Through the window
HAD you been walking past our parish rooms a couple of Sundays ago, you would have heard our bring-and-share lunch in full swing. It was the final event of our weekend with Dr Margaret Barker, the biblical scholar and globe-trotting ambassador for the Temple Studies Group; so you might be forgiven for assuming that we would be deep in theological conversation.
If so — like the dog-walker who peered in through our window to see what was going on — you would be in for a surprise as the strains of Flanders and Swann’s “The Gnu Song” rang out, amid much laughter.
IT IS always a joy to welcome Margaret to our parish, not only because she is able to convey the fruits of her own deep biblical study in an accessible way, but because she is, quite simply, good company.
It is in parish churches where most of her teaching takes place; this is deliberate, as she told me: “It is such a joy and privilege to bring Temple Theology to a Christian community, which is where it belongs.
“All Temple Studies events take place in church premises, which is part of the ‘message’. Our great problem, though, is finding premises with adequate loos. A feature of our events can be queues somewhere out at the back.”
At this point, all I could do was sigh and nod. We do not have a lavatory in our church building; the closest ones are in our parish rooms. This means that you have to make your way out of the church, down the steps, through the churchyard, across the car park, out through the gates, up the ramp into our parish rooms, and through to the back, where you are likely to be met by the dreaded queue.
It is not ideal if you are in a wheelchair, have difficulty walking, or are with a potty-training toddler, especially in the winter. One day, perhaps, we will succeed in installing lavatories — and, while we’re dreaming, a kitchen with running water — but I suspect, given the rumpus raised by those who only ever figuratively darken our doorway when we dared suggest such a thing a few years ago, it will not be in the near future.
Home to roost
A RUMPUS of an altogether different variety is happening in our garden at present. My birthday wishes came true, and our coop is now home to several lovely hens, a mixture of Blackrocks and Speckledy hens (for those of you who are interested in such things).
Although they will, ultimately, be free to roam the garden and wooded areas, at the moment they are confined to a run. This is to let them become accustomed to roosting in the coop, and, possibly just as importantly, allow our young dog to become familiar with them before they are let loose.
Unfortunately, it seems that she may be identifying too closely with our chooks, as, whenever she hears them clucking and calling, she responds with the canine equivalent.
If you have ever kept hens, you will be aware that they herald the arrival of an egg with a fanfare of triumphant calling, announcing to the world their achievement in producing the finest egg ever seen. The first time one of our new chooks did this, the dog responded with a howl that would have made a timber wolf proud. It was not necessarily conducive to neighbourly goodwill.
I suppose it could be worse: she could join in with the shenanigans of the village cockerel, who seems to equate the sound of any passing lorry with dawn rising like thunder o’er the valley, and crows from (very) early morning.
Full of grace
ALTHOUGH we live in a pretty village, it is not a rural idyll. The A629 roars along right next to us, and getting out of the village can be a bit of a lengthy process, as it involves waiting for a break in the traffic to allow one to get on to the roundabout.
Recently, however, my husband was touched by the thoughtfulness of a truck driver. Realising that the funeral cortège in which my husband was travelling was waiting to come out of the village, he came to a halt, holding the rest of the traffic back and allowing the whole cortège to move off as one.
This act of kindness was particularly poignant, as the funeral in question was for Marjorie Gee, one of the kindest people one could hope to meet. Marjorie and her husband, a retired Canon of Wakefield Cathedral, Edward Gee, have been wonderful friends and compassionate mentors to my husband and me since we arrived in Kildwick.
Marjorie was, in all senses of the word, graceful: she had a quality of stillness about her which made her a restful companion even in troubled times. She also had a wonderful twinkle in her eye, which meant that laughter was never far away when in her company. We will miss her. I know she would have enjoyed singing “I’m a gnu, how do you do” — and the hippopotamus song — with the rest of us, had she been at Margaret’s lunch.
If would like to hear Margaret speak, St Margaret’s, Westminster, is hosting the annual Temple Studies Group symposium, “The Temple and Heavenly Ascents”, on 22 October. Why not go? You g-never g-know: you might enjoy it.
Elizabeth Figg is married to the Vicar of Kildwick, near Keighley.