A very wet day yesterday; not unexpected, but the good news is that the collection had a real boost during the course of the morning, with hundreds of pounds being left in for the appeal.
I must tell you about all our neighbours, too. Bagel:Bagel bring us coffee; the Police Ombudsman's Office provided us with cups for the Blue Plaque ceremony last week; the NI Tourist Board staff didn't send each other Christmas cards, but put the money together and brought it over yesterday, while the Church of Ireland Youth Department, whose offices are close by, held a Christmas 'do' for youth workers and donated everything to Black Santa. A local barrister - a great supporter of the cathedral - said to a client who offered him a drink, thankful for his work: "I don't drink, give the money to Black Santa." It would have been a fine bottle!
Offices and shops, pubs and coffee bars have been very supportive.
Though it was wet, the banter at the barrel was warm and heartfelt. Before lunch I had a bishop and a canon with me who are both football lovers. This is difficult for someone like me whose interest in the beautiful game is non-existent, but the flow of jokes from giver to stand-in Santas was insatiable, and took on a whole new language. The upshot seems to be that a red club from Manchester will eventually triumph this year, while a team from Sheffield only win on Wednesdays. Have I got it right?
There is serious talk, too, of charities finding their funding cut, not to mention exasperation over endless political talks. We listen and are grateful for all we receive.
As the light fades around 3.30pm and Writers' Square takes on the glow of evening, Christmas trees twinkle and the traffic builds up. It can be handy for us when Donegall Street is temporarily gridlocked as someone decides to do a three-point turn, or ease slowly into a parking spot, for drivers and passengers wind down their windows and call us over to give a pound or fiver to the fund.
It's really building up, and stood at £79,178 at 1pm yesterday.