We pick up the tale.
Mr Goodyear and I, accompanied by Pat the Irish fellow are stumbling toward the Catholic Church. We have stashed our collection of 20 odd bottles of Becks in every avaliable pocket and orifice. As a result of which we managed to omit a curious clinking sound as we walk, in fact any type of movement is accompanied by a clinking noise, the happy sound of beer bottle rubbing up against beer bottle, or cellphone or cigarette lighter, or doorkeys.
As we make our way through the town I begin to hear some dissent from Mr Goodyear."But I'm not a bloody catholic". "No bother" I say. "They'll let you in, you're with me".
At this point Pat starts to get nervous about going to church but he's drunk and lost in a strange foreign town so he has very little choice but to succumb to the desires of his kidnappers.
I reassure my men, "It'll be fine, we'll sneak in at the last moment, find a seat at the very back, sing a couple of hymns and leave before we get too sleepy" Easy.
The catholic Church is about half a mile from the pub and we get there just before midnight. My plan soon begins to turn rather sour.
We enter the back of the church, I shepherd Mr Goodyear and Pat inside , Mr Goodyear is visibly relieved to discover that he has not been turned into a cloud of orange smoke by the protestant gods of on high and Pat is looking ever more unsettled. As We approach the back doors I begin to sense a problem. The place is packed , it's jamming with good Yuletide worshippers and there is no room. No room at the inn.
Ah, none at all. Not at the back of the church anyway.
Also the clientele is well, sober. It seems that the local boozy brigade go direct to the Abbey. There they can hide amongst themselves and smell bad and belch , fart and forget the words. They can crumple the hymn sheet and mumble the prayers.
Here at the Catholic church they actually expect you to know your stuff. Don't get me wrong, they are very pleased to see us , so pleased in fact that they give us a pile of books, a bible, a couple of hymn books and all. Books I tell you! We were expecting a zeroxed sheet with a couple of classic christmas hymns and that's it.
No. We were to participate fully in the entire service. Next in a lengthening line of unfortunate events was the seating. As I'd said there didn't seem to be any room. Had we been even slightly less drunk we could have turned and scooted out, abort the plan, no problem. It was our consumption of beer that done us in. That and the adorable old ladies at the door. "Hello loves, there's plenty of room right at the front".
We clinked our wobbly way to the front of the church. It was packed, the priest was about to start but he very kindly held things up "for a few happy latecomers". I noted my brother in the pews, quietly pissing himself as I led my curious entourage to the foremost pew. The drunk catholics and the sweating Protestant.
I need to admit something. I'm not much of a churchgoer. I would describe myself as a second row Catholic. I mean that I really need to see real religious types in front of me so that I can know when to kneel, stand, genuflect etc. Being in the front row mere inches from the Priest was no good for me, I kept having to look around everytime I heard a shuffling noise. Thankfully the Priest was well endowed with Christian charity and took to nursing us through the service by directing us to sit or stand with hand gestures and a kindly smile. Despite his efforts there were a couple of lapses which left us three standing alone at the front of the congregation until a small voice behind us told us what to do and when to do it.And of course, each and every time we stood, sat or whatever we were accompanied by the happy sound of clinking beer bottles. It's amazing how quiet a room full of people can be.
The sermon was long and the priest had a solid Norfolk accent. Even for those of us born and raised in the place we had a bit of trouble understanding him (or maybe we were just too drunk?)He was talking about "fillums" and we leaned over that we may hear him better. "Fillums? what are Fillums?". Then he mentioned the message of hope contained in the "fillum" The Shawshank Redemption. "Oh, he means films!" burst out Pat. "Yes, I said Fillums" replied the priest.
We muddled through, Mr Goodyear was desperate to leave, to pee, to drink, to do anything but sit through this mammoth Midnight mass-athon. The thing was, we couldn't leave. We were jammed in at the front. No escape. Mr Goodyear eventually dozed off, I did my best to stay awake through the whole thing and just about managed to avert complete family disgrace.
After what had seemed like days the priest put us out of our misery. In a gesture of real humanity he turned and thanked us for coming and wished us well, we clinked out through the crowds and stumbled home, clinking all the way. We had not intended to be quite so drunk and unlike many in the Abbey we had a genuine respect for those whose church we had so spectaculary crashed. We sang when we should have sang, we changed no words to invite rude words, we sat through the whole thing in a drunken puddle of mild embarassment and clinking bottles. I don't go to Midnight mass anymore but if I did I would have a drink or two, but no more.