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Singing birds and tears of sadness at Christmas

Black Santa's diary: The Very Rev John Mann

A bird has taken to singing outside my bedroom window on the past two early mornings, which is unusual for the time of year. It started at 4.45am on Sunday and 5.30am yesterday, and it tweets away for 20 minutes or so.

A quick online search of "birds that sing at night in winter" revealed that it is almost certainly a robin, thanks to the RSPB. You learn something every day.

Apparently, it is a combination of a mild night and the street lamp confusing the poor bird into thinking that it is spring - which it definitely isn't!

You may have noticed that there has been no comment this year about pigeons at the Cathedral. We had two or three in last year during the sit-out and they featured in this diary as temporary residents. However, they circle round overhead all the time, settling on the gables and roof ridges for a while before taking off again. There is always life to be seen standing out for these last few days of the collection.

The counters called to me yesterday. "Do thank Bridgeen of Established Coffee and Sharon from the Canteen at the Mac - we are in partnership with them!"

"What do you mean?" I said. "Well, they need change and we need notes, so we do a swap as the coins build up in the counting room!"

A lovely little girl emptied a cloth bag of coins into the barrel yesterday morning with a huge smile on her face. "She's been collecting it up for you!" said her granny. I know that we need the big donations and I am deeply grateful for people's amazing generosity, but I am always touched by the young contributing to this and other efforts on behalf of those less fortunate than themselves.

Meanwhile, the fund is building up and we look forward to the last two days being busy.

Can you believe that Christmas Day is nearly here? Carol services, family celebrations and all the rest. But let's not forget those who are sad at this time.

Having lost both my parents in the last 18 months, I know that there will be tears as well.

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