My Christmas carol nightmare
It would be almost impossible to besmirch the festive, tinkling beauty of Martin Place in Sydney on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas tree towering over tinselled decorations, parents and children smiling with excitement.
Almost impossible. At nine years old, my sister Shelley and I gave it a red hot go.
We'd always loved Christmas carols in our house, as Mum is extremely musical, a talent which rubbed off in differing dollops onto her offspring.
One year, as children, she and Dad took us to Martin Place on Christmas Eve to see the decorations and hear the Salvation Army carollers.
One year, the crinkly and affable Head Salvo (I assumed he was the boss, because he had both a hat and a microphone), asked the crowd if there were any children in the audience who might like to sing a carol.
My brother Michael, with the massive blue eyes and almost illegally cute dimples of his boyhood, volunteered.
You could feel the ripple of "awww" pass suddenly and warmly through the crowd as he took the microphone, as if a kitten had been gently dropped in a bucket of unicorn-shaped marshmallows.
And then he sang Little Drummer Boy. By the first "Pa-Rumpa-Pum-Pum", the crowd was rapturous Yuletide putty in his hands.
Thanks to this ten-year-old kid with the voice of fifteen pre-pubescent angels, the centre of the city was struck quiet with tears in its collective eyes.
After the applause died down, my twin sister Shelley and I formulated a plan.
Humility oozed effortlessly out of our brother, but Shelley and I were made from much more attention-seeking, precocious stuff.
We would sing with the Sallies next year. We would stun observers into tremble-lipped silence. We would sing Gloria In Excelsis Deo with Latin bits and harmonies.
The following year, after rehearsing with each other all week, our hearts leapt when Mr Crinkly Salvo asked if any children would like to step up to the stage. The assembled crowd made appreciative noises at the twin nine-year-olds stepped up to the microphone.
We took a deep breath, ready to start, when suddenly someone strangled a couple of bison and started up a leaf-blower.
Except it wasn't. It was the sound of us singing. We'd never sung into a microphone or been that nervous before, and behold the disastrous result two girls wailing the word 'Gloooooriaaaa' in a descending, discordant, flinch-inducing arc.
I can't remember handing the microphone back. I can't remember sprinting into the sympathetic but highly embarrassed arms of my mother. I can remember crying. I can't, and won't, ever remember the words to that bloody song again.
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