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Diary: Elizabeth Figg

02 August 2019


Ebb and flow

FOR nearly nine years, I have swept up and down the country as part of the great termly tidal surge of parents bearing young people and their belongings to and from university; but, with the graduation of Number Three Son, my overladen coracle has finally come to rest on the shingle. No more trying to arrange the various bags and boxes so that I can see through the rear-view mirror; no more hauling the said bags and boxes up endless flights of stairs in student flats and houses of varying degrees of decrepitude; no more stocking up their cupboards with enough pasta, rice, and tinned food to make a nutritionist (and my bank manager) weep; no more touching up the paint on the car where the bike rack has scratched it. Then again, probably, no more six-hour journeys alone with any of my sons; no more singing along to the radio, or seeing whose boiled sweet lasts longest — preferably not at the same time. And, perhaps, no more deep discussions of the sort such lengthy journeys facilitate. Time and tide. . .

Ministry of welcome?

BEFORE the graduation ceremony, Number Three Son warned me that any cheering and waving would be frowned on — by him, if no one else. So, when our son was called forward, I smiled and clapped politely while internally channelling Coco Gauff’s delighted mother as she watched her daughter beat Venus Williams. I did, however, permit myself a small sotto voce “Woo-hoo!” as he shook hands with the Chancellor.

That handshake seemed unhurried, despite the numbers graduating — a rather stark contrast to the one I received at a church only a few weeks ago. As someone who regularly finds herself away from home on a Sunday, I have become used to being one of the “visitors” welcomed at the start of each church service, and normally I do feel welcomed.

On the Sunday that I attended this particular church (no names, no pack-drill), however, all the words of welcome as the service began were undone by the attitude of the priest as I came to take my leave. Since most people were staying for coffee, there was no queue waiting to bid the vicar adieu as I approached him, a smile and words of thanks on my lips.

Now, perhaps the vicar was feeling under the weather, or was desperate for his lunch, but what happened next left me feeling dismissed, discounted, and disgruntled: his eyes slid past me as he took my proffered hand, and, with a movement reminiscent of a bored father-of-the-bride anxious to keep the “meet-and-greet” line moving, used it to propel me towards the exit while muttering an unsmiling “Goodbye” to the air somewhere behind my left ear.

Metaphorically shaking the dust from my feet, I drove off with a fresh appreciation of the priests who take the time to speak to visitors and regulars alike — and resolved not to give my husband a hard time when, yet again, he breezes in late for Sunday lunch, declaring, “Sorry, got caught chatting.”

Sweet Sixteen

THE last few weeks have been frenetic in various ways, but, in the midst of the chaos, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to enjoy some cultural delights as well. Most recently, Number Two Son treated my husband and me to a concert by The Sixteen. Please don’t choke on your tea (or whatever refreshment you imbibe while reading this venerable publication) when I confess that I had never come across them before. On speaking with friends, I realise that this puts me firmly in the Philistine camp, as it seems that they are generally acknowledged to be among the best choirs in the UK (or, according to one very enthusiastic friend, “the known universe”).

Having enjoyed hearing them perform at Lancaster Priory, I agree that they are, indeed, a marvellous choir. Should you be a fellow Philistine, you can find out more about them at www.thesixteen.com. They are currently in the midst of their 2019 “Choral Pilgrimage” around the country; so you may very well be able to buy tickets for a performance near you.

Total immersion

HERE, in our benefice, we are blessed with a talented and enthusiastic choir which includes several young people who enjoy attending the annual RSCM summer school. To help pay for this, the choir recently held a “Musicathon”: 12 hours of musical performances by choir members and friends.

I’m not the best of singers, and — with the exception of church services and long car journeys — rarely unleash my vocal chords on the world; so my contribution to the day was in the form of buns for the refreshment stall (given my culinary skills, ”buns” may be a tad optimistic; perhaps “rock cakes” would be more accurate).

My husband’s involvement, however, was more rock’n’roll: the finale to the day was ABBAhemian Rhapsody: an hour-long celebration of the music of ABBA and Queen, culminating in a foot-stomping rendition of “Waterloo”, during which he — along with a couple of members of the choir — surprised everyone by appearing as ABBA, complete, in my husband’s case, with beard-glitter, shiny white bell-bottoms, colourful wig, and a neon-blue shirt.

Despite a plea from one parishioner that he wear this costume at our regular services, it is now tucked safely away in the deepest, darkest corner of the wardrobe. Thank you for the music, ABBA, but — mamma mia! — your songs were better than your dress sense.

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

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