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Diary: Sister Rosemary CHN

02 February 2018


One, to two, to three

IN OUR convent library is a book of reproductions from a medieval Book of Hours. One illustration is a delightful picture of the Holy Family at Nazareth, in which Jesus appears as a toddler just learning to walk with the assistance of a baby-walker.

Some years ago, I was looking at this picture with another Sister, and I exclaimed, “I didn’t know they had such things at that time!” (meaning 14th-century France). She considered, and suggested, “Well, I suppose, if his father was a carpenter. . .”

Whether or not little Jesus had such a contraption, I am certain that I did not. My mother was suspicious of such things, fearing that the effort to walk before it could be done unaided might put a strain on baby legs. Having stubbornly refused to engage in any form of locomotion until the advanced age of 15 months, I eventually learned to stagger about by myself.

I may have avoided a baby-walker more than 70 years ago, but I have acquired one now. A combination of arthritic knees, lifelong dodgy balance, and a recent increased propensity to fall over has meant that I have progressed from one stick to two sticks, and then to a tricycle walking-frame.


Revelation on wheels

I DO not know how it feels to a baby, but, to me, having wheeled transport has been an amazing liberation. I can carry liquids without spilling them, and move loaded plates without losing things off the sides. I do not have to expend thought and energy on managing to stay upright, and I do not have to plan my routes to avoid uneven floors.

For the first time in my life I can move around with entire confidence. I look more disabled than I did before, but I feel much less so. Now I just have to work out how to get it on a bus.


Real life, real problems

OUR television watchers have been gripped by Call the Midwife from the very first programme. Ours is not a nursing community, but some of our Sisters have done parish work in similar settings, and recognise the people, their spirit, and their problems. We have long known the real community on which it is based, and are delighted that it has now received recognition.

The series is immensely popular, but some critics dismiss it with patronising sneers. One referred to “the soppy Sisters”. Soppy? These are highly skilled, well-qualified women combining hard professional work with a demanding round of prayer and the challenges of community living, and achieving this with (on the whole) grace and compassion.

The series itself had been described as “cosy Sunday evening entertainment”. Cosy? The programmes, so far, have covered not only childbirth (repeatedly), with all its blood and pain and danger, but domestic abuse, back-street abortion, child prostitution, female genital mutilation, the shortcomings of mental–health provision, and much more. If this is what the critic calls “cosy”, I wonder what he (it usually seems to be “he”) would regard as gritty realism? Something involving car chases and gun battles, perhaps?


Shrinking horizons

MY WORRY, when I realised that the writers of the series had exhausted their source material in the form of Jennifer Worth’s memoirs, was that it would turn into a soap; and, to some extent, I feel that has happened.

In the early days, it was obvious that this was about a whole society, and the impact of post-war changes on a strong traditional culture; the midwives were involved as events affected their patients.

In the more recent series, there has still been a welcome examination of topical issues and developments, but interest has been centred more and more on the small group of people in and around Nonnatus House, so that all the interesting and traumatic events must happen to someone there.

I still watch the programme with avid interest, but I wish the horizon could expand to where it used to be.


Top hat and veils

READERS may remember that, in 2014, I described attending the crowded, impressive, moving, and, in the right sense, joyful funeral of Dr Denise Inge, scholar, writer, and wife of our Community’s Visitor, the Bishop of Worcester (Diary, 16 May 2014).

It was with great joy that, a few months ago, we heard that he was to marry again; and this wedding has now taken place. It was held in a parish church, and, I suspect, was not attended by battalions of bishops, but it must have been a joyful occasion for the couple and their immediate circle.

It did not escape the attention of a Church Times photographer, however, and a picture appeared showing him wearing a wonderfully Dickensian top hat (News, 19 January). (Is this, I asked myself, the “clerical morning dress” that I had heard about, but never previously seen?)

Anyway, they look very happy, and we in the Community are praying for every joy and blessing for them and their families (now, family).


The Revd Sister Rosemary CHN is a nun at the Convent of the Holy Name in Derby.

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