Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Fred

My bubble of isolation was burst this wet Monday when a youngster – I’m no good at ages, but a teenager, taller than a child, and with fluff on his chin that ought to be stubble – sidled up and asked “Do you mind if I sit here, Sir?” I’d been looking the other way and hadn’t seen him coming, so I was taken aback by his sudden appearance, and also by his manners. They weren’t big on manners on the Caxton estate. “Sure, it’s a public park and a public bench, help yourself” I said, as warmly as I could, whilst thinking I’d have to shift in a minute or two, but not wanting to offend him by leaving straightaway. He looked rather glum, in his bedraggled school uniform, his fine fair hair soaked, and raindrops on his elegant cheekbones like tears. I notice faces, and bodies, and form. How people turn out fascinates me – I’ve known the children of friends – and my brother’s – grow up to be plain when they started beautiful, and vice versa. I have a theory that everyone has a decade when they look absolutely their best. I’m still waiting for mine. I’ve had five.

“I’ve seen you here before” the boy said. A variant on “do you come here often?”, I suppose. “I’m surprised anyone notices me! I usually stop off after work before home. It’s nice to sit outside in the weather”. “Even the rain?” “Oh yes, I like the rain best”. But I wasn’t going to tell him why, as that might come across as rude, given that he was invading my space. “And you – just home from school?” “School, and the gym. Not a nice day”. “How come?” “Had to take the bus, and the guys there were taking the piss. And school was boring. And I hate the gym”. I didn’t know where to start with that – all I could connect to was school being boring, which for me it was, until the sixth form, and my guess was that this lad wasn’t there yet. “Why do you go to the gym if you hate it?” “My step-dad makes me go. He paid for membership. He thinks I need to beef up to get a girlfriend”. “I shouldn’t think a chap with your looks needs to beef up at all to get a girl, and I’m not sure the sort of girl who’d be impressed is the sort of girl you’d really want”.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

A Vignette on a Walk back from Town on a Warm Day

The streets were awash with people. I'd had a bad couple of days, and not been able to get into work until late, so I was leaving at after 6, but even so, there were people everywhere. Many were in "sub-fusc" which is the official kit of the university. Many others were wearing shorts. In quite a few cases, this was pleasing.

On Mesopotamia Walk I overheard a scrawny young man say to what I imagined was his girlfriend "So, the other six gave me a breast exam ..." And I thought, well, that's a rum thing.

And then I passed a handsome young fellow, much sturdier in the thigh than Mr Breast Exam, and obviously my eye had roved too visibly, and his hand moved as if to protect his crown jewels from burglary. Time was, I'd have been affronted. Today, I was a little flattered that he might have thought me capable of breaking in.

Mount Tabor & the Transfiguration

My friend Ann has been entertaining us with a travelogue on FaceBook about her journey to the Holy Land, and she's just reminded me of my one and only trip there, in 1996, the year I was ordained priest.

The scheme with Mount Tabor (which may or may not have been where the Transfiguration may or may not have actually happened) was that we went up the hill in cabs. Ours was a school party - I went along as a spare adult when a teacher had dropped out - so I was squeezed into the back of a cab with four or five strapping Kentish lads. With Mount Tabor, you go round and round, until you get to the top, and they drive fast, and near the edge of what looks like a sheer drop, from the inside of the cab.

Sandwiched between teenage boys, I had nothing to cling onto - on my part for health and safety reasons, and on theirs, for safeguarding - so we swung to and fro until I couldn't help muttering "if this keeps up, we're going to get a transfiguration of our own a lot sooner than we thought".

Then one of the boys said "don't look now Sir, but have you noticed the driver's only got one arm?"

"O Jesus!" I said, and it really was a prayer for deliverance, not a blasphemous expletive.

But he got us safely to the top, we enjoyed the views (the church sites themselves mostly lack a certain something in the Holy Land), and amazingly got us down safely too.

Untransfigured.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Voting

VOTING ~ FOR THE CHANCELLOR OF OXFORD UNIVERSITY: "Are you interested in the election?" said the bishop. "Oh yes". "And who do you plan to vote for?" "Well now, that's interesting, because Lord Bingham's wife is godmother to my godson's mother, and I reckon that makes Lord Bingham my great-aunt, so I'm voting for him, for family reasons." ""Hmmm" said the bishop.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

the legalities

Permission to Officiate: this is the thing that bishops withhold from people like me: Nasty people. Who get married. They can do so without giving cause, without allowing protest, or defence, without appeal. They think this is just.
The C of E is just a heap of crap.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

On this day

On this day in 1999 I was in the Three Greyhounds in Old Compton Street, in Soho. It was a Friday, and I was down from Cambridge, having a drink with the husband of my friend Yvette, whose birthday it was, and waiting for her, and my boyfriend Daniel. We were going out to dinner.

The bomber, David Copeland, had already set off nail bombs in Brixton (Afro-Carribeans) and Brick Lane (Asians), and we knew that the next would be either Golders Green or Soho.

Old Compton Street has a lot of cellars (some of them full of the most outrageously naughty stuff) and when a bomb goes off, the cellars transmit it. We felt the explosion first in our feet. Then we heard it. Then there was the smell.

And we knew exactly what it was - hate.

Three people died. Seventy were injured.

We carried on, and went out to dinner.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Childhood memory ...

... and back then I didn't know to associate it with Alfred Thomas Haggis, my trigamist great-great-uncle.

There was an old party of Lyme
Who married three wives at one time
When asked "why the third?"
He said "one's absurd
and bigamy, Sir, is a crime"