SAD news for regular readers of my outpourings: Bobby, our oft-mentioned guinea pig, is no more. He was the last of the Robinson guinea pigs, and the longest lived, and his death had a bigger impact than any of the others’.
He had been with us, I realised, for half my son’s life. We buried him, with much mourning and ceremony, in the rectory garden. Following the ordinary pattern of a pet funeral (reading from Isaiah 11 about a heavenly vision of peaceful animals, followed by one verse only of “All things bright and beautiful” because that’s as much as I can stand), I felt moved to write Bobby a eulogy on social media, struggling to express the precise shape and surprising extent of the space that one small furry potato had managed to carve into our lives.
Five years may not be a very long life, but it is still difficult to encapsulate in words.
Winds of change
THREE celebrations converged on the same weekend: Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, the Association of Christian Writers’ golden jubilee, and the feast of Pentecost. Thus, I left the Rector in charge of two children for the busiest weekend of his year, and went merrily off to Swanwick to join one hundred other writers for the busiest weekend of mine.
Before I left, I put on my benefice-children’s-worker hat, and supplied the Rector with an interactive way of telling the story of Pentecost for his informal evening service, reminding him that — should he need an example — I had been recorded telling it this way at the cathedral three years ago.
I later discovered that, rather than attempt it himself, he had simply played the video. This was all very well as far as flickering fingers for tongues of flame and shouting things in different languages went, but, when it came to the rushing wind, my shout of “If you don’t have a pinwheel, just blow!” was not met with as much enthusiasm as it had been in pre-pandemic times.
Lost for words
MY SON’s shiny new school library was the perfect place to launch my two latest children’s books. The wheels of publishing turn so slowly that it was a pleasure to rediscover the stories that I had written; it’s a strange experience, sometimes, as if my past self is communicating things that I had forgotten.
In the title story of the first book, Louisa Freya defeats a seven-headed dragon by hacking out each of its tongues and putting them all in her pocket, a scene that was met with deafening enthusiasm by the children, while turning the teachers a little pale.
I couldn’t help thinking, as Louisa Freya discovered that the tongue was where all the beast’s power lay, that to tell a story out loud might be one of the most effective things that we can do. Then a reporter came to interview me for the local paper, and I stammered something simpering about the importance of reading. Speech is not quite so powerful when it’s under-rehearsed.
AT THE ACW jubilee weekend, I found myself at the coffee machines with Sarah Tummey, a fellow writer who is blind. I had just been listening to some of her poetry in the previous workshop, and we chatted about her masterful twin etheree [a type of poem which has ten lines] while I attempted to fulfil her request for a black coffee.
Unfortunately, I placed the mug centrally under the machine without noticing that the coffee-producing spouts were located on either side. Mopping up the resulting deluge, I handed her a dripping mug, apologising and trying to explain why it was wet. I then reached out for a second mug with my other hand, saying confidently: “I know what I’m doing now, I need to put it over to one side.”
With that, I pressed the button again and realised that I’d put the mug in upside down. As we were both sprayed with coffee for a second time, I kept up the now slightly hysterical audio-narration of my own stupidity, to the bemusement of poor Sarah, whose innocent request for a drink seemed to have set off a one-woman slapstick routine.
The Word was God
THE final presentation of the weekend was given by Jonathan Bryan, an accomplished author and, at 16, the youngest member of ACW (Feature, 13 April 2018). His every word is painstakingly written, using an alphabet board and the movement of his eyes: two or three movements to choose each letter.
Words produced with such effort have no possibility of being either under-rehearsed or excessive, which is probably why Jonathan is such an extraordinary poet. His pre-recorded talk took us through his journey from being unable to communicate to expressing profound thoughts about life and faith, as well as his struggle with publishers and broadcasters to keep the name of Jesus in his work. He received a standing ovation.
The impact of his talk on a roomful of writers was not just because of what he had overcome to be able to give it, but because Jonathan demonstrated the truth that the work we do with words really does matter. His writing is a reminder of the sheer holiness of every word that makes it out of one person’s mind and into another, to become — like George Herbert’s definition of prayer — something understood.
Amy Scott Robinson is a writer, performance storyteller, and ventriloquist.
Louisa Freya, Dragon Slayer and Queen Esther, Nation Saver are each published by Lion Hudson at £7.99 (Church Times Bookshop £7.19); 978-0-74597-947-2 and 978-0-74597-953-3 respectively.