Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter Urchin - An Unexpected Icon

Church is a tricky sort of thing to me at the best of times, and this isn't one of those. Like a moth to a flame, I am drawn to it, yet as I walk through the door wounds that might have been healing become raw again. Maybe they aren't really healing. So, I prefer to creep quietly in to an open church and light a candle and chat to the aumbry or a statue - there's a particularly nice statue of Saint Andrew in Old Headington church, who is a very good listener.

But sometimes it's time to face the throng, and Easter is one of those times. S. Andrew's provides an 8 a.m. Book of Common Prayer Service which suits me fine. It was done with the charm and elegance I have come to expect from our parish priest, and about 20 of us made our Easter communion accordingly to (mostly) the old rite, and didn't have to shake hands or be nice to each other or drink bad coffee.

That was a treat in itself. But there was an even greater one on the walk to church. We are down the hill in Barton, and Old Headington is up, and the main up-road is the largest in the village (if village it is), a grand avenue, suggestive of slightly delusive designs by an over-ambitious town-planner. It was quiet, a little misty, overcast, almost no one about.

And then there was a hedgehog. The first I have seen in Oxford for several years, and certainly the first since we moved to Barton. How often do we see any mammals alive these days? It looked in fine fettle, presumably lately out of hibernation, and dithering across the road in a way that couldn't but make you fear for its future. I hastened my walk, in case my presence on the pavement was daunting it from getting off the road. And then it disappeared under a (parked) car and I carried on to the solemn mysteries of Easter with a sprightlier step and a decided sense of joy and wonder.

"Icon" is perhaps an over-lavish word, but I did think a rolled-up hedgehog might be a sign of the oneness of things. I realise this raises the natural history stakes for Trinity Sunday somewhat.

Spring is sprung, Christ is risen, and the hedgehogs are out and about.

Happy Easter to all and sundry.

Richard Haggis
Barton-upon-Bayswater, Oxford
April 2015


  1. Some sort of omen perhaps? Prickles avoided but still intact or something.
    A Happy Easter to you.

  2. Nature is all around us, sometimes we don't have the eyes to see it, particularly if we speed everywhere in car.

    Since I started walking more last year, I've seen things that I hadn't seen before or, perhaps had seen at 30 mph and not had time to notice.

    We know that there are hedgehogs around, particularly in a derelict garden just up the street from us. Someone lives in the place, but doesn't bother year in - year out, so the garden is a bit of a wildlife haven, even rats have been seen.

    The council comes in every years or so and clears it, presumably billing the occupant, which reduces the wild life as they run for cover. But in the main, you can expect to see all sorts from foxes, various types of mammals and even fogs or toads, as there seems to be a pond in there.

    Our cats love it - and often pop along the back alleyway to pay a visit. Sometimes (not often) bringing home some wild life to share with us - more kindly defined as 'catkill :(

    We also benefit from living in front of a large, well tree'd park behind us, which provides a haven for bird life and squirrels and the like. Bird song has been a feature as the nesting birds are flocking in - and cheekily popping into our garden and, defying the cats, nicking the food put out for the feral cats that live in the garden.