IT IS one of those not uncommon April-in-January mornings.
Cirrus clouds rinsed with gold, animals wearing haloes - which they
should, of course. The white cat, spread out on a radiator below
the window, like a Roman at dinner, invites the winter sun to warm
her. Birds idle above.
A long time ago, standing in the school playground and looking
up, I heard a little boy say: "They don't know it's Thursday." Now
and then, I don't know it's the 14th, or whatever. Someone knocks
and says: "You are expecting me, aren't you?" "Yes, yes, of course,
come in." I reach for the coffee/tea.
Jason has brought the Akenfield chair, a handsome descendant of
the Arts and Crafts movement. It takes up its position in the
ancient room with aplomb. I sit in it, and am at once enthroned.
Tim, the wonderful craftsman, has made it out of oak, and maybe
fruit woods. I must ask him. I sit in it apologetically, like the
unworthy inheritor of a crown. It had pride of place at the Alde
The River Alde flows vaguely towards the Aldeburgh marshes, and
thus to the North Sea. I lived by it when I was young. Now I live
by the Stour, and in fine company: Thomas Gainsborough and John
Constable. Slightly in flood, it glitters through my bedroom
When I was young, it poured through the low-lying cottages at
Burs, just down the road. No electrics and fitted carpets in those
days; so the wooden furniture was hauled up the narrow stairs until
the water went down, and was swept out. Seeing today's flood
victims in Gloucestershire, my heart goes out to them. Water right
up to the telly, boats outside, belated insurance, no dove to
announce God's forgiveness.
Constable loved rainbows. He painted one above Stoke by Nayland
a few miles from here - knew how to merge the seven colours, all in
their prismatic order. There could be a rainbow today, I think.
The Epiphany continues another showing. Another "Brightest and
best of the sons of the morning", among which count me. I'm not
very bright in the evenings. "Wake up, that boy at the back there!"
Fragments of old protests try to stir me into action. What a
On Sunday mornings, before Meriel or Mike arrives to drive me to
church, I listen to the radio service, unreasonably disappointed by
the thin singing, longing for that glorious full congregational
sound. A priest overcomes all the techniques of broadcasting with
her prayerfulness. It is very beautiful. I read George Herbert on
this programme, and my friend Canon Judy Rees officiated.
I was with my friend Vikram Seth, a Hindu who comes to evensong.
It was at Bemerton, near Salisbury, where Herbert was rector for a
little more than two years - and changed the face of the Church of
England. Should you go there, you will hear the bell that he
tolled, and open the door that he opened - and not only to his
parish church, but to aspects of believing which remain
transforming. He was tall, young, and ill. Coughing, singing to his
lute. Writing poems that no one knew about. Vikram Seth has
absorbed them, even continued them.
At the Epiphany, we continue in the light. What would we see