Paul Kerensa: 12 days of Christmas (2020 edition)

Red-legged Partridge in a Pear Tree

Red-legged Partridge in a Pear Tree - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Not even the famous festive singalong will be the same this year thanks to a certain pandemic

This column was originally intended for overheard gossip or coffee shop chatter. But having not left the house much lately, what I’ve overheard most is birdsong.

We’ve had spring blackbirds, summer sparrows, geese flying south (I don’t blame them – they don’t have to quarantine) and winter robins. Yet certain birds pop up every Christmas, and this year, their song lyrics might need to change. Here’s how the birds are taking over:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge, and a headache, because the partridge’s half-squawk isn’t the calmest of birdsongs.

On the second day, two turtle doves: a more pleasant listen, somewhere between a trill and a coo.

By the third day though, three French hens add clucking, in French. They say nature is healing this year. Doesn’t mean it’s quiet.

On the fourth day, four calling birds join the party. It doesn’t say what type of bird, just that they call, presumably loudly.

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On the fifth day, five gold rings. Finally a non-bird present! Except according to some, these five rings actually belong to the ringed pheasant (this is true, by the way). Garden quite noisy now.

On the sixth day, six geese, who didn’t fly south for winter, stick around for some laying. And honking. Noisy geese.

On the seventh day, ah – the Rule of Six kicks in. But that won’t stop these swans-a-swimming; the law doesn’t apply to animals. They can join the seventeen other birds, by my count.

On the eighth day though, that Rule of Six surely DOES apply to maids? Ah but no, they’re milking, and the rule doesn’t apply to workplaces. So they’re allowed. Still a strange present though.

But on the ninth day, ladies dancing? Sounds far too social. Sorry: they’re banned, and the lords a-leaping can take a flying leap too.

Eleven pipers won’t be piping, due to... wasn’t there a ban on woodwind? Or am I thinking of brass?

Either way, best split the twelve drummers into two groups of six each. Safest.

So I count twenty permitted people (drummers and maids) and twenty-four birds. For the first time, the birds outnumber the people in the now legally compliant 2020 version of this song. Nature’s taking over.

Oh, and clearly staying-at-home hasn’t affected my brain in the slightest. This is a perfectly normal amount of over-thinking.

Merry Christmas!

Paul’s book Hark! The Biography of Christmas, rrp £7.99, is orderable from all good independent local bookshops, as is every other book you want.

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