody in until he’d given the blessing at the end – strictly against fire and safety rules, of course, but there was more than a hint of Don Camillo about Father Martin. A Merry Christmas to you all.