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15 September 2017


Spoiled rotten

“ALL are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place”; so went the gathering hymn for my husband’s service of induction and institution in our new parish, and we have certainly felt very welcomed here.

From the “hamper” in our kitchen on the day we moved in to the numerous kind gifts of flowers and delicious jams and jellies which have arrived on our doorstep, we have been thoroughly spoiled.

Even the dog has enjoyed being pampered: our neighbours have a soft spot for dogs, and our mutt has discovered that, if she stands with her front paws up on the wall in our back garden, and gives a soft bark, she will be rewarded by our neighbours, who will appear with a tasty treat, praise her, and indulge her love of having her ears tickled.


Titans of TV

MY MOTHER has been tickled pink, too — not by the neighbours, I hasten to add, but by her new quarters, in what would normally be the dining room, and by our proximity to the sea. We took her to Morecambe this week, and she was delighted to find the statue of Eric Morecambe standing on the promenade in his iconic “Bring me sunshine” pose, one hand in the air and a leg raised as if skipping.

Saturday nights in my childhood were dominated by three programmes: The Generation Game with Bruce Forsyth, The Two Ronnies, and, of course, Morecambe and Wise.

Each show had its own catchphrases, which found their way into school and family life; my maths teacher would jut his jaw out and say, “Didn’t they do well?” if we managed to answer a question correctly; the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town made frequent appearances in the playground; and my brother and I just about got away with Morecambe’s coughed “Arsenal!” and “What do you think of it so far? Rubbish!” at family gatherings.

After all, who could object to something the genial Eric had said? I do remember upsetting my Great-Aunt Mary, however, when I mentioned short fat hairy legs.


Hairy invaders

SADLY for me, there are many not so short or fat but definitely hairy legs to be found in the vicarage: there are spiders everywhere, and, if I thought the Kildwick arachnids were large, those in Warton are positively Herculean.

Last week, Number 3 Son found me gibbering in the kitchen, having been cornered by the biggest house spider I can remember seeing. It seemed to me that each time I moved, so did Boris (the spider). Not being a fan of The Who*, and being a lover of all living things, he didn’t squash Boris with one of the many books that are still looking for a shelf to call home in our new house: instead, he calmly scooped him up and released him into the long grass in the back garden.

Not being quite so magnificently magnanimous to a creature that my son claimed was “Quite harmless, Mum,” I confess I was rather hoping that the hens might do the job that the books might have been employed to do had I only been able to reach them.

I awoke a few days later to find my left hand swollen, red, and hot: an angry crimson tide was creeping its way up my arm towards my elbow. Closer inspection revealed two puncture marks on the edge of my palm; Boris, or one of his many cousins, had bitten me in my own bed. Harmless my “Arsenal!”

*The Who sang about the book-related demise of Boris the Spider: “He’s come to a sticky end / Don’t think he will ever mend. / Never more will he crawl ’round / He’s embedded in the ground.”


Still the enemy

NUMBER 3 Son is now no longer available for arachnid removal services, as he has just started a year abroad in Germany as part of his degree course. He is studying in Bavaria, home of the Weisswurst, Trachten, and the Oktoberfest, of course; but also home to scientists who are working on the use of spider silk to aid the regeneration of damaged heart muscle and nerve tissue.

Perhaps I should look more kindly on my hairy housemates. I suspect I will still be reaching for a book whenever I see one, however; after all, as the motto for the Bavarian football team Bayern Munich says, “Mia san Mia”, which roughly translates as, “We are who we are.” I am definitely an arachnophobe.


­­Sticking together

THERE was a modicum of confusion about who was who at my husband’s induction and instititution service.

After the formalities had been completed, and Bishop Philip North had given his sermon (impressively managing to include Judge Rinder; the phenomenon of muscle-worship; our Bible readings; and an oblique nod to the lyrics of our gathering hymn, while exhorting us to discover together what kind of community we are called to be), the Area Dean stood up and invited members of the community to come forward and welcome my husband.

All went swimmingly until she announced: “And now we have George Washington.” Silence; and then much laughter as someone pointed out that the person coming forward was not the first President of the United States but the landlady of the the George Washington pub.

Shared laughter acts as a powerful glue in community. As Eric and Ernie used to sing, “In this world where we live there should be more happiness.” Amen to that.


Elizabeth Figg is married to the Vicar of Warton and Borwick with Yealand in Lancashire.

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