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Diary: Amy Scott Robinson

19 April 2024


Early bird

THE dawn vigil and eucharist at Easter has always been my favourite service of the year. There is something so imaginatively rich about hearing the long succession of Old Testament readings outdoors, around the fire, against the background of a gradually lightening sky.

At St Mary’s, we sit in the Great Churchyard of Bury St Edmunds, surrounded by so many souls awaiting the resurrection that the liturgy transcends time. The first tentative sounds of the dawn chorus perfectly illustrate the creation narrative, mixed with the noises of a town coming to life as the story rouses the Israelites and takes them across the Red Sea.

This year, just as the tale of Noah’s ark reached the point of Noah’s sending out the raven across the waters, a perfectly timed crow in full voice flew low over the congregation, halting proceedings for a moment as we responded with a collective gasp of wonder, followed by a shared chuckle of delight.


Arrested development

AT A recent meeting of children’s writers, we were bemoaning the fact that children can’t simply stop growing up while they wait for you to write a sequel. It’s no good starting on the next book only once the first has been published, because your audience is likely to have outgrown it by the time it appears on the shelves.

I experienced this problem when I pitched the idea of republishing a series of mine along with a new story that some children had helped me to write during the first lockdown in 2020. It was pointed out to me that new readers of the books now would have been toddlers when the pandemic began, meaning that their memories of that experience — if they had any at all — would be entirely different from those of the characters created by the children. Meanwhile, many of those little lockdown readers and writers are now heading towards their GCSEs.

So, it was amusing, re-reading Northanger Abbey on our holiday in Bath, to find that it is prefaced by a note from the author, apologising that some of the jokes and references may be dated, as the book was inexplicably printed 13 years after the copyright was first bought by a publisher. Jane Austen would be astonished to find that readers in 2024 were still eagerly enjoying the work that she had taken to be so of the moment. Perhaps my little pandemic adventure will do better in a couple of hundred years’ time.


Distinctive plumage

THERE was great excitement among local bird-spotters when a pair of white-tailed sea eagles was spotted in Suffolk. For several weeks, I envied those who were sharing their photos on social media, and watched with fascination as news of the pair came closer and closer to home.

Eventually, when a friend said that she had been able to see the eagles at close quarters in a village near by, I persuaded my husband to spend his precious day off in pursuit of the famous birds. We duly arrived, and joined a row of people with enormous binoculars and even larger cameras, only to be told that the eagles had not been seen that morning, and had probably moved on.

We lingered for a while, my husband pointing out anything bigger than a wood pigeon, despite the eagles’ having earned the nickname of “flying barn doors”; but there was no sign of them. Fruitlessly, we tried several other likely sites, all frequented by people in the same khaki plumage and with the same outsized cameras. We saw no eagles; but I have learned to spot a twitcher at 20 paces.


Food of love

THE holiday chalet to which we escaped after Easter Day came with a cat — an elegant black-and-white creature who seemed to own the entire premises. He took up residence in our chalet and on our sofa so frequently that the children became convinced he must have a soft spot especially for them.

I suspected that the reason might have had more to do with whoever had hired the chalet before us: the cat seemed to time his visits specifically to mealtimes, and became particularly attentive whenever one of us opened the fridge. Carrying a dish across to the table caused acute outbursts of purring, mewing, and ribboning of the cat between our legs. But it was nice to pretend that he meant it.


Perfect time

OF ALL the accounts of the resurrection appearances that we hear in Eastertide, the story of doubting Thomas must be the most perplexing. It leaves me with an urgent question: why did Jesus choose to appear at the moment that poor old Thomas had been sent out for supplies? (When I tell the story to children, I have Thomas stagger in with 12 bags of shopping and a hangdog expression.) I always wonder whether, even after his questions had been resolved, Thomas felt a bit miffed at having been left out of such an important occasion.

I wonder whether Jesus knew something about the way in which his most logical, practical friend handled unexpected information: knew that he would need extra time to process the news, the chance for an individual conversation, the offer of physical touch. That way, his appearance was not at the wrong moment by accident, but at the right moment for Thomas and entirely on purpose — just as you would expect of God’s timing.


Amy Scott Robinson is a writer, performance storyteller, and ventriloquist.

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