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Those Were the Days

Even in those far-off days Paddington was a very active branch. They had amongst them five official speakers, two chairmen, two members of the E.C—one of whom edited the S.S. for a time—and two writers. And—there was a choir. About ten musically minded members used to foregather at a member's house before Branch meeting and blend their voices in what it was hoped was harmony. It was, in any case, very enjoyable. One Christmas Eve it was suggested we go carol singing for Party funds. A carol is defined as a religious song in praise of Christmas; but the dictionary also says that to carol is to warble. So we went warbling. In view of our object, where better we reasoned than bourgeois Bayswater!

It was a beautiful evening, as like as could be, one of the more popular Christmas cards; keen, bright, a powdering of snow but dry underfoot and a pale moon overhead. Sedate Bayswater was very peaceful, and it was with an almost guilty feeling we shattered the silence with "Hail Smiling Morn." Further items from our repertoire followed and presently a butler emerged to bestow upon our efforts his blessing and a shilling. Another pitch drew blank, but a few further successes encouraged us to keep going. Then came the reveller. A hansom cab drew up and discharged—discharged is the word—a festive figure complete with tall hat, opera-cloak, a roll of music and a load of alcohol. He insisted on beating time with his music roll to the strains of "Brightly Dawns our Wedding-day," and to "Comrades-in-Arms." "Hail Smiling Morn" incited him to dance, but alcohol did not aid his agility, and after degenerating into an elephantine shuffle, he bestowed upon his blessing and half-a-crown. A further half-crown—quite a sum in those days—came from a window, thrown to us by a smiling housemaid. After that a financial famine seemed to set in and a friendly butler explained to us that Bayswater was empty except for servants; all the families had gone to the country for Christmas. We should have guessed it. However, we enjoyed the experience and Party funds benefited—if memory serves—by about 12/6.

W. T. Hopley