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Word from Wormingford

20 January 2010

Ronald Blythe hears the shouts of the spectators at a chariot race

I ALWAYS return from the PCC with the feeling of having said a good many silly things.

Looking back over the years, I see a range of venues, which stretch from frigid church halls to Henry’s cosy sitting-room, from hard stack-chairs to his deep sofa. But the denizens are the same, the dear faces, the expected pleas and wraths, the common sense, the amazing abilities, the astonishing methods of raising funds, the hand of strong government.

With ice outside, we arrange garden parties. With snowy boots in the hall and socks on Henry’s carpet, we organise the flower festival. This May it will have the theme of the Benedicite, and Alex has drawn the “O Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, bless ye the Lord; praise him, and magnify him for ever” straw.

I recommend her to see the John Piper window in Aldeburgh Parish Church. I adore this canticle. We sing it in triple verses during Lent, and the liturgical space between our­selves and the Middle Ages vanishes. “O ye green things upon the earth, bless ye the Lord.”

This green thing makes his usual hopeless suggestions. Barry is prac­tical re the acer that threatens the church porch. Planted by a Victorian priest, it is gradually perishing, and must come down. Not in its present dead-branch-by-dead-branch state, but all at once. There is honey fungus round its roots.

But it and the Saxon tower have lived long enough together for there to be bereavement. But, too, the tree-fellers, taking our grief into consideration, will turn its trunk into planks for the choir vestry. “And so let us end with the Grace,” says Henry. So let us. And the slide home on black ice.

I am writing a book about my old fields. Up hill and down dale they always were. The poor struggling Suffolk Punches and the one-foot-in-the-furrow ploughman. And the dreadful February draining of the land with faggots, the numb hands, the winter sun tumbling behind the elms. And a far bell tolling a death.

The archaeologists arrive with news of the circus. A few miles east, in Colchester, they have found a Roman circus. Well, not a ring, but 400 yards of stone seating for 15,000 spectators. I can hear their cries as the chariots race. Nothing like this has been discovered in Britain be­fore. We cannot wait to get our spades on it.

These Romans had a little church by the new police station, and, as well as the circus shouts, I hear their hymns. Maybe Prudentius’s Cultor Dei, memento.

Servant of God, remember
The stream thy soul bedewing,
The grace that came upon thee
Anointing and renewing.

The Cross dissolves the darkness,
And drives away temptation;
It calms the wavering spirit
By quiet consecration. Amen.

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