We can finally mention the C word, writes Councillor Alistair McNair. It’s the first day of advent tomorrow – the first of four Sundays before Christmas – the season every Bob Cratchit and receptionist dreads.

By the time you read this, I’ll have added thousands to my step count chasing the Santa Bus round Hollingbury. The first Sunday of advent represents hope and the Santa Bus brings it with twinkly music and loud lights. Crowds of families wait, stiff with cold but full of Christmas cheer and generosity when they spy Santa waving from the top deck.

I love the Santa Bus, but there’s only so much of my heart I can give you George Michael – my wife disagrees – and you’re not all I want for Christmas Mariah Carey. The Santa Bus has brought joy and charity for 20 years – here’s to another 20.

What else do I love this time of year? Drinking mulled wine at the ice rink – if you can afford £7 a glass. As Scrooge knows, you could buy your own bottle from the Co-op for half the price but somehow the ambience – and the cries of falling skaters – would be lacking. I can’t sing – I once played a very ugly sister, in bra and tights etc, luckily before the advent of social media, in a very amateur performance of Cinderella so I’ve been told I can’t sing – but I do love a carol service. Just don’t sit next to me.

I try to attend all the carol services in Patcham and Hollingbury. It’s like a mini pub crawl. Which church has the best spirits will go with me to the grave. Every year, I find myself running from one to the other, crumbs of mince pie stuck to my shirt. This year, there are three Christmas services in my ward on the same day – December 17. Patcham Methodist has a Christingle at 3.30pm, Brighton Elim has carols at 5pm, and All Saints Patcham at 6pm and 7.30pm – All Saints must really love their vicar! Two or three carol services in a row must be some kind of health and safety risk.

Vicars up and down the country will be dreading the festivities where spectres of Christmas services past – too horrific for Dickens to describe - are sitting in the pews like the green Slimer in Ghostbusters: organists not turning up; misprints in the service sheet – “any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning is welcome to join the choir”; no matches to be found five minutes before the service starts; the wrong tune played to Away In A Manger; the only large print copy of one of the gospel passages missing. One carol service I attended was so heart-warming someone’s hair caught fire.

The first thing I do sitting in the pew is scan the service sheet for the carols. I’m usually disappointed. There are still two weeks to go before the first carol service in Patcham, so here’s my blatant attempt to try to ensure my favourite carol is actually sung this year – please can we have God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen? I’m only coming if it’s on the list. And the Sussex Carol. And the Carol of the Bells – it’s a fabulous Ukrainian carol.

Picture Aled Jones as a kind of Top Of The Carols presenter. As you sit through the sermon – you’re nearly at the end! - he’ll whisper you these questions.

Number one. Did you sing In the Bleak Midwinter? Of course, you did. How did the congregation cope with the line “Our God, heaven cannot hold Him”? Badly? I hope it was the Harold Darke version.

Number two: that well-known Cornish carol The First Noel is so interminable you wish it was the last noel, don’t you? Did you reach the high notes in Silent Night? Jesus would certainly not be sleeping in heavenly peace by the end of it.

Did you manage to hold your breath all the way through the Glorias of Ding Dong! Merrily on High? No? I didn’t think so.

Who were the better singers in Good King Wenceslas? The men or the women? Next time you go to a carol service, sit next to someone of the same sex.

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear was the best carol of the night, wasn’t it? Or was it See Amid the Winter’s Snow?

As we leave the candlelight of the carols and step into the dark, let’s remember, as the good folk of the Santa Bus do, the words of Marley’s ghost as he admonishes Scrooge: “‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business’.”

Cllr Alistair McNair is the leader of the Conservatives on Brighton and Hove City Council