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Diary: Elizabeth Figg

05 May 2017


‘Left hand down a bit’
EVERY time I find myself stuck in a Friday afternoon traffic jam, I promise myself “Never again!” Yet there I was last week, at a standstill on the M6, contemplating how long it might take me to reach the next service station, and deeply regret­ting the large coffee I had enjoyed at the last one.

Bored with the radio but desper­ate for distraction, I explored the vari­ous cubby-holes within reach, and found some ancient Fruit Pastilles clinging together in a sticky lump; a horde of old car-park tickets; charging-cables for phones we no longer possess; and a Navy Lark CD belonging to my husband. He insists that the comedic ad­­­ven­tures of HMS Troutbridge and her crew bear no resemblance to his time in the Navy, but I remember at least one of his friends who could have passed as Sub-Lt. Phillips RN, if only for his laugh.

Of course, laughter is not neces­sarily desirable when one is brimful of coffee and stuck in one’s car, but the CD kept me amused until the traffic started moving again, and I reached the next services in good humour and with my dignity intact.


Flowering of prayer
DIGNITY, though, is sometimes over­rated, and needs to be set aside to allow space for more important things. I once spent some time with a group of children who were ex­­­plor­ing the topic of prayer. Can you imagine their feelings on being told that a vicar’s wife was coming to talk to them about prayer?

When I walked in, their faces said it all: expressions ranged from a polite lack of interest to mutinous bore­dom and every shade of indif­ference in between. After sessions involving the more “usual” forms of prayer, but also featuring the use of a basket­­ball; dance; and copious amounts of paint — only some of which stayed on the paper — most, if not all, of the children were more “engaged with the topic”, as the teachers put it.

I cannot imagine I looked very dignified, splattered with paint or joining in the prayer-dance choreo­graphed by the children; more im­­portantly, though, the children had the opportunity to explore different ways of speaking with God.

Weeks later, I received a paper flower from one of the children
who had seemed less engaged by the activities. The enclosed note ex­­plained that she had stuck a petal on the flower every day since I had been with them, and that, with each petal, she had said a prayer.

It was a delight to receive, not least as it reminded me that I should not make assumptions; this child who had appeared to keep herself slightly aloof during the prayer activities had, in fact, been quietly working out her own response.


Extreme remedies
ALOOF is one thing that my hens cannot now be accused of being. After they had spent their winter in­­­carcerated in our polytunnel, owing to the avian-flu outbreak, I released them back into the garden in late February, which was as much a relief to me as to the hens. Having been sent to Coventry by them when I was forced to act as their jailer, I am now, once more, an honor­ary member of the flock.

Yesterday, encouraged by the spring sunshine, I spent the after­noon trying to tidy up the garden, accompanied at every step by the hens, who kept up a running com­mentary, clucking in approval when I unearthed any worms, and mut­tering generally when I was under­taking more boring activities such as fixing the fence.

One situation that seems to have resolved itself is our mole invasion — many thanks to everyone who contacted me with advice about how to send them on their way. You came up with some intriguing mole-repellent ideas, which included brushing the dog and putting the collected hair down the holes; making up a mixture of chilli and garlic powder and sprinkling it into the holes in generous measure; plugging the holes with cloves of garlic; pouring a mixture of castor oil and liquid soap into the holes; and, finally, using science in the form of a commercial insert that emits ultrasonic waves.

Ultimately, however, the moles left of their own volition, leaving behind many piles of beautifully rich soil, which have been incorpor­ated into my potting compost, and are now nourishing my veget­able seedlings.


On our way — almost
IN JULY, we, too, will be leaving Kildwick. It has just been an­­­nounced that my husband is to be the new Vicar of the united benefice of Warton and Borwick with Yealand Conyers, in the diocese of Blackburn.

After 16 years in Kildwick, it will be a wrench leaving. This is the community and the home in which our children grew up; but we are very much looking forward to be­­­coming part of our new community; and our friends here in Kildwick know that they will always find a welcome in our new home.

We have entered that strange time, the pause between the an­­­nounce­­ment of our departure and the actual leaving, when each day and every activity takes on a new significance. Today, I found myself looking at the view from the study, admiring the blossom on our cherry tree, and I began to wonder who would be gazing at it next year.

I won’t have much time for con­templation in the next few months, however, because, everyday busy­ness aside, there is 16 years of accumulated “stuff” to sort through. Anyone want some obsolete phone-charging cables?


Elizabeth Figg is married to the Vicar of Kildwick, near Keighley.

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