Friday, 29 April 2011

Easter Break a year on


At home my mother is very amused to see me looking like Leo Sayer, not that she would know who he was, she’s probably thinking Shirley Temple. She doesn’t of course say it looks nice, but seems fascinated by it and takes lots of photos to show her friends. I am going to tell people I’ve got cancer of the hair.

This time last year we also had radiant weather but I was creeping and crawling around the back ways of the village, almost out of my mind with shock and disbelief.

That was the start of it – a vague diagnosis of cancer, it was “undifferentiated,” which was bad news in its self, they didn’t know what it was but there were “lesions,” and one doctor said that I would have to have chemotherapy whatever it was.

I was also scratching around for work and not getting any. Since then I’ve had pieces in the Telegraph and the Times. My theme seems to be cancer, and the pity of it.

I have also been writing travel pieces for the glossy Private Banking Magazine, all because of the cancer. What a dull, shabby life I’d be having without it.

The anguish of last Spring is almost like a distant story now as I stand in the sunshine in Codsall village, at an open air Easter service, boiling with irritation.

Someone has decided to change the words of, “There Is A Green Hill Far Away.” The word “without,” as in city wall, which puzzled school children for generations, along with “Harold be thy name,” as been replaced by the sternly clear, “outside.”

The translation of the Gospel has been quite a strain for whoever set about hacking at it. They have come up with the idea that when he was mocked Jesus wore “a purple cape,” he was taken to a place called, “the hill of the skull,” and when he was crucified someone put up a “poster,” with the with words “King of the Jews.”

“The place of the skull,” used to be so evocative and sinister. Who are these people who keep changing our liturgy? Perhaps English is their second language. They seem to qualify for the job by having thick cloth ears.

I feel no respect for the vicar, who sounds like a dimmer version of William Hague, or his good lady curate, that they can stand happily listening to such butchery.

On Sunday morning at the 8am service, we are supposed to have the prayer book. It’s actually a pile of leaflets, but I found an old book at the back by the font, with the nice old type face.

“Mike,” a different vicar, very whiskery, introduces the service, just so that we all know where we are, and gives a little homily, based on the Easter gospel; stone rolled away, knots undone, empty tomb, angels present, women unable to find the body.

“Perhaps we should reflect on how we would react in similar circumstances,” he advises. I hope we’d all keep calm and carry on.

He then goes through the service changing every “man,” to “person,” and “indifferently,” becomes “impartially.”

I don’t think he really likes the old service at all, obviously doesn’t see any aesthetic point in it. I suspect the thinks that people go to it because it’s very quiet, a kind of clapping avoidance syndrome. He probably doesn’t realise that people like me turn up to hear phrases like, “indifferently administer justice to the punishment of wickedness and vice,” for the thrill of hearing words that sound like the ruffling of old pages. Well you won’t get any of that poetry stuff in the Midlands it seems.

I was pleased that we used Psalm 118, which has the verse: I shall not die, but live

The Lord has punished me sorely,

But he did not hand me over to death.

The whole psalm is about rejection and gives one a boost of hope.

Later I discovered that this psalm is being used at the royal wedding. It’s about death, abandonment and reprieve. I wonder if they have really read it? Perhaps that is how William the bereaved felt when Katy junked him then changed her mind.

I like my home village but my tastes are different, don’t fit in, and this makes me grumpy. Hearing a new tea shop has opened in Bilbrook the next village, walk over there eagerly. I like to know every cake and sweet shop within a hundred miles.

It’s a gloomy little place with old flap-jacks and submarine rolls with pink icing in the window. They are also offering a children’s party menu: Chicken nuggets, sausages and Dairylea slices. I wonder how that would go down in Chiswick? It certainly wouldn’t go down the throats of infant Chiswickians.

I do all my old walks in glorious sunshine, clinging the remaining pretty parts of the village, wallowing in patches of beauty. It’s a joy that you can still look up and see the ancient tower of St. Nicholas’ church from where ever you stand, except where its obscured by trees in full green leaf. I don’t like what goes on inside but the outside is still breathtakingly reassuring.

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