The weather deteriorated during the day, becoming wildly windy and very wet. Luckily, as darkness fell, the evening became dry and still. The air changed from unseasonable warmth, to very cool, so our spirits were high as we parked the car along the quiet country lane.
A very bright three-quarter moon shone in a dark blue velvet sky, myriad stars glittered and twinkled as we made our way through the darkness. Suddenly the bells began to ring out, welcoming us into the warmth and light of the little church at Dovecote Dell and I just knew it was going to be a wonderful evening.
Plain white walls, mellow honey-coloured stone, the windowsills were adorned with the simplest decorations of fresh-cut holly and flickering candles. Truly beautiful.
There were a couple of dozen people inside, the atmosphere was warm and relaxed as friends, old and new, greeted one another and began to catch up on all their news.
A hot water urn bubbled quietly in the corner, muttering a promise of hot drinks and mince pies later.
When the bells stopped ringing and everyone was seated, our lovely bouncy vicar began the service. Imagine a slimmer version of the Vicar of Dibley, just a little more serious. The short service was punctuated by carols sung with more enthusiasm than skill (I speak of myself the others were brilliant).
Perhaps the best treat of all was when the soloist sang. Her voice was exquisite, trained but authentically beautiful. She pitched it at exactly the right level for the building so that we were uplifted and transformed.
During the final hymn the urn joined in with a descant and it wasn't long before teas and coffees were being handed around, along with Diana's home-made mince pies, shortbread and chocolate cake and generous helpings of laughter and conversation.
Mrs Read* was there, looking as cheery as a winter robin redbreast in her beautiful scarlet coat, despite the fact that her hip was giving her a lot of trouble and she had resorted to using a walking stick. She had thoroughly enjoyed the evening and is anticipating a lovely Christmas with her son doing all the cooking!
It was a lovely evening, a perfectly beautiful way to get into the Christmas spirit. Tonight we'll be heading to the local pub, a chance to catch up with another group of friends and much merrymaking.
Somehow I don't think it will quite match up to the simple beauty of last night, but I'll let you know.