Keep your powder dry
“BUNKUM!” a Church Times reader declares in capital letters on a postcard: as good a sign as any that I am about to be taken to task.
The reader, Rodney Wolfe Coe, spotted my initials on a short notice of Claud Fullwood’s Lent book The Rations Challenge (Books, 21 February). I defer to Mr Wolfe Coe’s first-hand experience and retreat from the tentative suggestion that powdered egg might be a speciality of the rationing era whose return would be unwelcome.
Around 1948, Mr Wolfe Coe writes, his “godparents emigrated from Wood Green to Canada (who wouldn’t, given the choice!). During the next few years, while UK food rationing lasted, we received food parcels from Canada.
“Each one always contained tins/packets of powdered egg. The resultant omelets were lovely: far better than the watery £17.95 rubbish now available ‘at a kaf near Smiffield’. As for school luncheon-halls’ mock cream — yuk!”
Awaiting a response from the pro-mock-cream party, I could, having experience of cafés near Smithfield, be tempted to enter the lists on their behalf, too. But the men who run them look more than capable of fighting their own battles.
Good Lord, deliver us
AS THE procession wound round the church on the First Sunday of Lent before the parish mass, our small congregation sang once again about being delivered from “plague” and “pestilence”. I expect this covers coronavirus. No harm in asking.
Until recently, we had the Prayer Book litany in procession on Advent Sunday and Lent 1; but, since an Advent Sunday that coincided with the celebrant’s ordination jubilee, it has been restricted to Lent 1. Before living memory, however, this little service was held on most Sundays in Lent and Advent.
So it would have been in 1918-19, when the pestilence was Spanish flu, and “streets of households were often dangerously ill in bed with nobody to look after them.” In The Long Week-end (1941), Robert Graves and Alan Hodge recalled: “In church, trains, and other public places people wore antiseptic masks of flesh-coloured gauze over nose and mouth.”
No “exchanging the Peace” in those days. But when the kiss of Peace was first reintroduced by Anglo-Catholics, at high mass, it was, in any case, confined to the sacred ministers. I have evidence that it looked rather more Parisian than south London was yet ready for. An elderly worshipper whom I knew more than 20 years ago recalled its debut in the Ascension, Lavender Hill, and the conversation that her mother and another good woman had had on the subject. “What do you think of it, Mrs Kingsley?” “My dear, I just close my eyes.”
“Keep calm and wash your hands” was the message of a nursing friend who, having moved away, made a return visit on Lent 1. Her NHS hospital had its coronavirus pods standing at the ready, she said. Interestingly, it had also lately abandoned its steam-age heating system, rather like Bath Abbey (Letters, 28 February).
In Pamela Hansford Johson’s novel of 1961, The Humbler Creation, the parish priest, Maurice Fisher, has to stoke his unfashionable Kensington church’s solid-fuel boiler himself (no verger). How long before such a high-carbon activity puts a cleric on the wrong side of the Clergy Discipline Measure?
GROVE BOOKS continue to pour forth. At an average of only 28 pages a shot, many must reach their target readership without much assistance from the Church Times. The titles are often self-explanatory.
But some stop me in my tracks, such as Leading in a Second Chair: Insights for first- and second-chair leaders by Tim Harle (L37; 978-1-78827-092-2), which considers the neglected subject of the deputy (kicking off from the example of Clement Attlee rather than Rudolf Hess, since you enquire); and then there is the question-begging title Refusing to be Indispensable: Vacating the centre of church life by Andy Griffiths (L31; 978-1-78827-036).
Here’s a tip that I pass on from him as the annual parochial church meeting approaches: “Those who find that saying ‘No’ is difficult may find it useful to get into the habit, when asked to do something, of always responding with words such as, ‘I’ll need to check my diary and get back to you on that by the end of the week’ or ‘Thank you for asking me; I’ll think about it and let you know by Tuesday.’
“This gives them the time to go away and pick up the courage to say ‘No,’ and perhaps also to find a trusted friend who can be relied on to strengthen their resolve.”
I’ll have to think about whether that’s completely in the spirit of the ninth commandment before I’m able to get back to you on it.
*Both cost £3.95, or £3.55 from the Church Times Bookshop
Hear it for bullfrogs
LIONEL FANTHORPE, clerk in Holy Orders, journalist, and broadcaster, is well known for his prolific work in science fiction, and, with his wife, Patricia, for their investigation of unsolved mysteries.
Their latest publication seems a little different. It is Parables from the Pond*, and features a storyteller hero, the Revd Doctor Hugh John Green, who is not only a warrior-priest, but a bullfrog, commander-in-chief of the Webguard: bullfrogs who defend the weak and helpless in the strange realm of Frogdom from the malevolence of rats. The stories and morals would resonate with our readers.
The charming illustrations are by Rick Seidita. The Fanthorpes he describes as his “Pondparents”, which is where I begin to feel out of my depth.
*£14.99 from Wordcatcher Publishing, www.wordcatcher.com; 978-1-78942-272-6
Want to be alone?
THE anti-“woke” crowd cannot escape their favourite bugbears by fleeing to Anglesey. The Revd Alec Mitchell, of Holyhead, refers to the letter that proposed an “Intinction Rebellion” (21 February) and proposes that sidespeople and welcomers at the church doors be rebranded, therefore, as “Gretas”.