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Diary: Serenhedd James

05 July 2019


Come higher

I MADE it into the posh seats for Luke Irvine-Capel’s Collation and Induction as Archdeacon of Chichester in early May — which just goes to show what can happen when one turns up looking vaguely plausible and slightly late. I got into the cathedral just as everyone stood up for the Lord Lieutenant’s representative to be escorted to his place in the choir, and was promptly ushered eastwards. I was next through the screen; the moment I appeared, everyone sat down again.

Many years ago, I was Luke’s pastoral assistant in Pimlico, and so it was something of a reunion; but four individuals formed the neatest link of all. The new Archdeacon was presented to the Bishop of Chichester by the Bishop of Horsham, in the presence of the Ven. Michael Brotherton, and Canon Christopher Irvine. Bishop Sowerby is about to become Principal of Mirfield; Fr Irvine was Principal of Mirfield, having previously been Vicar of St Mary and St John, Cowley; and Fr Brotherton was Vicar of St Mary and St John, Cowley, and later Archdeacon of Chichester. Small world, isn’t it?

Gathering the fragments

I HAVE had a bit of a clear-out, and among the accumulated ephemera of the past decade were some rare items that I thought really ought to be deposited in the archives at Lambeth Palace Library. There were stray pieces related to the Cowley Fathers, but also a few other gems. One of them was a pleasingly stiff invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury to join him for dinner after the inaugural Archbishop’s XI v. St Peter’s ecumenical cricket match, in September 2014. I organised the bunfight on that occasion; so I suppose I must have sent it to myself.

Next up came a copy of the order of service for Polari evensong at Westcott House in January 2017 (News, 10 February 2017), which I dare say quite a few people might prefer to forget.

Almost my favourite was the menu from a smart ecumenical dinner in Rome, at which a particularly verbose ambassador to the Holy See (not ours, certainly) seemed determined to say something at every possible moment. It was annotated in the course of the meal by a colleague who shall remain nameless. The completed addenda included “A song in honour of the Archbishop of Canterbury” preceding the toasts; after them, “A poem in honour of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s wife”; and, finally, “The dance of the seven veils”. It will not be available to researchers for a long while yet.

Alas, the powers-that-be rejected the best item of all: a plastic sack with “See of Ebbsfleet” printed on it — literally, an Anglo-Catholic bag. Plenty of those about, I suppose.

Change and decay

IN MID-JUNE, I made a whistle-stop trip to Durham. Once upon a time, I read theology there; so ghosts abounded. All of them, however, were smiling and happy, and the driving rain was seasonably warm. Gosh, we had fun back then: bickering over liturgical minutiae and traditional language; fretting over where one could still get collars properly starched; and enthusiastically taking part in a cherished college-wide quest to annoy the chaplain. I think in the end he went to America.

Those were the days of being able to go out of an evening armed with a £10 note, and not remember coming home. I hadn’t been to the Palatinate for years; but, once the day was over, I headed to the Shakespeare in a similar spirit of adventure. Long before the smoking ban, it hosted many a Sunday-night session behind its frosted glass: the men of the cathedral choir crammed into the gorgeous little snug behind the bar; gallons of Black Sheep ale; dubious cheese-and-onion toasties, from which one had to scrape the melted plastic; and the organist and master of the choristers drinking Guinness by the half.

Nearly two decades later, is nothing sacred? The frosted glass was gone; the snug had been demolished. A generic pub, now, like any other — the only reminder of what once had been in the surviving stained glass of the inner door. I was so appalled that I nearly turned on my heel and left; but I swallowed my outrage in favour of slaking my thirst. I sulkily drank my pint sitting in what used to be the corridor, glaring accusingly at the gaping hole next to the bar, where the snug once was. Nostalgia’s not what it used to be.

Grant her peace

ALAS, Tardar Sauce — better known as “Grumpy Cat” — is no more. Having become an internet sensation thanks to a genetic condition that fixed her face in a permanent frown, she died in May. But, with 8.3 million Facebook followers, 2.4 million on Instagram, and 1.5 million on Twitter, her work lives on. Memes also abound: in humble tribute, I include my favourite here.

Dr Serenhedd James is Tutor in Theology at Oriel College, Oxford, and Hon. Research Fellow of St Stephen’s House.

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