Our reporter goes behind the scenes as a Harborough school prepares for its Nativity show
In a primary school in a small Harborough district village, a little, fair-haired Joseph is getting ready to rehearse for the school nativity play.
As he wrestles his way into his costume, he hands the Mail reporter a slip of paper.
“That’s going to be my wedding list” he tells me. “For all the... all the people who are coming to a wedding.”
The slip of paper has nothing on it. “I haven’t done my list yet” explains Joseph.
He’s one of 15 children aged between four and six who will soon be filing across from Tugby’s CofE Primary School to a little dress rehearsal at the nearby St Thomas a Becket church.
As the children “walk across to the church really sensibly”, one of the kings explains he’s not King Herod, because King Herod was a bad king, and he’s a good king.
I’d guessed anyway. He’s only five; King Herod would be around 2,090.
Actually, he says excitedly, he would probably have to fight King Herod, should he happen to meet him on the 50-metre journey to the church.
“No fighting” instructs one of the classroom assistants.
We’re in the pretty church now, and the children cluster by the pulpit to sing a hearty version of ‘Knock, Knock, Knock’, with actions.
“All we need is a place to stay / Please Mr Innkee-per... what do you say?”
They sing really well, even without the music – Tugby’s parents are in for a treat.
On the way back, I get an exclusive interview with Mary (five-and-a-half), and ask her why she and Joseph are so important in the Biblical story.
“Why? Because they’re on stage the most” she explains.
I see, and is there anything else? “She has a nice costume” and then – after being prompted by an angel – “Oh and she has a baby; baby Joseph. Jesus, I mean.”
Got it. But why does she have a baby in a stable?
“Because there wasn’t any room for her in the inn.”
Back at the school, the Foundation / Year One children now get ready for their Christmas Party, as their patient teacher Charlotte Bower, makes sure costumes are gathered together and shoelaces are re-tied.
The donkey is explaining about her costume. “It feels weird with the ears on” she says. “I’m not used to ears.”
The Mail has to point out that she has, in fact, always had ears.
The donkey laughs. “Not big long ears” she says.
Why is the donkey important in the story? “Because without a donkey, Mary can’t get to Bethlehem.” Fair point.
All this time, as the Mail has been writing down answers in shorthand, a female shepherd has been watching closely.
“How do you keep up with us talking?” she wants to know.
I explain that I write in a special reporter’s code, called shorthand.
“Are you like Samuel Pepys?” she wants to know. “Because Samuel Pepys has that kind of writing.”
Wow. That’s Samuel Pepys, the 17th century MP and diarist, who - I looked it up when I got back to the office - did indeed write in a sort of shorthand code.
Meanwhile Joseph, despite a busy acting schedule, has somehow found time to complete his wedding list.
Several of his friends are on it, and also his teacher Ms Bower. Which is sweet.
If you’ve lost sight of what Christmas is about, children at primary schools like Tugby should refresh your memory.
Plus, they’re surprisingly good on 17th century socio-political history...