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Word from Wormingford

by
30 November 2011

We wait expectantly — but for whom?, asks Ronald Blythe

ADVENT. Season of name-giving — and such names! Who giveth these names? Heaven only knows. Poets, saints, youths, ancient folk. What shall we call him? Adonaï — a name for God? Dayspring bright? Desire of nations? Key which opens what cannot be closed? Emmanuel, of course.

In the congregation, a baby is long overdue, spinning out womb-days in order to have an Advent birth. What shall we call him or her? Something beautiful. No flowers in church, but all this name-calling. Outside, murk and final sunshine, slippery leaves, and noisy rooks. Inside, I say the sublime Advent collect, the one about putting away works of darkness and putting on the armour of light. Shall we sing Eleanor Farjeon’s carol of the Advent?

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look East, and sing today:
Love the Rose is on the way.

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look East, and sing today:
Love the Rose is on the way.

Quite a lot of charlock is being grown, and brassy yellow alternates with rich browns in the landscape. Trees and hedges are semi-bare, but the air has a sultriness tinged with frost. Norfolk friends are held up by fogs. The white cat takes up winter quarters, this time on my garden-tools table in the boiler room, her tail wound around a hot pipe. She sleeps deeply 23 hours a day, and, apart from six square meals, will not come to until late March. Who would?

I would, for one. I would not mind missing Christmas, but to miss Advent! Ages ago, Advent was as strict a fast as Lent, the Second Coming in mind. Now, a confusion of natural and supernatural birth, plus this intense welcoming of the gloriously named Child, plus, it has to be said, an absence of judge­mental terror and awe, makes the severity of a flowerless sanctuary a liturgical pointer to winter. Little more.

Richard Mabey arrives, and we talk shop. The years of our friendship are quite amazing. We go back a bit, as they say. We sit by the stove, and the ash logs spit at us. A chicken sizzles in the oven. He and Polly have brought champagne and apple tart. Thus we slummock in the old room as the light fails, careful not to bore one another with current toil, the flames illuminating our three faces.

Polly has returned from Zambia, and from an encouraging account of her son’s refrigerator, its hairy contents, and its almost archaeo­logical sell-by dates. Her son runs a wild-animal reserve, and an ele­phant can, literally, be in the room.

But pythons, tigers — what are these to her son’s fearful groceries, mouldering away in the icy darkness? When they have gone, I find some pâté right at the back of my fridge; quite good, but dated 2009. Oh, the waste, the strength of character needed to cast it forth! The fridge stands in a brick-floored dairy, so cold in itself as to compete with this newfangled gadget for keeping food edible for ages. Though not for ever.

Apart from Adonaï-Dayspring-Desire of Nations, what else will Advent bring us? There will be Gaudete Sunday, when, as in mid-Lent, a rose-coloured vestment may be worn. For me, the pulsating season itself will always be enough.

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