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15 June 2010

by Glyn Paflin

Come dine . . .

THANK goodness steam engines are in the adjacent column, not cookery, this week; for no one likes to be upstaged.

While Eric Treacy’s penchant for steam locomotives remains the most famous instance of an episcopal hobby — leaving even Richard Rutt’s knitting and Cyril Bulley’s terrible verses lagging behind in English folk memory — it seems that nowadays bishops like nothing better than to take over the kitchen and cook up a storm.

Well, almost; for there are tell-tale hints in The Bishops’ Kitchen* — a recipe book commissioned to celebrate the 800th anniversary of St Mary’s, Chidham, in West Sussex — that in many instances it is the wife who wears the episcopal apron.

But how exotic some of these dishes are! Even if mulligatawny soup (Newcastle) has gone native, followed closely behind by onion bhajis (Kingston), there is still the Bishop of Chichester, Dr John Hind: “Yassa”, he writes, “is a West African dish (originally from Senegal). . .”

A Porvoo theme emerges, if not indeed some sort of ecclesiological parallel. Elisabeth Forster cooks her husband (Chester) Danish Frika­deller, “flat, pan-fried dumplings of minced meat”, not to be confused with the Swedish kind, which are poached like quenelles. Dr Rowell (Europe) evens the score for Sweden with his recipe for Jansson’s Tempta­tion (a potato and anchovy gratin).

There is see-of-Dorking pizza; and an Italian note is sounded by the Bishop of Gloucester’s eggs Floren­tine — his favourite recipe — very quick, but to my mind a trifle extra­vagant with its double cream. The Stancliffe household (Salisbury) plays the full sinfonia — Manzo Stufato, or beef stewed in olive oil.

Exoticism may be in the eye of the beholder, since the Archbishop of York opts for baked Bramley apples, spiced with lemon zest and ground ginger; while the flag of British regional cookery is flown by Scottish tablet (Liverpool), spiced beef (an old-fashioned recipe from the late Bishop Cundy), Lancashire hotpot, West Sussex Pond Pudding (Canter­bury asserting its provincial rights here), and Cornish Heavy Cake — “said to be named from hevva, the cry of the Huer who was the lookout man who shouted when he saw a shoal of pilchards”.

Even those of us more likely to see a tin of pilchards were quick to spot that a Le Creuset casserole inspires Bishop Peter Wheatley (Edmonton) to a Provençal way with courgettes, but speaks of Vampire Chicken to Bishop Lindsay Urwin; while Mrs Jack Nicholls cooks a “great favour­ite” for her husband, Chicken in Gin and Beer. I wonder what that tells us.

*available from “The Bishops’ Kitchen”, c/o The Vicarage, Cot Lane, Chidham, Chichester PO18 8TA, for £7.50 plus £1.50 p. & p. Cheques payable to “PCC of Chidham”

Clerical century

A CENTURY of ministry in the Church of England is worth writing up for posterity if you really have an insider’s view; and that can be said of Canon Martin Tunnicliffe, who followed his father, John, ordained in 1910, into the clergy in 1960, and has a reflective take on it all.

Indeed, on 17 July 2010, he plans to preside at a eucharist in York Minster not far from the spot where his father was ordained deacon by Cosmo Gordon Lang.

His father began a memoir, too, and Canon Tunnicliffe has done research for Ministry Matters*, so that before his personal recollections he is able to give a great deal of period detail.

He recounts a tremendous spat that his father had with the Mother Superior of the Community of St Denys in Warminster in 1927, when he told her that, in the light of the Prayer Book controversy, he could not conform to the Bishops’ deci­sions on reservation, or use the missal that had been sanctioned by the diocesan. . .

The match went, needless to say, one-nil to Reverend Mother; which resulted in one of many moves that must have been trying to Canon Tunnicliffe’s own mother — devout and creative — with her large family, although she never seemed to complain. The moves certainly add to the pace of this story, which is far from un­critical family history. It describes his widower father’s period of de­pression in the not-as-confident-as-some-say 1950s, which perhaps helps to explain why so many of the clergy jumped at radical ideas in the following decade.

Then the author’s own ministry began. He took an interest in Clinical Theology, and joined a study group about exorcism, after meeting some disturbed people. He also achieved a more stable ministry than his father’s, since he was at Tanworth-in-Arden from 1978 to 1998 — and brought in many of the changes gen­eral in that era.

As Bishop Michael Whinney notes in a foreword, the author is far from conservative. Indeed, I enjoyed his description of his first woman curate, Deirdre, who seems to have been completely immune to the finer points of his liturgical instruction.

“A restless person by tempera­ment, wearing a belt-less and over-loose white alb, Deirdre floated around the altar like a miniature es­caped barrage-balloon, making up the action (though happily not the words) as she went along, and telling anyone who assisted her: ‘If I get it wrong, blame Martin Tunnicliffe my vicar. He’s the one who trained me and taught me all I know.’”

He was lost for words, but maybe Mother Superior and Tunnicliffe Senior could have reached a com­mon mind about that.

*available for £9 plus £2.50 p. & p. from Canon Martin Tunnicliffe at 202 Ralph Road, Solihull, West Midlands B90 3LE; email martin-tunnicliffe@tesco.net


IS THE poetry of Sir John Betjeman, that loyal Anglican, going out of fashion fast?

Some people never liked it; but, leaving them on one side, it was a risk, if Sir John was thinking about perpetuity, to make so many allusions that now need be explained. Since anyone over 40 has to footnote his or her conversation, that strikes me as a time-bomb.

In the latest newsletter of the Betjeman Society, its chairman, David Pattison, reports that the society’s membership peaked at 964 in 2002, when there were hopes of reaching four figures; but since Sir John’s centenary year in 2006, it has fallen steadily to 755, in 2009. This is despite a very full programme. Publicity is to be improved.

Perhaps the society could sponsor a TV marathon: the top 100 Betjeman moments. Talking heads could recollect what they first liked about them several decades ago. And a 20-year-old soap star could surely be found to tell of falling off her chair when she first heard the one about Miss J. Hunter Dunn.





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