A long time ago in . . . well, near Cowbridge actually, I worked at a place known as the Jane Hodge Holiday Home, or to give it it’s full charity status title; the South Wales Holiday Home for Physically Handicapped Children, a bit of a mouthful I think you’ll agree. The concept was simple, to give kids with disabilities a good time and also to allow parents to have a well-earned break from their sometimes difficult offspring. Occasionally we would also take in youngsters who might have been socially or educationally disadvantaged and not necessarily with a physical disability and these youngsters would be accepted for a twelve-day break along with others of mixed abilities.

Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus in the stableOn the last intake period of 1971 before the Christmas holiday, we admitted an unusually high number of the aforementioned youngsters and had our hands full as being more ambulant they kept us busy with their high spirits and mischief. It was a spur of the moment idea to attempt to arrange a nativity style Christmas evening with this group and in a short time-span did our best to provide an evening of carols and readings to an invited audience, mostly villagers or friends and relatives of the staff. After many hours of training and rehearsing over a frantic couple of days, at last we were ready for the show.

On the evening of the Nativity a local minister came in to lead the service and members of staff provided all the readings. The organist drafted in to play was my mother but for some strange reason I took over from her to accompany the kids singing Away in a Manger. The whole evening was recorded onto an audio cassette which remains in my possession and I have used the soundtrack of Away in a Manger to illustrate this tale; why I didn’t turn off that awful vibrato though I don’t know. In the second verse one of the boys was supposed to have been singing solo, but someone in the audience was joining in as well. This is probably the only recording existing on which I’m playing the organ, so sit back and . . . er, umm, be grateful perhaps?

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