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— Dauphne du Maurier

Exercise 4 — A Christmas Carol by Aly Wilks

Read a story about carol singing. Decide what words should be used in the gaps 1-15. ONLY ONE WORD in each gap.

A Christmas Carol by Aly Wilks

It never snows on Carol Singing night but it nearly always rains. Added to this, our is a smallish village and the actual carol singers can be a bit thin (1) .......... the ground. It is a delicate balancing (2) .......... to have enough voices to make ourselves heard, while also leaving enough people at home to heat the mulled wine and line up the mince pies. So as we climbed into the trailer to (3) .......... pulled around the village behind Maurice’s tractor (fetchingly decorated with flashing fairy lights) our Christmas cheer needed a kick-start.

It didn’t help that we started with the tougher gigs to get them over (4) .........., and it doesn’t get tougher than the Addington household. We gathered in a shivering group outside their unlit porch and began singing Away in a Manger. Mr and Mrs Addington were out of their house like jack rabbits, closing the door firmly behind (5) .......... and thus trumping the vicar’s next move. Our vicar is a staunch man of God but he does feel the cold, and over the years has perfected a neat little trick. When a door was first opened, the vicar would stand uncomfortably close to (6) .......... opened it, lantern upheld and an encouraging smile firmly in place. When they stepped back (7) .......... alarm, he would say: „Are you sure? That is really most kind!” and we would surge into the house and start off on Hark! the Herald Angels sing before anyone could stop us. Happy minutes thawing out in a warm room, sampling some hastily assembled refreshments would almost invariably follow.

But the Addingtons were wise (8) .......... this ploy. We stood outside in the rain while they listened intently to our efforts and then requested carols we didn’t know. „Can we hear Adam Lay Ybounden?No? Oh dear. How about We Sing of a Mayden That is Makeles?” We just couldn’t win. We gave them Silent Night and pushed Angelina, Maurice’s fairy-like little niece, forward with the collecting box. Mr addington carefully inserted 20p. Angelina, who has total self-confidence, asked (9) .......... more. It was not forthcoming.

Our next call was to a family recently arrived in the village. Would they shout at us and set their dogs (10) .......... us? Or might they possibly invite us in for sausage rolls and a drink? We rang the front doorbell with the same spirit of anxious enquiry as somebody poking a tarantula with a small twig. And we (11) .......... gold. The new family invited us in, listened to our carols with every symptom of ecstatic enjoyment, plied us with refreshments and pushed a lovely crisp note into the collecting box. It was still raining and we were now sitting in puddles in the back of the trailer, but we didn’t care – we were feeling festive.

Ben, whom we relied on (12) .......... bass notes, began to show his partiality for a drop of mulled wine. As we continued the house calls and glass after glass was brought out for the singers, he availed himself continuously of what was (13) .......... offer. Nemesis struck when we were singing one of our best carols in Anna the postmistress’s home. „Gloria,” Ben sang,” Gloria, Gloria, Gloria,” his voice going deeper with each repetition until he collapsed on the floor in a giggling heap. We supported him outside and levered him carefully back into the trailer to sleep it (14) ..........

Finally we reached journey’s end: our local pub, the Friendly Ferret, which lived up to its name in (15) .......... possible way. We crowded into the welcoming bar and raised the rafters with a final selection of our favourite carols. As the regulars listened, I gazed at the faces surrounding me. Happy, melancholy, relaxed, anxious or simply quite strange – each one of them a valued member of our little community. „We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” we sang, and we meant every word.

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