I now know about RSJs (rolled steel joists). Knock down just one wall to let in more light – a modest modification – and, before you can say knife, you’ll find you
need two RSJs up in the loft to hold the house together. As it so happens, there is now even more light because three windows have to be taken out through the absence of something called lintels.

Oh yes, I have a very expensive and light and breezy house at the moment in Salisbury. I am not yet at the pretty stage of colour-­coordinating hand towels or stenciling dado rails. It’s all holes in the floor and ceiling: describing it as an elusive vision of far-reaching potential would be generous.

Silly really even to think of enlarging the kitchen when a narrow crevice between elderly units had suited my parents just fine. Similarly, I could have kept the trellis wallpaper and accumulated assorted furniture had I had no pretentions to grandeur. That’s the trouble with Barbican living. It makes you impatient for open plan, quality light fittings and suede sofas, whereas the provinces are quite happy with cramped spaces, clutter and chintz. The neighbours are vigilant and count the skips as they get filled up and take round tea for the builders every day at 3.00pm. I reassure myself that May is still a nice long way off and eventually deep holes in the floor do get filled in.

This is the last time I shall write for Barbican Life. These quarterly mutterings will give way to a well-structured view from St Giles’ by different members of the church community. That is until my successor is appointed and s/he can pick up a pen four times a year and watch the copy deadline draw inexorably nearer.
Nowadays the shredder and I are barely parted. Hours of work shredded in seconds. Rebelliously I delete the questionnaire I am supposed to complete about Ministerial Development Reviews. It will take about 30 mins. 30 mins when I could be watching Flog It! I am too busy preparing for my new way of life.

The garage is to be converted into a studio. That’s the sort of thing people do down in Wiltshire. Some of you know it as a drive-through county experience half way between London and ‘Sea Breezes’ your period cottage in the West Country. I aim to combine sophisticated urban living with unbridled creativity: Samuel Johnson meets the St Ives School. There will be sartorial implications that may well result in floaty kaftans and lumpy jewellery, although I will hang on to the Austin Reed suit in case I need to look more reliable on occasions. The neighbours are establishment: a collection of retired clergy, group captains and brigadiers. Not too many floaty kaftan kindred spirits, it would seem, but they may surface around the solstice.

I have to renew the policy for the contents of this house and explain I shall be on the move in May. The helpful woman at the end of the phone needs to check that the company (which is ecclesiastically inclined) also covers the Salisbury postcode. My new neighbours would be shocked to know their ecclesiastical probity were ever in question. They still have the energy to look after sundry village churches including running the raffle and plant stalls at the fete, as well as sorting out the local branch of U3A.

A friend, who is still some way off retirement, and I shared what we consider our carefully hidden shortcomings. So far, neither of us has ever done a power point presentation. We think this is hilarious. I can also add: never gone on pilgrimage to Walsingham and never run a youth club. She, on the other hand, has done both and plays the guitar.

A time to keep and a time to throw away. Which leaves me with Rosebud. I offered Dorothy Anne to the Museum of Childhood as 100 years ago she was quality – or ‘class’ as Rose McCauley would say. She had a hand-painted face and real human hair, but porcelain dolls’ heads don’t drop kindly our concrete floors. Dorothy Anne in all her bits got put in a box and the Museum of Childhood doesn’t do bits. It’s an emotional business disposing of one’s dolls. Before moving to the States, my sister buried her much loved Lollish in the vegetable garden. Lollish was stuffed with wood shavings and thus good for the potatoes. The line is so very thin between being part of an original family and part of an odd one. Rosebud was given to me by a childless godmother. In her box she was perfection – all sticking out pick frock and glossy hair. Out of the box she proved difficult to play with, her pink frock quickly lost its stickability and her stuck on hair came off in chunks when brushed.
I can’t fling her over a bridge into the Thames because she is plastic – the hard, pointy variety (made by Nene plastics). I called her Rosebud because it was written across her back. Not being a sledge, I don’t think she is likely to make the closing shots of an iconic film. Surprisingly, I find her cousin for sale, ‘Condition used’ for £55. Now that would buy me an inch or two of RSJ.

Thank you if you have enjoyed ‘View from St Giles’ over the years. I have never been all that sure about what I am supposed to write. I know some expect a clear religious steer from the Rector. For that, I recommend coming to St Giles’ and listening to the sermon, but I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Katharine Rumens – from the March 2021 issue of Barbican Life magazine.