Yesterday evening, I joined a chorus of Mind staff/volunteers/other freelancers who’d read the invitation on the Facebook group for their Christmas carol collection in Canary Wharf. I love singing but haven’t joined a choir since I was the age when you had to sight-read to get in (I can’t read music well, or ever quite decide whether I’m a top alto or bottom soprano…).[ Those who don’t know London]: Canary Wharf is a ’90s dystopia designed so that employees of the big banks never have to leave work, and contains everything you could ever buy. It’s also literally difficult to leave because it’s completely Holy-mother-of-flipping impossible to find your way around. After five minutes inside the shopping centre I lose all memory of a life before. And it’s an utterly horrible place to be if you’re utterly broke, which has been my situation on notable previous visits. Luckily business has been healthier recently (I nearly bought my mum a bonus Christmas present after killing time in Rituals and falling in love with it). And for all that, there is some appeal to having all that you need in one space; if you can ever find it…
About twenty of us were there to sing for the 5pm to 7:30 slot, plus a kind ukulele/banjo player, and someone’s toddler, strategically placed up front. I’d met one of my best buds for coffee in the late-afternoon and she also stayed to listen for a while. It was a bit timid at first (which key is comfortable for this one? Which verses are we meant to sing? God dammit, how many reprises are there?) but by twenty or so minutes in we were well into the swing of things and coins were clinking. It was established that:
- Never ever will there be a hat that fits my head properly.
- Most popular carols have many more verses and reprises than anyone ever knows (I Saw Three Ships has about eleven, honestly. How much is it humanly possible to write about seeing some ships? Even I’m not that verbose).
- Everyone only knows Jingle Bell Rock from Mean Girls (and mostly only the bit before Gretchen kicks the speaker over).
- Bankers really love singing. A couple of them even stopped to join in or film us. A besuited chap next to me when I arrived was in the HSBC choir. All the banks wanted to be on Gareth Malone’s Sing While You Work a couple of years ago. Citi got it; probably because of their more progressive rep than the rest (they sponsor Pride in London), or because they don’t do a lot of personal banking in the UK so no-one has a reason to hate them very much. Mr HSBC told me he was a great fan of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, which the friend I’d just had coffee with is too. I love their version of Teenage Dirtbag.
- Getting the tempo of a slow carol right for an accompanying ukulele needs practice.
It takes a lot to make me wear a hat in public, but Mind are a thoroughly worthy cause. At a busy time when self-doubt over the Marathon has been creeping in, it was a poignant and lovely reminder of why I’m running for them. I loved all of it, but highlights were We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Jingle Bell Rock, our gorgeous a cappella Silent Night, and – of course – two renditions of All I Want For Christmas Is You. My threat to break out into Paloma Faith’s Only Love Can Hurt Like This in the hope people would hand over their bonuses to get me to stop remained unactioned, but there’s always next year…
YouTube links/better photos to follow as and when they appear…
Edited to add: Just had an email from the Mind team. We raised a fantastic £500! Woohoo!