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Diary: Glyn Paflin

11 March 2022


No full stop

WITHOUT asking, you might be mistaken if you sensed the discomfort of publishers who commissioned titles about “the new normal” without knowing that a European war was just over the horizon — though I doubt it.

In 2020-21, it was probably a comforting self-delusion that we all needed: to take the Sellar-and-Yeatman line that history had come to a full stop — before this turned out to be only a semi-colon. And, not being out of ellipsis (. . .) mode yet myself, I shouldn’t like readers to think that I’m point-scoring.

On my desk in Invicta House, at least, Miss Havisham’s wedding breakfast (February 2020 edition) is still to be cleared away, despite a memo. The new abnormal, with its hybrid of remote/office working and accumulated fatigue, has not proved big on spare time and energy.

But how ironic! — to pick up an in-tray and see handwritten letters expressing “antipathy towards the exchange of the peace as currently practised”, as one reader put it. My guess is that, for most of us, this has slipped down the priority list.

Then there are the mailed letters that fell by the wayside while all of us were far-flung; but a few of these, at least, have an almost timeless quality. “I have noticed a rapidly increasing tendency in public utterance — particularly in religious broadcasting — to add a ‘t’ sound to words ending in ‘d’. Thus we hear plenty of Lordt Godt. This is frequent enough to suggest that it must be being taught somewhere. I can’t think why. . .”

Even now, Mr Inkley, we hear you and share your pain.


People again

THIS is to say nothing of the relics of things that it “might have been interesting to do something about” before we were so rudely interrupted. Oh yes, there’s a tray for that, too, labelled something else.

Most review copies of publications that sank under the waves of Covid have, at least, now left the building, taking their silent rebuke with them; and the new abnormal is that it is harder to get hold of physical review copies than it was.

But the other side of the coin is the knitting of severed friendships up, which continues, though at a slower pace than expected, inside the office and out. I still get a thrill from recognising passers-by here, even if I never spoke to them before the pandemic. A colleague goes for coffee with a contact. It’s terribly exciting.

And it happens on social media, of course. An altar server of my south-London parish who vanished to Iona sends a link to a story in The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, about a previous incumbent, the Revd Colin MacGregor, celebrating his 104th birthday last summer. I think he was in his eighties when he last preached for us, and wrote for the parish magazine about “social changes in my lifetime”.

I don’t (of course) remember his reign in the 1960s, though I have seen his parish-magazine epistles and know that he didn’t let that decade swing us very violently. Fr MacGregor steered a thoughtful path through the parish’s first betting shop, Honest to God, and the Series 1 canon (a highlight of the decade, as the prayer of oblation could henceforth be read aloud straight after the consecration). Shards of the Crown Derby that was being royally smashed around Dr Stockwood’s diocese don’t seem to have caused any scarring.

But partings there have been, too, of course; and I returned last Friday from the country funeral of a long-time friend and PCC veteran whose obituary has already appeared in these pages (Gazette, 18 February).

The small church in Berkshire had a congregation of exactly the right size, though rather more clerical in composition than usual; and we walked just a few yards out of the porch for the committal in the churchyard, which was a new experience for me, and one that communicated something about the Church of England and its historic offering to this country which I knew in theory but had never felt before.

Though, regrettably, I never joined any of the many pilgrimages that Rosemary organised, her final journey took me to a place I have never been.


Well done, Truro

OVERCOME by the spirit of Christmas, Canon Tilby may, it seems, have generously given credit where it wasn’t due (Comment, 17 December 2021).

Howard Tomlinson, of Hereford, tells us that there is no contemporary evidence that, in 1880, Somerset Walpole, Succentor of Truro, “designed” the service of Nine Lessons and Carols. Though Walpole probably chose much of the music, it was the first Bishop of Truro, E. W. Benson, who “selected the nine lessons and the benedictions from medieval precedents”. From his own copy of the printed order, “it is also clear that Benson had the final word on the choreography and other aspects of the act of devotion.”

Also, the suggestion that the service was held “to keep men out of the pub on Christmas Eve”, originally made by W. J. Margetson in a posthumous biography of Walpole, is less telling, our informant says, than “the biographer’s observation that the service was devised as a ‘right prelude’ to Christmas Day itself”.

So, there you have it. The main point is: Well done, Truro.


Thu 07 Jul @ 02:21
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