I can’t take all the paintings with me when I move. Some are to be given away, for some I am open to modest offers, the canvases framed for an exhibition before Covid took hold, I would like to sell – again most modestly.
Post script from April: birthdays and weather
Richenda writes, ‘My birthday is in April, and someone told me once when I was little that the horse chestnut blossoms were my birthday candles, specially out for me. I’m not sure I don’t still believe it. April is such a special month in any event. Wood pigeons calling, the trees coming into leaf, days lengthening, light changing, the hope of summer, and the hope for us all of an end to this terrible time. And when you add two of my favourite smells, it’s just about perfect. Newly mown grass, and petrichor. Petrichor. Wonderful word, for a wonderful thing. Certain smells are supremely powerful and evocative, so the smell of rain on dry earth certainly deserves its own word. I wish there was a word for the smell of newly mown grass. Oh, ATCO-CHOR, of course… Those April smells are part of the first few days when we can start to sit outside again, lifting our faces to the sun, and thinking, ‘well, we did it, we got through that awful winter, and isn’t it grand to be outdoors again?’
All that business of April showers seems not to have happened.
April was provisionally the frostiest April in the UK for at least 60 years, and one of the driest Aprils on record, with the UK seeing less than a fifth of the average rainfall for the month.
Still, there was once rain in April as recorded by Gilbert Keith Chesterton as he marches through the “ghostly and colourless” countryside around Oxford. “The fields that should have been green were as grey as the skies; the tree-tops that should have been green were as grey as the clouds and as cloudy,” he wrote in The Secret of a Train, for his Daily News column, collected in Tremendous Trifles (1909).
“And when I had walked for some hours the evening was closing in. A sickly sunset clung weakly to the horizon, as if pale with reluctance to leave the world in the dark. And as it faded more and more the skies seemed to come closer and threaten. The clouds which had been merely sullen became swollen; and then they loosened and let down the dark curtains of the rain.”
He seeks and finds a railway station. “I do not think I have ever seen such a type of time and sadness and scepticism and everything devilish as that station was: it looked as though it had always been raining there ever since the creation of the world. The water streamed from the soaking wood of it as if it were not water at all, but some loathsome liquid creation of the wood itself; as if the solid station were eternally falling to pieces and pouring away in filth.”
Plaques for pleasure continued:
As spotted in Stoke Newington Cemetery
Maygames – contributers’ frolics
Not waving, but drowning
M’aidez, I shouted
Yes, they chorused,
May Day: so many memories are conjured up including fertility rites, devotional ceremonies to Mary – May being her month – the “Obby Oss”, and of course dressing up in May Day finery which actually entails wearing very little and being very cold.
Keep your vest on
May, the flowers of the hawthorn, are hermaphrodite and mainly a delicate white and pink. A symbol of fertility, the branches were precursors to the maypole. It was said to be unlucky to bring the flowers into the house because of their association with the plague through their unusual smell. “Cast ne’er a clout ‘til May is out” we chorus, but does that mean the end of the month or when the tree blossoms? If you have nothing better to do, answers on a postcard.
Vivian remembers going to sports stadium in Vancouver where there were 40 maypoles in the arena. Some of us got up to school hall standard, but were never really got the hang of dancing under and over and stopping at the right time.
And shouting for help
In the early 1920s FS Mockford at Croydon Airport introduced “Mayday” as a distress call because much of the traffic was between Croydon and Paris (where they seem to speak French): “M’aider” from “Venez m’aider”.
And thought this was Mr Bean working as a barista
May Day holiday
Animals were released at the Roman Floralia (festival of Flora and the celebration of flowers) 27 April – 3 May. The seasonal activity was to throw flowers at the animals which Mo thinks more attractive (and kinder) than cans and stones.
That will show them!
In 1955, Pope Prius XII chose 1 May to commemorate St Joseph the carpenter as a rebuke to the Communist International Workers’ Day celebrations.
Seasonal leaps and bounds and yet more fertility shenanigans
Maypole dancing and crowning the Queen of the May is still alive and kicking.
Royal family step out in fine May Day style
Morris dancing is also linked to May Day celebrations with their bells and ribbons and all that jigging around on flat open spaces. The “Obby ‘Oss” day in Padstow is one of the oldest fertility rites in Britain. The May Day song is accompanied by accordions, drums and all and dancing along with The Oss. Locals flee to peace in London for the weekend.
Foreign Office advice on travelling to Sussex
Avoid Hastings on the May Day holiday. Beware those London bikers on their Maydayrun making for the seaside.
And before we slip comfortably into this season of flower tossing, stepping out to the music and doing a burn up down the motorway
Don’t forget Beltane on April 30 celebrating the beginning of summer when cattle were blessed and moved to summer pastures. Fairies got busy stealing their milk so the cattle (or was it the fairies?) were forced to jump over fires for protection. The contemporary equivalent is a glass of wine at the rectory.
John Deacon 1946-1989
A plaque on one of the new benches in St Giles’ reads,
Diana writes, ‘John was an early resident in the Barbican with a flat in Thomas More House. He was an architect by profession and a keen sailor. He came from Sidmouth in Devon where he moored his yacht and visited his parents. He was also a member of the Barbican French Group and a fluent French speaker. He was a kind and gentle person and much missed by his family and friends.
He often sailed alone from Sidmouth to St Malo on the Normandy coast and in 1989 he was reported missing from one of these trips when he failed to return home to the UK. His boat was found drifting off the coast not far from St Malo with no one on board. There was no sign of any damage or anything to suggest anyone else had intercepted or boarded the boat. His body was never recovered.’
Two drawings he did at the request of a Barbican friend that are a reminder of a kind and gifted friend.
The next Rector
The Reverend Lovejoy is a wonderful character, just doing his best and rather bumbling along with flashes of heroics and inspiration and has a wife who knows that being judgemental is key and goes on courses to get better at it. After one of his heroic surges he says:
“Thank Marge Simpson. She taught me there’s more to being a minister than not caring about people.”
The churchwardens plan to include this in our person specification.
The Doctor writes
May is upon us and it seems that some are already intoxicated by the scent of blossom, but rumours that Canon Kenny was left bound to his font by parishioners after another 3 hour sermon are apparently untrue. He tells me he was practicing Maypole dancing and managed to tie himself up in triple hitched undoable knots, requiring the local fire service to secure his release.
I do worry about him, especially as his colleague in ecclesiastical practice, Rector Rubens, is moving on. Kenny’s distress is understandable. He has plagiarized her prayers and sermons unashamedly for years. I know from many of you that she has achieved remarkable things at St. Giles. Believe you me, no small feat with Canon Kenny as her neighbouring cleric. Dr. B.B. at the surgery described her as “A gift from God to the Barbican” and said, “We can all draw inspiration from her example and legacy.”
I feel poorly qualified to advise on such matters but in response to Kenny’s predicament – he asked me “How will I manage without my spiritual guide, my friend and mentor, not to mention the occasional glass of wine in the rectory garden?” – I quoted one of the eastern prophets: “Sit beneath the blossom tree. Contemplate the world around you. Marvel at its creation and mystery, and listen. Your path will become clear.”
A few days later he sent me the following:
Prayer for Tomorrow
Spring blossom on the Blackthorn, flakes of snow
Once crystal frost now refusing to freeze,
Melting, falling like tears for tomorrow.
Cities choke and wheeze. Their electric glow
Threatens the stars, disturbs nature’s reprise —
Spring blossom on the Blackthorn, flakes of snow.
Pictures from polar satellites clearly show
Bird filled canopies of rain forest trees
Melting, falling like tears for tomorrow,
And spreading sand where only deserts grow
In starving war-torn lands, where no one sees
Spring blossom on the Blackthorn, flakes of snow.
Warm currents climb and crack the fractured flow
Of glacial iceberg peaks in Arctic seas,
Melting, falling like tears for tomorrow.
I tend my bees with calming smoke, blow
Gently, ponder their future on my knees.
Spring blossom on the Blackthorn, flakes of snow
Melting — a call to prayer for tomorrow.
And he added a footnote: “There is work to be done Lauderdale!”
I thought, “Rector Ruby would agree, but may she take a well-earned rest and enjoy the gifts and opportunities that retirement has to offer.”
Stay safe. Stay well. Stay socially distanced but communally close.
Dr. Lauderdale Spratt MB BS MRCP MRCS MRCGP MRCPsych (failed)
Gadsden family holidays
Tom and Chistopher went to Kenya on a Safari and to see one of Mo’s sisters who was running Oxfam’s Sudanese operation from Nairobi. They stayed at Treetops where one loves to think of Elizabeth going up a princess and coming down a queen.
They were watching rhino at the waterhole, when a staff member came up and said I had a telephone call. Christopher said it could not be for him, but he insisted. Disbelievingly, heI went to the phone, picked it up and was astounded to hear Mo’s voice. “How on earth did you get the number”, he spluttered. “From directory enquiries” said Mo.
What we did in lockdown
Judith took up the pen
She writes, ‘To keep myself busy over lockdown I decided to have a go at writing my memoirs and they have now been published (Kindle and hard copy) by Kindle/ Amazon. So just incase you need something to read here is the link.
They are very honest and hopefully amusing – they should bring back some shared memories and I assure you that if you appear it is in a positive light!!!
Please do feel free to leave a review to encourage (or indeed discourage purchases ! (I am brave!)
If I do get any money it will go to charity so do feel free to share the link!’
Cath took to sewing
Soft furnishings for hard times
The day before the first lockdown began, my new curtains arrived. The fitter left me the offcuts of material that would otherwise have been thrown away as too small to use on another order. But they weren’t small: there was meters of gorgeous material; an unexpected bonus.
The fabric is well known: Sanderson’s ‘Dandelion Clocks’ in Chaffinch, a blue, grey and mustard colour palette. Although a modern design, it has a 50s vibe and I suspect it’s to be found in many Barbican and Golden Lane flats. But what to do with the spare material?
The obvious answer was to make cushion covers. Although the last time I was left in charge of a sewing machine was more than 30 years ago and it wasn’t pretty, Gail Beer bravely lent me her machine and I scoured the internet for a simple pattern: no buttons, zips or fancy stitching required. WikiHow came up with an easy guide to making an ‘envelope’ cushion with videos of each stage of production, which even a rank amateur like me could follow.
So I went into production, helped by the unfortunate reality that in lockdown most of my work had dried up, leaving me with time to spare. The home office became a sewing studio and after a few false starts (have you tried threading a sewing machine?!) the covers started rolling off the production line. I ordered cushion pads online and ended up with 17 cushions. Not bad for some offcuts!
I’ve kept a few and the rest were sold for St Giles’ funds. I have yet to see them being used on the new church seating, but it’s surely only a matter of time.
Yes it is, (editor’s prerogative).
Ros, the gardener takes a look at May 24th, 1738
As a cradle Methodist, the names of John and Charles Wesley resound in my mind. The name of the younger brother, Charles, the hymn-writer, resounds more loudly than that of John, probably because of the many hymns written by Charles regularly sung by Methodists.
However, it is for John that 24 May is known as Wesley Day. John’s diary from this day in 1738 reads “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About quarter before nine, while he was describing the change God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.” His diary continues “And an assurance was given to me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death”.
John’s religious experience is commemorated by the ‘Aldersgate Flame’ outside the Museum of London. Conversion narratives of the time are said to share “an awareness of guilt and bondage to sin, a realisation that inner change is needed, a moment of release when the burden is lifted and faith is received, and feelings of peace, joy and love. Physical and psychological phenomenon often accompany the moment”. John’s feeling of his “heart strangely warmed” would not be considered out of the ordinary as part of the experience.
So how does John Wesley at the age of 35 years arrive at this May 24th moment? His life had already been eventful. Aged 6 he was “plucked – a brand from the burning”, by locals on ladders from a window of Epworth Rectory, the family home. His mother, Susannah was a daughter of Dr Samuel Annesley, Vicar of St Giles 1658 – 1662. On Wesley Day a wreath is placed on Susanna’s grave in Bunhill Fields
John and Charles were highly educated. At Christchurch, Oxford, they formed a “Holy Club” with a methodical determination to study the scriptures. It was here that John felt called to be a missionary to the Indians and sailed for America in 1736. He shared the outward voyage with Moravian missionaries who struck him by their purity, their meekness, their cheerfulness and lack of fear in all situations. In their company he felt as if amongst Christ’s own disciples. However, he wrestled with his own faith and returned home from Georgia in 1738. He was disheartened, he had not experienced the Moravian “religion of the heart”.
It was with some reluctance, shortly after, that he attended the meeting at Aldersgate Street. The feeling of his heart being “strangely warmed” was a pivotal moment in his life. The strength that came from this new and fundamental dimension to his faith convicted him to reach out to the neglected poor outside the walls of the City of London. The connection between the Wesleyan Chapel in City Road and St Giles Church, Cripplegate remains strong to this day.
Concluding thoughts for anyone who was thinking of cooking Daddy’s supper
The monthly newsletter will continue as a newssheet. It will include diary listings, news and information from the churchwardens and the Parish Office.
May the God of love protect us,