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Diary

14 August 2015

ISTOCK

Not at home

WE ARE holidaying at home this year for a variety of reasons, but living in a vicarage unfortunately makes it tricky to be "away" while still physically present.

Answering a prolonged ring on the doorbell last week, I found a disgruntled couple who were most aggrieved that the church was locked (an unfortunate necessity, even here) and wanted access to our parish records from the 1860s. Unfortunately for them, these are now stored in the County Records Office, a good hour-and-a-half’s drive away.

Their mood was not improved when I told them that I couldn’t let them into the church, as I didn’t have a key; nor did I have a plan of the churchyard. Furthermore, I couldn’t ask the Vicar, as he was on holiday. I offered to walk them to the churchwarden’s house, adding that she has her own set of church keys and a much greater knowledge of both the churchyard and the village history than I.

This was, apparently, unacceptable. We looked at each other. Eventually, I smiled as benignly as I could, offered my sympathies for their wasted trip, wished them a safe journey home, and closed the door. I then went into the garden and savaged a large thistle that had the misfortune to be the first weed that caught my eye. It’s not always "Murder at the Vicarage", but it can be exasperating.

 

Daring young woman

STAYING at home means that, apart from being able to clear out the garage, we can spend more time exploring the area in which we live. Yesterday we went to Penistone Hill above Haworth; we’ve visited the various Brontë-related sites before, but this time I indulged in a favourite holiday pastime.

Wherever we find ourselves, I do enjoy looking through the graveyard: you never know what stories you’ll unearth. In Penistone Hill cemetery, I found the grave of 21-year-old Miss Elizabeth Mary (Lily) Cove. Lily was a woman ahead of her time. Born in the East End of London, she became a well-known parachutist. Ascending into the skies, strapped to a trapeze that hung beneath a balloon, she would jump off and parachute to the ground, to the delight of the crowds.

Unfortunately, she died attempting a jump at Haworth Gala on 11 June 1906. As a result of this tragedy, the Home Secretary, Herbert Gladstone, declared: "I have prepared, and hope to introduce shortly, a Bill extending the Dangerous Performances Act to all women." It seems preposterous today to think of women being banned from what might be termed extreme sport.

 

University challenge

A LEVEL results come out on 13 August this year; so, by the time you are reading this, young people all over the country will know what grades they have achieved.

Number 3 Son is among those who are receiving their results, and hopes to follow his brothers to university; unfortunately, he will graduate with much greater debt than theirs, since maintenance grants will soon become loans. I have my doubts about the wisdom of burdening our young with enormous debts, no matter what the son of the 17th Baronet of Ballentaylor, also known as George Osborne, might say.

On a happier note, Number 1 Son is now a graduate. What is more, he is a graduate with a job, unlike many of his cohort. We had a wonderful time at his graduation, and took far too many photographs, which I am now attempting to cull — a hard task, as each photo has a memory attached to it.

There was one, however, that I felt no compunction in deleting: it featured me in an unguarded moment, leaning against a wall, one foot raised behind me and a pained expression on my face. You’d think, at my age, I would know better than to buy new shoes two days before wearing them to an all-day event.

 

Holier than Worzel

THIS weekend is the annual Kildwick and Farnhill Scarecrow Festival, organised by the landlords of the village pub in support of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

It’s a charity close to Figg hearts, not only because we know people who have benefited from the skill and expertise of the crews, but because my brother-in-law is a helicopter pilot who has flown the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and continues to fly air ambulances around the country.

Cleaning the garage, we found the frames from last year’s scarecrows: Sts Francis and Andrew, a wedding party, and three boys playing hide and seek. I’m using some of the old frames for this year’s scarecrows, but will need new stuffing, as a family of mice have decided to nest in what was left of St Francis.

When my husband showed me their handiwork, I wondered whether they were some of the mice we had removed from the church, and felt a pang of guilt at destroying their haven. Thankfully, St Francis lost his head when I dismantled the scarecrows last year; so I didn’t have to look him in the eye as I removed the nest from what had been his chest.

 

Incognito in church

ONE of the things we appreciate most about being on holiday is being able to worship together in churches where nobody knows us. After a lively city-centre service, we got chatting to some American tourists who were thoroughly enjoying Yorkshire. "Everyone’s real friendly!" they beamed. True, although I’m not sure a certain couple would agree.

 

Elizabeth Figg is married to the Vicar of Kildwick, North Yorkshire.

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