Stop all the clocks
LAST year, the Victorian clock face on our village church tower was taken down to be cleaned and restored. The sight of the tower without it had a slightly unsettling effect, like a stiletto shoe without its heel, and there was a feeling of order restored when the much shinier clock was fixed back into place by an intrepid abseiler.
Since the beginning of lockdown, however, and the closure of the church building, nobody has been able to go in to climb the tower and wind the clock. I still glance up automatically every time I reach the bottom of our driveway, used to finding out how late I am for school or whether the post office will still be open, and, each time, I experience the new small shock of not knowing the time, or having anywhere in particular to be. The clock’s newly cleaned hands stand still, a symbol of interrupted village life.
Kept in the dark
AT THE beginning of half-term, we took advantage of the slightly loosened lockdown to try a longer drive than we had attempted since March: about 45 minutes. The children had not been in a car for ten weeks, and reacted as if we’d suggested a trek across the Sahara.
As they remembered how to do up their seatbelts, my son turned urgently to his sister and said, “Quick, we need to start having fun! Time flies when you’re having fun.” I can only assume that this nugget of wisdom comes from his experience of my attempts to deliver schoolwork at home, with just my unpleasant memories of a failed teaching career to go on.
I do enjoy learning at the same time as the children, though. Their recent “Under the Sea” topic has been fascinating. Apparently, the deeper down you go in the ocean, the longer the lifespan of the resident sea creatures tends to be. An Orange Roughy living in the midnight zone can last up to 200 years. There is even a jellyfish that appears to be immortal, able to age in reverse and start again from an earlier stage of development. Hundreds of years in freezing temperatures with no natural light? One can only hope they’re having fun.
Horses for courses
I AM whatever is the opposite of green-fingered. Plants wilt and wither when I look at them. So, while everybody else’s gardens, it seems, have recently been transformed into welcoming outdoor havens, the rectory patch maintains its usual state of neglect. That said, the Rector, deprived of his regular trips to the gym, has proved more than usually willing to wield the lawnmower. Since our lawn is better described as a meadow (and we do like to leave something for the bees), we now have a beautiful labyrinth mown into the back garden.
It is surprising how effectively this turns the daily constitutional into an adventure of twists and turns as one follows the pattern, which tauntingly leads to the inner circle, then back to the outermost path, before surprising the walker with arrival in the centre. Ambling both in and out takes long enough to recite a sonnet, hum “The Swan”, or utter a despairing prayer over the day’s news — unless, that is, you are aged below ten. The children prefer to use it as a racetrack.
All shall have prizes
LOCKDOWN days are all blending into beige — the only ones that stand out being the celebrations: memories of what we did, or what we couldn’t do, to mark an important occasion.
There’s the online game that replaced an eighth birthday party; the procession of three around our garden for Palm Sunday; the dawn chorus that sang as we live-streamed Easter liturgy; the paper pinwheels that we made for Pentecost: the ebb and flow of life’s landmarks limping along.
July will be our 15th wedding anniversary, prompting the question whether we should wait one year or another five for the celebration that we might have had. Why do we count things in fives and tens anyway? What is less significant about 16? Fifteen is one of the original set that traditionally had an associated gift (crystal), although now — as humanity becomes more impatient by the year — they all do.
PETERTIDE, this year, marks the tenth anniversary of my husband’s priesting; when I asked him, at the beginning of the month, how we might celebrate, he replied that he hadn’t yet looked that far ahead in his diary.
Time is folding itself into smaller and smaller increments as far as planning goes. Will the church building be open? Will there be gatherings of more than six? Will he want to say a mass if most of the congregation remains at home, self-isolating?
Whatever happens, our thoughts will be with those who should have been ordained this Petertide, and starting out on the adventure that has been ours for the past decade. My prayer for them is that they, too, may find that ministry happens at the most surprising of times and places; and — whether time is flying or crawling by, whether they are marking days in lockdown, or separating ceremony from celebration by a year — may the one for whom a thousand years are like a day hold all their days in his hand.
Amy Scott Robinson is a writer, performance storyteller, and ventriloquist.