"Are you sure this is a good idea?"
We mill around outside Short Tony's, several layers of alcohol insulating us against the cold night. The plan: to march on Big A's house and sing Christmas Carols at him until his icy Scrooge-like heart melts in the warmth of a festive onslaught.
Some singing children have been engaged to help us.
We tiptoe across the road, making load 'shhh!' noises. The LTLP carries a reindeer soft toy with some sleigh bells attached, and a candle. I have a mandolin slung round my neck. Short Tony and Mrs Short Tony carry torches. (The electrical, not the flaming kind).
The children lag behind unenthusiastically. I don't know what's the matter with them. When I was their age I would have been really excited to have been got out of bed and sent out into the bitter cold with my mum's and dad's friends in order to play a weak practical joke on the neighbours. It is Playstation that I blame.
We scrunch up the gravel path ("Shhh!!!", "Shhhhh!!!") and assemble around the front door, roughly pushing the kids to the front and ordering them to look waif-like. The house is occupied but the interior lights are dim behind thick drapes. We have arranged to perform 'Jingle Bells' (chorus only) being that we all know the words, and there are only three chords.
[Whispers] "A one, two, a one two three four!"
The LTLP shakes her reindeer enthusiastically.
We tail off weakly at the end, not knowing what to do next. There is no sign of movement, although other lights in the street seem to have come on in the meantime.
A warning voice booms in my head. "LOOK AT YOU!!! THIS IS WHAT YOU'VE MADE OF YOUR LIFE, THIS IS!!!" I tell it to go away.
There is nothing quite so pitiful as a group of previously-confident people realising that they look ridiculous. The village flashmob hovers uncertainly. Finally, we agree to give it another go. Short Tony bangs angrily on the front window. We are both cross that the occupants are ruining it for everyone.
The front door opens, and Mr & Mrs Big A gaze out in some incredulity. The song falls to pieces around our feet. Lyrics catch on the tumbleweed and are carried down the street.
"Er... would you like to come in?" they offer, eventually.
We make our excuses and leave.