Safely in harbour
THESE days, I tell anyone interested that I am "a retired
retired clergyman". That is to say, I no longer do anything. I
don't help out or stand in. I crave neither altar nor pulpit. I
have forgotten where I put my canonicals.
To be sure, I do go to church. Eighteen months ago, after some
years at sea, my wife and I made harbour in a church that suits us
- a church where you do not have to leave your mind at the door,
where you are welcomed without being pestered, where you are not
required to sing drivel, where the clergy wear neither the smiles
of Mormon missionaries nor the wardrobe of pantomime dames, and
where - above all - eyebrows are never raised.
But, for me, the great blessing in attending this church is that
here I can at last be a layman again. Pat and I can sit side by
side in a pew after the long years in which my professional
pursuits in chancel or sanctuary separated us. So it made good
sense to ask if we could go on to the parish electoral roll
together. Alas, we can't.
We were dismayed to be told, albeit quite correctly, that Pat
could be registered, but I could not. If you are ordained - even if
you have ceased to officiate - you cannot be on the electoral roll;
period. In the eyes of Church House, never to be distracted by
common sense, I am to all eternity an ontological alien. (I gather
from Deuteronomy 23.1 that, in Old Testament times, some gentlemen
were similarly "excluded from the assembly of the Lord". I'm
relieved to say that I'm not banned for the same reason.)
But it is not all bad news. I learn, from the eminent
ecclesiastical lawyer I consulted, that: "O frabjous day! Callooh!
Callay!" - I can still stand for deanery synod.
WE SPEND much of All Saints' Day - which happens to be my
birthday - in a cemetery. The cemetery climbs the steep slopes of a
deep valley in the forests above Gdynia.
We are here, with tens of thousands of others, to remember those
no less loved now that they are departed. Many have made long
journeys to be here, travelling from all over Poland or from
wherever the Polish diaspora has settled. We come bearing flowers
and candle-lit lanterns to the graves of those as dear in death as
The beloved mother of Kasia, our Polish daughter-in law, is
buried here. We place our gifts, and say our prayers, but we do not
hurry away. We do not inflict a discourtesy on the dead that we
would never visit on the living. At midday, mass is celebrated at a
temporary altar among the tombs.
The liturgy is accompanied by a soloist, a woman with a voice of
such surpassing splendour that I wonder briefly whether the Revd
Lucy Winkett has joined the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of
Walsingham and has been parachuted in for the occasion.
Night falls, and the hillsides blaze with the shimmering lights
of the myriad lanterns. It is achingly beautiful. The multitudes
are reluctant to disperse. For them, the communion of saints is not
a form of words, but a fellowship to delight in. This is a night
out with family and friends. It occurs to me that nothing quite
like this will be going on in Hove Cemetery.
An utter travesty
Floating, floating, floating like a Mutant
bird-girl glitch; she's a puking witch.
THE couplet, bellowed by the chorus, indicates the level of the
lyrics of the National Theatre's adaptation of George MacDonald's
fairy tale The Light Princess.
MacDonald's story tells of a princess who, in both senses, lacks
gravity. Unless tethered to the ground, she floats to the ceiling
or the clouds. But she also finds everything irresistibly funny.
She is delivered from her predicament by, of course, the kiss of a
prince. It is a whimsical tale in which MacDonald playfully
explores the themes of levity, and the trials of love.
The National has turned this delicate jeu d'esprit into
yet another of the brassy extravaganzas that are taking over London
theatres like Japanese knotweed. We were told in the programme that
the show "engages with the current malaise over many issues: war,
sexual violence, and the young girl's unfocused desires, the
despairing escapist search for numbness and nullity in binge
drinking, drugs, eating disorders, and self-harm." (The issue of
the spiralling cost of postage stamps was unaddressed.)
On the night we were there, this lamentable production received
a standing ovation from a packed house.
Yes, they can
WE WERE at the Mansion House recently for the launch of a
remarkable book, Children Can Do. It is a celebration of
how children make the world a better place. Most publications about
children in poor parts of the world focus on their plight:
typically, they picture children with bloated bellies, skeletal
frames, and flies crawling on their faces. There are no such
The focus of these pages, organised as a desk diary for 2014, is
on what children in impoverished places are doing to help
themselves and others. "Children Can Do" is the maxim of
Child-to-Child, a small charity with the belief that children
themselves can be effective agents for change. Copies of
Children Can Do can be obtained by contacting
The Revd Dr John Pridmore is a former Rector of