OUR electric car has interesting abilities beyond its ability to run on electricity. For example, my husband has somehow trained it to make a noise on the approach to our house, because of the number of times when I drove straight past the entrance to the driveway after moving here.
My daughter chose the noise of her favourite animal from the car’s soundbank; so now any guests in the car are alarmed to hear a sound that convinces them that we have just run over a cat. The plaintive mews when I have to drive past the house on my way elsewhere are heart-wrenching.
As well as this, whenever my husband gets into the car, it automatically connects to his phone and starts to play the last piece of music that he was listening to. When I picked him up after his Battle of Britain service, the car sounded the “Last Post” as we departed from the church. It stopped, we laughed and resumed our conversation, and then both jumped out of our skins when a trumpet sounded just as we entered the driveway.
It had, of course, just played a two-minute silence, and was now striking up the reveille — in perfect time with the cat.
THE children went back to school in a heatwave, with modified uniforms and a profound sense of injustice. As the boy is starting secondary school, we had to investigate the available public transport: only one bus goes from our end of town to his school at the right time in the morning, and, by the time that it reaches us, it’s already packed with so many sweaty teenagers that the addition of a small boy and his trombone might cause the roof to pop off.
Waiting at the stop on the first attempt, I was convinced that we had got it wrong: there was no sign of the bus, or of anybody else, until ten minutes past the appointed time, when a gaggle of girls in school uniform appeared and sauntered casually towards us. Apparently, only fresh-faced newbies like us would actually expect the bus to turn up on time.
IT WAS good to be back at Christian Resources Together, an event that brings together, at the Hayes Conference Centre, everyone involved in the Christian book trade.
This was the first one since the pandemic, and there have been some changes: I always attended as an author before, but this was my first time wearing a publisher’s lanyard. One of our books had been nominated for an award; so the highlight for me was to track down the author when she arrived and accompany her to the ceremony.
Having achieved that much, I let my guard down and slipped out to use the facilities, not realising that the door to the main meeting hall locked automatically from the outside. This led to a worrying ten minutes spent with my nose pressed to the glass of the soundproof door, trying to get the attention of somebody on the other side, and imagining an alternative to a famous verse: “Behold, I stand at the door and wave my arms in an increasingly agitated manner.”
Thankfully, someone else needed to leave, and I was able to slip back in before the crucial moment.
WHAT has happened to autumn? The fruit has all ripened early, but the crisp weather and golden leaves are late. We swapped some of our quinces for a kilo of damsons that were already going soft, and, eager that they shouldn’t go to waste, I decided to squeeze in some jam-making between the school run and another appointment.
I downloaded a recipe that looked easy enough, and became concerned only when it sternly told me that I must stir the jam until the sugar had fully dissolved — at least ten minutes — or it would catch on the pan and burn. Staring into the jewel-like depths in the pan, I wondered how one knows when sugar has dissolved.
Idly, I reflected that, had Jesus known about jam-making, he might have used it as an analogy in place of refining silver: the intense heat, the timing of the different stages, the expert eye of the refiner, the transformation of inedible fruit into something good. That’s when I realised that I hadn’t looked at the clock when I started.
Two hours later, I had no damsons, no jam, one ruined saucepan, and a kitchen that smelt of burnt sugar and failure. Lesson learned: preserves, like silver, need to be refined with infinite patience and loving attention. You can’t rush jam.
Ministry of welcome
THE children’s team at St Mary’s had an epic planning meeting for the “Road To Christmas” event: our offering for the town’s Christmas fair, which takes place in November.
As we plotted the layout of craft tables and space for a buggy park, I stole a grateful glance across to the tomb of the medieval parishioner who first paid for the west door to be put in, allowing people to enter from the streets of the town instead of having to walk through the imposing abbey gate. He opened up the church to a tradition of welcome, especially to people who had once felt shut out, or who might have walked straight past.
I love being part of a place with such a long history of serving the one who watches over our going out and our coming in, both now and always.
Amy Scott Robinson is a writer, performance storyteller, and ventriloquist.