Sunday, 28 July 2013

Through the Study Window

Here is another extract from Tony Keogh, this time writing his "Through the Study Window" in June 1996, which was obviously a better start of summer than we had this year. I like the meandering style, and the description of life as a "patchwork quilt".
From this week, I remember a lovely evening walk past sheep, horses and cows out onto the headland above Portelet, and an amble along St Brelade's Bay at high tide, where children were in high spirits, jumping off the slipway into the sea. There were meetings with a friend at the central market, and all the colours and smells of the flowers and fruit and vegetables as one passes through. And an old man, who had fallen and hit his head, in whose aid I was able to play a small part. This is a patchwork, small little incidents, which just seem to stand out. That's the nature of life as we remember it.
Obviously what we select to remember and forget in anything autobiographical shapes the story, and the same was true of ancient biography.
It was once very much a maxim that the Gospels were not biographies, and they certainly are not in the modern sense, which proceeds from birth, through childhood, adulthood, old age, and to the grave in an orderly fashion. But studies have been done of ancient biography, which was quite a different genre, and there can be no doubt that the gospels, especially that of Luke, present themselves as a similar genre to that of the ancient world. Interested readers can refer to the comprehensive study by Richard Burridge, "What are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography"
Of course, one of the significant features of the gospel narratives is their patchwork quality. They are stories about incidents, strung together like pearls on a necklace, pearls of great price - but they don't have perhaps the continuity of historical linkage that one gets in a modern biography; in that respect, they are more like Tony Keogh's patchwork quilt, and more like our own lives, as we remember them, than something written up by an outsider.
Through the Study Window by Tony Keogh
AT THIS time of the year, the church through the window is almost blocked from sight by the trees and shrubs, growing lusher by the minute. I am just back from an early morning walk - a very early morning walk! Even at 6 am, I could feel the heat of the coming day. The sky was as blue as blue and Bouley Bay was skirted in an orange mist which my old Cornish aunt Kate called pride of the morning. The rabbits in the fields and the neighbouring cats looked in stunned disbelief at this strange creature, Homo Sapiens, invading their kingdom at this Godly hour of the morning. All of this to the chorus of a hundred songbirds, conscious of only one thing, that they are alive at the start of a new day, as they sing their hearts out. Colette Bisson's rooster, built like Pavarotti, belts out his own aria. Now you know that it is morning.
Soon it is time to turn home for a shower, breakfast, the daily office and prepare for the day. A few weeks ago, I took part in a Monday morning interview on Radio Jersey with Fiona Spurr. I was reminiscing about my childhood in Cardiff, especially during the war, and several people were kind enough to telephone and say how much they had enjoyed the programme. One of those was the wife of an elderly blind Cardiffian who lives near the hospital who invited me for a cup of tea and a chat with her husband about the old city. I shall be visiting them this afternoon so I shall let you know how I get on.
One of my favourite and regular ports of call is our local parish school and I have an extra interest now that my grandson Joshua is there full-time. One of the teachers came into the staff-room recently for her coffee break, declaring that everything was going wrong. I told her the story of my story bag, which is a coloured pillowcase. In it, I place an object, then I give clues to the congregation as to what might be in the bag. Ten years ago, I placed a bundle of sticks, tied with string, in the bag and told the story of a father with five sons who were always squabbling. The father handed the bundle of sticks to each son and asked him to break the bundle; all failed. Then he untied the bundle and gave each son a stick. They had no difficulty in snapping their single sticks. To emphasise the point, I handed the bundle of sticks to some of the children. All failed to break the bundle, then an older boy named David advanced down the aisle with great gusto, took the bundle of sticks and promptly broke it across his knee into dozens of pieces. End of story!
The point of the story appeared ruined. That was ten years ago. Recently, friends on holiday from the mainland listened as I repeated the story; this time, no-one broke the sticks. After the service, over coffee at the Rectory, Margaret and Peter reminded me that that they had been in the congregation ten years previously and had never forgotten the story, not because of the story, but because of David's part in causing it to go wrong. They told their vicar and that story became part of his repertoire, all because it went wrong. It is not always success as the world sees it which advances God's Kingdom.
It is now 10.30 am and I feel that I have a done a full day's work already. We have had a stream of visitors at the Rectory this morning - the children from Scallywags Play Group are playing in the back garden, our Churchwarden, Deputy Roy Cabot, has called to collect the Churchwardens' wands in readiness for the swearing-in of the Church Officers tomorrow; two sisters from London, Ontario, are here to find their great grandparents' grave (Jill tells them that de Gruchy is the most common name in Trinity but they are in luck, there is a gravestone); as luck would have it, Lizzi - who has visited Canada three times - has just come in so the three of them are discussing things and places Canadian.
The postman has delivered the usual 'binnable' circulars along with some more Gift Day envelopes, and the plumber, an old friend, has been to replace a worn-out washer.
This is getting to read like a patchwork quilt rather than a written article but our lives are like patchwork quilts and, possibly more so when one lives in a rectory, vicarage or manse. I must close now as I must take an electric fan to father-in-law to keep him cool while he enjoys the Test Match, and then there are some ashes to be collected for interment tomorrow morning.
The church is still there through the window and the promised heat of 6 am is very evident. Keep cool. Bless God.

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