Scraps of conversation heard in passing can be instructive.
the students are back in town. I’ve no reason to believe these two young women are representative of anyone but themselves: ‘Yes, but we need to get our drinking in before we go out’.
The electric invalid buggy was parked at a sharp angle because the rider was taking a call on his phone: ‘I’m not that good a grandad. But it’s good to hear your voice, thanks for ringing, much appreciated, thank you, Good bye.’
A widowed neighbour, after a friend had helped with advice: ‘Thank you for taking time to help me. I do appreciate that. It means a lot.’
In the mid 18th Century M Allanson was already urging a considerable abatement in the perception that Europeans held of Africans.
It was of these parts of Guinea that Monsieur Allanson, correspondent of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, from 1749 to 1753, gives the following account, both as to the country and people: — “Which way soever I turned my eyes, I beheld a perfect image of pure nature: An agreeable solitude, bounded on every side by a charming landscape; the rural situation of cottages in the midst of trees; the ease and quietness of the Negroes, reclined under the shade of the spreading foliage, with the simplicity of their dress and manners: The whole revived in my mind the idea of our first parents, and I seemed to contemplate the world in its primitive state. They are, generally speaking, very good-natured, sociable, and obliging. I was not a little pleased with my very first reception; and it fully convinced me, that there ought to be a considerable abatement made in the accounts we have of the savage character of the Africans.” He adds: “It is amazing that an illiterate people should reason so pertinently concerning the heavenly bodies. There is no doubt, but that, with proper instruments, they would become excellent astronomers.”
The inhabitants of the Grain and Ivory Coast are represented by those that deal with them, as sensible, courteous, and the fairest traders on the coasts of Guinea. They rarely drink to excess; if any do, they are severely punished by the King’s order. They are seldom troubled with war: If a difference happen between two nations, they commonly end the dispute amicably.
He mentioned to me now, for the first time, that he had been distrest by melancholy, and for that reason had been obliged to fly from study and meditation, to the dissipating variety of life. Against melancholy he recommended constant occupation of mind, a great deal of exercise, moderation in eating and drinking, and especially to shun drinking at night. He said melancholy people were apt to fly to intemperance for relief, but that it sunk them much deeper in misery. He observed, that labouring men who work hard, and live sparingly, are seldom or never troubled with low spirits.
Life of Johnson, Volume 1 1709-1765″ by James Boswell
Doctor Johnson was a depressive. He seems to have taken a robust approach to combatting the condition, or learning to live with it. Constant occupation of mind does not mean spending your time thinking about your problems! He was always thinking, reading, writing, an approach that quite a few bloggers seem to follow. He did like his drink though, so must have observed at first hand that over-indulgence was not always the wisest way of spending an evening.
It would seem that Johnson was able to present a brave face to the world, if he had to choose to confess his melancholy to James Boswell. Hope is a virtue that believes that the world is good even when it feels the opposite of that. At such times, endeavour to do what you would do if everything was alright!
LXIX BROTHER JACQUES of La Massa, unto whom God gave perfect knowledge and understanding of the Holy Scriptures and of things to come was of so great sanctity that Brother Giles of Assisi, Brother Mark of Montino, Brother Juniper, and Brother Lucido said that they knew of no one in the world that found greater favour in the sight of God than this Brother Jacques.
Brother Jacques with great humility confessed that he beheld in a dream a tree fair to see and very great, whose root was of gold, and its fruits were men, and they were all of them Brothers Minor. Its main branches were distinctly marked according to the number of the provinces of the Order, and each branch had as many brothers as there were in the province whose name was written on the branch. And he saw Brother John of Parma on the highest point of the midmost branch of this tree, and on the tops of the branches round about were the ministers of all the provinces.
And thereafter he saw Christ sitting on a throne exceeding great and shining, and Christ called Saint Francis up thither and gave him a chalice full of the spirit of life, and sent him forth saying : “Go, visit thy brothers, and give them to drink of this chalice of the spirit of life; for the spirit of Satan will rise up against them and will strike them, and many of them will fall and will not rise up again.”
And Christ gave unto Saint Francis two angels to bear him company. Then came Saint Francis to give the chalice of life to his brothers; and he gave it first to Brother John of Parma: who, taking it, drank it all in haste, devoutly; and straightway he became all shining like the sun. And after him Saint Francis gave it to all the other brothers in order; and there were but few among them that took it with due reverence and devotion, and drank it all. Those that took it devoutly and drank it all, became straightway shining like the sun ; but those that spilled it ail and took it not devoutly, became black, and dark, and misshapen, and horrible to see; but those that drank part and spilled part, became partly shining and partly dark, according to the measure of their drinking or spilling thereof.
I rarely remember my dreams and the scraps and figments that linger barely make sense. But reading this one, we can pray that, like James and John, we can drink the cup that Jesus drank to the very end, and shine with him so that people will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.
This picture, from Brother Chris, shows a tree of Francis’s life. John of Parma was the seventh Minister General of the Franciscans.
I read recently of a Christian community that starts the count down to Christmas 100 days out. I can’t help feeling they may lose some of what we should observe and celebrate during those three months. Here in England that includes Harvest and All Saints. For Catholic Christians the discipline of the season’s readings bring us to the final feast of Christ the King.
But there are preparations that do begin in September or October. Mrs T has made but not decorated the cake; N the pudding, while I began the sloe gin which is slowly(!) turning red and fruity.
Sloe gin essentially is foraged sloes – pierced with a fork, sugar and gin sealed in a Kilner jar which has to be shaken frequently; I’ll do it in a minute. If we were Anglicans, we would have been stirred, not shaken, on that last Sunday in November:
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Plenteous fruit was stirred into many a Christmas pudding that day!
There’s plenteous fruit in our cake and our pudding, and plenty in the sloe gin. Maybe we’ll take a sip at Christmas, while the sloes themselves will make a fine marinade for the family meal.
And may we bring forth plenteous good works this Christmas, whether we are shaken or stirred as we go through Advent!
This story turned out not to be about a beggar, but I have since seen the same woman walking by, talking to herself, but always wearing clean clothes. The last in this short season.
It was high summer, and what T and I saw lying on the grass was not a broken branch but a woman, who we thought might have been broken. More than once I have seen drunk and incapable people lying next to the cycle path. There was cause for concern.
T and I were indeed concerned but hesitated to approach the woman. She was warm and in a safe place after all. I said I would see if she was still there when I walked the dogs, Ajax and Alfie.
She was still there, but before we had done our round of the park, the Cathedral bell, Great Dunstan, announced five o’clock. The lady sat up, gathered her belongings and walked away.
T laughed when I told her the next day. It’s good when your fears are shown to be groundless. And no need to see the lady home, which would have been a challenge with two chihuahuas!
The BBC Website includes a section on The People’s War, memories of the conflict from all over the world. It is worth visiting to learn how bad and how good people can be in times of stress, conflict and danger.
George Nolan Johnston was in the British army in the Middle East, sent on a long and apparently pointless journey culminating in a crowded train with no opportunity to get food or drink. Did the officer who organised it not know the men could not get food, or did he just not care?
Here is an extract from Mr Nolan Johnston’s story, but do read the rest of it.
We arrived at a way-side station in the sand. A fleet of trucks waited for us, we were transported some miles west into the sun, and dumped on the side of a desert road. Our patch was beside an east-west tarmacadam road bordered to the North and South with sand. The patch was equipped with open ablutions and latrines. We had neither food nor tents.
Shortly after we arrived a dispatch rider arrived on a motorbike. He bore a message from the officer in charge of the next camp, which was a mile up the road. If we cared to walk up, he would supply us with tea and sandwiches, he apparently had been similarly dumped a week prior to us. We were really starving so we queued up with our tummies rumbling and mugs at the ready. The last few yards were torture and when we got a full mug of sweet tea and a large thick corned beef sandwich, we thought we were set. Never before or since have I enjoyed anything better. We were so very much grateful to the unknown officer.